Posts Tagged: Hybrid



Hybrid RV-Boat

We’ve discovered some pretty nifty dual mode railbus/busrail vehicles in the past. But in terms of the coolest hybrid vehicle ever, this RV-boat seen in the video below just might take the cake.


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Dual Mode Gondolas – Hook and Anchor

Over the past week and half, we’ve discussed two hybrid/dual-mode transit technologies – AutoTram and DMVs. To build on this topic, I was contemplating if such a concept could apply to Cable Propelled Transit (CPT). I asked myself: what if a gondola cabin could be both propelled from above and below?

Well, I decided to whip something up quickly today to demonstrate my design concept. If you’ll pardon my photoshop skills and the crude images, I’d like to briefly showcase a purely conceptual CPT idea, the Hook and Anchor (patent pending, but of course).

A vehicle that can travel both terrestrially and aerially can be advantageous in a city context. Image by Nicholas Chu, CUP Projects.

Imagine a detachable grip vehicle/cabin with the capability to “anchor” itself like a cable liner/cable car, but also have the ability to “hook” itself like a gondola. Would this idea solve some of complicated alignment and visual privacy issues often found in cities?

It is difficult to say at this time because this idea is so raw. But under the right circumstances, this theoretical configuration may mitigate some of the complex land use and settlement patterns seen in urban environments.

For example, this design may enable vehicles to manoeuvre themselves around complex turns and spaces in “anchor” mode but also soar above topographical (natural and man-made) challenges in “hook” mode. See hypothetical usage and illustration below.

In theory, a vehicle in "hook" mode can glide above urban obstacles such as intersections. Image by Nicholas Chu, CUP Projects.

Now I’m not an engineer, so I am unsure if this concept is technologically feasible. But I hope that this post and the ones preceding it, can help spur and initiate a conversation and discussion on how “simple” (I use that term loosely) technological innovations/changes can help us rethink transportation in cities.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on such a concept. Possible? Impossible? Insane? Sane? Feel free to be brutally honest.

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Techno-Squabbles and Dual Mode Vehicles – RailBus, BusRail

DMV vehicles were developed based on a collaborative effort between Nissan and Japan Rail Hokkaido. Image from Wikipedia.

Last Thursday, we briefly looked at AutoTrams – an attempt to combine the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) of both worlds in rail and bus technology. We’ve had a fairly robust debate in our comments section on the benefits and limitations of such a configuration. Then I thought, what would happen if you take this idea to the next logical step?

To my surprise, such a concept exists and it’s called the DMV (Dual Mode Vehicle) – a vehicle capable of running on both rail tracks and rubber wheels. Apparently, this concept is not entirely new and  first attempted during the 1930s in England but failed due to excessive time required to switch modes (bus to rail and vice versa) and costs related to develop system.

A DMV vehicle can switch between modes in less than 15 seconds. Image by Hokkaido Railway Company.

But this time around, the DMV is experiencing substantial success. First started in 2005, the vehicle is now under testing in Japan and has enabled Japan Rail Hokkaido to continue providing convenient, point-to-point and profitable (important because existing rail services have been in debt due to low ridership) transport for small, rural towns with declining populations. According to some new sources in Japan, the system is expect to go public sometime this year.

Given the flexibility, uniqueness, and innovativeness of these vehicles, they’re surprisingly not that expensive and within the right context, may be able to fulfill a niche within the urban transit market. According the Miami Herald, it costs USD $250,000 for a 28 passenger vehicle with low fuel and maintenance costs (for immediate comparison purposes – light rail vehicle: ~$3,000,000 (link 1, link 2); trolley bus: $850,000-1,300,000; standard regular bus: $250,000-400,000; hybrid bus: $480,000-750,000 (link 1, link 2).

The best part of this vehicle lies in its duality. The flexibility of a bus, but the comfort and appeal of rail. Well… maybe not appeal, the design needs some work, but it’s not impossible to fix. You may exclaim, what about capacity!? It’s too low!! Based on online sources, vehicles can be linked. See for yourself.

2 vehicles at 28 passenger capacities = 56 passengers. Image by

3x28 = 84 passengers (in case you were wondering if three vehicles can be linked). Image by

So could the successful implementation of a DMVs put an end to some of the meaningless technological squabbles? Since it’s both a bus and rail vehicle, maybe some transit specialists and decision makers can set aside their differences and instead, concentrate on improving transit service.

It’s hard to argue for BRT or LRT if the vehicle is both rail and bus at the same time. But then again, given the techno-zealotry that exists in transit planning, it could spawn an entirely new ball game. BRT vs. LRT vs. DMV anyone?

For more pictures of this system, click here.

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The Hungerburgbahn (Part 2)

Hungerburgbahn, Alpenzoo Intermediary Station. Image by Steven Dale

This is Part 2 of a 3 Part series of posts on the Innsbruck Hungerburgbahn. To read Part 1, click here and to read Part 3, click here.

Leaving the technology-side of things until tomorrow’s post, let’s talk about the Hungerburgbahn’s station configuration.

A common misconception about cable transit is that the stations are large and are, therefore, incompatible with an urban environment. Fortunately this is just a misconception.

The Hungerburgbahn demonstrates how cable stations can be elegantly woven into the urban fabric. Whatever your opinions about Zaha Hadid’s intriguing design (my partner describes it as ugly play-dough from the future), these stations do not impose themselves on the city.

Intermediary Station, Löwenhaus, Image by Steven Dale

Terminals use a beguiling Open-Air-Yet-Underground (OAYU) design and the two intermediary stations are slim and provide ample space for bicycle parking. While the intermediary stations are two stories high, there is no reason they could not be placed on medians at street level much like the current practice common to Light Rail station infrastructure.

Above-Ground Entrance to the Congress Terminal (Exterior), Image by Steven Dale

Underground Congress Terminal (Interior), Image by Steven Dale

To understand cable, you have to divorce the infrastructure from the architecture. Cable infrastructure is relatively modest in size and can be located virtually anywhere (even a few stories underground). The architecture that encases the infrastructure, however, tends not to be. Not because it must be that way, but because it tends to be that way. Strip away the architecture and you have a minimal station footprint, which is highly desirable in urban environments. That’s why the Hungerburgbahn is so important: The stations are small and converse with the city beautifully.

Most alpine cable installations (which are the ones most are familiar with) have just two terminals and (possibly) a mid station. These terminals double as maintenance bays and car yards for the vehicles themselves. This automatically drives up the station size. So a minimum of one large-footprint terminal for maintenance and storage are a base requirement for cable, but intermediary stations can be as slim as desired.

Intermediary Station, Löwenhaus, Image by Steven Dale

Subways, Buses and Light Rail have the exact same problem, but their maintenance facilities tend to be located off-terminal. This “hides” the large footprint of traditional transit, but it does not eliminate it. Furthermore, traditional transit’s off-terminal maintenance configuration means significant costs are incurred to build the infrastructure necessary to shuttle vehicles to and from maintenance yards. A further cost is also incurred during daily operations to bring vehicles into service from the maintenance facilities. In-motion-but-out-of-service vehicles are common to all traditional transit technologies and are an inefficient and costly waste of resources that does not occur with cable transit.

Continue to Part 3.

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