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Electrify the Motorways !!

  • 15-08-2012 9:31am
    #1
    Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    One argument that fans of rail make is that we are facing an oil crises and that with the ever increasing prices of oil, increased use of rail is the only solution.

    I've been of the opinion that this is a ridiculous argument due to the speed with which electric car technology is developing. It is now clear to me that 20 to 30 years from now we will all be driving electric cars, so no need for rail from that perspective.

    However buses and trucks prove a more difficult problem. They are usually powered by diesel and their power requirements often far outstrip that which can be supplied by electric battery in practical terms.

    There are advancements in this area, such as using regenerative breaking and biodiesel, but they are still far from the prefect solution. They only slightly reduce diesel use, not eliminate it.

    Hydrogen powered buses and trucks is one ultimate solution, but it is a very complicated and expensive technology and seems to be still a far way off.

    But while in Poland over the weekend, I thought of an alternative. In Gydnia they have trolley buses, buses which run off electric power from overhead power lines.

    Well one solution is we could run similar powerlines along all our motorways. Then trucks and bus coaches could use these overhead powerlines to get their power.

    The cost of doing this would be no more then electrifying the rail network, with the advantage you could also add street lights to the motorway network at the same time, increasing safety.

    The coaches and trucks would be dual power mode vehicles, using electricity from the overhead power lines and diesel when off the power lines, thus giving far more flexibility then an electrified rail network.

    It also has the advantage of allowing for a more gradual build up towards the infrastructure. Obviously non electrified buses and trucks could still continue to use the motorways. And dual power mode electrified vehicles could continue to use parts of the road network not yet electrified, but getting that increasing advantage as each new electrified section is opened.

    Now I'm not saying this is likely to happen and certainly it isn't going to happen overnight, oil prices just aren't rising that quickly. But I am just pointing it out that we can come up with novel solutions to our oil dependence and they don't all have to be rail.


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,106 antoobrien


    bk wrote: »
    However buses and trucks prove a more difficult problem. They are usually powered by diesel and their power requirements often far outstrip that which can be supplied by electric battery in practical terms.

    Bearing in mind that a lot of people are against nuclear generated electricity and many of the other renewables are very immature or unreliable, I don't think that the "electrification" will solve anything due to the amount of fossil fuels used to generate power (currently > 70% of generation). It should be note that for july wind was running at an average of about 20% of installed wind generation capacity.

    For trucks and buses, especially long distance, LNG might be a better alternative. There are moves in the USA to convert the long distnace truck fleet to LNG, the DOE have been looking at this for 10 years (2004 SF Bay area based study).


  • Registered Users Posts: 122 ✭✭ mossy2390


    another idea would be to put those capacitance charging coils under the roads, cars are already being made with the charging coils in the floor of the car and places like petrol stations etc then have a coil in a parking space to charge it wireless

    so dig up all the roads and put down the coils simples eh


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 25,234 ✭✭✭✭ Sponge Bob


    In practice ( in 20 years time) you will do all of the above. Electricity storage is another holy grail and where better than in car/bus batteries.

    Electric vehicles need motorways for the predictability they provide....no slowing down and speeding up.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,106 antoobrien


    mossy2390 wrote: »
    another idea would be to put those capacitance charging coils under the roads, cars are already being made with the charging coils in the floor of the car and places like petrol stations etc then have a coil in a parking space to charge it wireless

    so dig up all the roads and put down the coils simples eh

    I wonder how big the electro magnets would need to be to make an electromagnetically propelled "bullet car" for those roads:eek:


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,968 ✭✭✭ hardCopy


    Surely you'd have problems when these vehicles change lanes?

    I'd be more interested in seeing automated road trains. These could even be set up to provide power by tether to a string of electric cars, allowing longer ranges for the cars.


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  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    hardCopy wrote: »
    Surely you'd have problems when these vehicles change lanes?

    Already a solved issue, trolleybuses have a long arm that allow them to move up to two lanes away from the power cables, the arm tilts to the side.

    Seen it in action in Gdynia myself.

    Yes in road conductive charging is an interesting idea. However so far all trials of it have failed and it has never been commercially used. It is very expensive to implement, much more so then overhead wires and is much more expensive to run.

    Overhead wires are a proven technology that have been in use for 100 years and are currently used in 400 cities. So a very well proven technology.

    It is just taking the basic idea and applying it elsewhere.

    BTW I'm not saying this is a silver bullet, it is just an extra solution that can be added to lots of other good solutions being devised to overcome oil shortages.

    antoobrien while Irish people maybe currently against the idea of Nuclear power I believe in time they will just have to pucker up and get over their irrational fears. I believe when it comes to the crunch of spiralling oil prices and electricity shortages, people will change their minds very quickly. It is easy to say you are anti-nuclear when oil and electricity from fossil fuels is relatively cheap, but when the lights start to go out and their is no oil in the petrol stations, we will see if people still have that opinion.

    Also even if we don't use Nuclear, having the power centrally generated by fossil fuel plants is actually still a lot more energy efficient and less polluting then diesel engines in vehicles. And then of course you can take advantage of any hydro, wave, solar and wind power generated and also import Nuclear power from UK/France.

    So either way it would still work out as a net benefit.

    Anyway who said I was talking about this from the environmental point of view. That is of course one angle, but the other angle is the economic. What happens when oil runs out? We still need to find ways to move people and goods. While burning coal in central power plants to feed electric vehicles of all sorts of different types might not be environmentally ideal, it might well be neccesaary to allow our economy to continue to operate.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,372 ✭✭✭ steamengine


    You don't have to go to Poland for trolley buses, Belfast had them up until the late sixties.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolleybuses_in_Belfast


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,937 ✭✭✭ mayomaffia


    bk wrote: »
    One argument that fans of rail make is that we are facing an oil crises and that with the ever increasing prices of oil, increased use of rail is the only solution.

    I've been of the opinion that this is a ridiculous argument due to the speed with which electric car technology is developing. It is now clear to me that 20 to 30 years from now we will all be driving electric cars, so no need for rail from that perspective.

    However buses and trucks prove a more difficult problem. They are usually powered by diesel and their power requirements often far outstrip that which can be supplied by electric battery in practical terms.

    There are advancements in this area, such as using regenerative breaking and biodiesel, but they are still far from the prefect solution. They only slightly reduce diesel use, not eliminate it.

    Hydrogen powered buses and trucks is one ultimate solution, but it is a very complicated and expensive technology and seems to be still a far way off.

    But while in Poland over the weekend, I thought of an alternative. In Gydnia they have trolley buses, buses which run off electric power from overhead power lines.

    Well one solution is we could run similar powerlines along all our motorways. Then trucks and bus coaches could use these overhead powerlines to get their power.

    The cost of doing this would be no more then electrifying the rail network, with the advantage you could also add street lights to the motorway network at the same time, increasing safety.

    The coaches and trucks would be dual power mode vehicles, using electricity from the overhead power lines and diesel when off the power lines, thus giving far more flexibility then an electrified rail network.

    It also has the advantage of allowing for a more gradual build up towards the infrastructure. Obviously non electrified buses and trucks could still continue to use the motorways. And dual power mode electrified vehicles could continue to use parts of the road network not yet electrified, but getting that increasing advantage as each new electrified section is opened.

    Now I'm not saying this is likely to happen and certainly it isn't going to happen overnight, oil prices just aren't rising that quickly. But I am just pointing it out that we can come up with novel solutions to our oil dependence and they don't all have to be rail.

    There is plans for cars to use current by induction from a electric line embedded in a road, meaning no direct contact is needed. Seen it on TV recently. Not sure if its viable...yet


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    mayomaffia wrote: »
    There is plans for cars to use current by induction from a electric line embedded in a road, meaning no direct contact is needed. Seen it on TV recently. Not sure if its viable...yet

    I don't think it will ever be really viable.

    It has high electricity lose due to the air gap and it is very expensive to install, requiring roads to be dug up, etc.

    For cars I think the medium term is hybrid battery/diesel plugins. Yes that means you would still have to use diesel for a long motorway journeys, but given that the vast majority of travel is under 20km, then that shouldn't pose a major issue. You end up still getting the majority of the benefit for much lower cost.

    For trucks and buses NGV seems like a short term solution. I think the electrified overhead wires could prove to be a better long term solution.

    The only issue I can see with overhead wires is convincing private truck and bus companies to buy into it. It would have to be a carrot and stick setup with a guaranteed multi-year reduction (e.g. 40% less then Diesel prices) to convince private companies to invest in such infrastructure. Tricky, but doable.

    I'm surprised no one has done studies into this as a possibility. A PHd thesis at least for someone there.


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators Posts: 13,991 Mod ✭✭✭✭ monument


    bk wrote: »
    I think the electrified overhead wires could prove to be a better long term solution.

    The only issue I can see with overhead wires is convincing private truck and bus companies to buy into it. It would have to be a carrot and stick setup with a guaranteed multi-year reduction (e.g. 40% less then Diesel prices) to convince private companies to invest in such infrastructure. Tricky, but doable.

    I'm surprised no one has done studies into this as a possibility. A PHd thesis at least for someone there.

    For trucks, Siemens are already testing it:



    They hope to pilot it in LA: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/15/local/la-me-gs-an-electrifying-freight-solution-from-siemens-20120515

    I'm sure that could work for buses as well, but doing it safely and practically for cars is another story.

    bk wrote: »
    The cost of doing this would be no more then electrifying the rail network, with the advantage you could also add street lights to the motorway network at the same time, increasing safety.

    Even with such a system, lighting the motorway network is mostly a massive waste of money.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,093 ✭✭✭ hi5


    Theres lots of interesting technologies out there that will never be exploited until oil becomes unaffordable to the level where alternatives are viable.

    One of my favourites is flywheel energy storage, not for motorways as the range isn't there, but for towns and cities maybe.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyrobus


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    Excellent monument, that is exactly what I was thinking of. No reason it couldn't also be used for bus coaches.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,278 ✭✭✭ dowlingm


    A couple of thoughts:

    1. Nobody seems to be really pushing electric in a long distance context as BK's OP seems to discuss. Electrifying motorways is pretty much up there with Personal Rapid Transit or those google cars which self drive. Trolleybuses I'm familiar with are almost exclusively urban/stop-start in nature and are single deck standard or bendybuses (and we know how much love there is for those in Ireland because of use on regular rather than BRT-in-right of way routes with all door boarding).

    2. There needs to be a critical mass of vehicles using electric infrastructure to make them work. Scattering charging points all over the country was a waste of time when they should have been concentrated within the GDA and the GDA authorities given a "scrappage" scheme to replace small commercial vehicles in their fleets with plug-in electric or hybrid. But there was a parity-of-esteem problem there obviously.

    3. Not sure if bk was discussing in-ground power solely in terms of buses; clearly it is in light rail service (albeit only in heritage stretches) in France in places like Bordeaux with only Dubai having the shillings for a full wireless rollout. Bombardier's inductive charging system has been going through trials in Germany (being fully underground it has fewer climate issues). However as noted if you're not digging up the road for other reasons then laying power is expensive and disruptive to be sure.

    4. Investment should be judged solely on a payload tonne-km or person-km moved basis. Electrification of commuter rail, delivery vehicle or bus rapid transit is much more payload intensive than subsidising electrification of private transport. Infrastructure should be targeted at vehicles which work 12-16 hour days, not vehicles which spend 90 mins in traffic, 8 hours in a car park, 90 mins in traffic and the remainder in a garage with variable shopping/leisure spins on weekends. And yet that (throwing money at private use) is basically what the government did!

    5. Almost 100% of transportation vehicle capital spend involves imports. Ireland can't worry about energy independence and then shovel money out to foreign manufacturers in the financial context it currently finds itself in.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,266 ✭✭✭ patrickbrophy18


    This is a fantastic idea, in theory. The finite oil supply on earth is a major factor of this. Other major moves are being made to alter our energy consumption patterns. Currently, there are plans in place for a wind farm along the coastal fringe of the Greater Dublin Area much to the chagrin of coastal NIMBYs. However, they can go f*&% themselves because it is much better for the environment. I would much prefer this to the proposed oil drilling which is potentially catastrophic for sea life and other marine activity.

    Back on topic. The unfortunate thing about electrifying motorways is the huge costs to the government directly and to the logistics and public transportation sectors indirectly. For the government, it is the provision of the infrastructure and for the logistics and public transportation companies, it is the change in vehicles. On top of that, a lot of excess fuel consumption occurs in congested areas such as town centres and cities where vehicles are frequently stationary or changing gears. As such, town centres and cities would probably benefit more from electrification than motorways. Then there are intermediate arteries such as QBC's and other busy distributor roads which would have to be electrified.

    In other words, if fuel consumption is to be minimised and ultimately eliminated, most (if not, all) of the national road network would have to be electrified to cover most (if not, all) journey permutations. The cost of this would be astronomical. In practical terms, this is unrealistic, especially, in the current economic climate!

    In the not too distant future, we may not have a choice in the matter. I just hope our economy will have recovered by this time for an undertaking like that in question.


  • Registered Users Posts: 18,884 ✭✭✭✭ murphaph


    Look at 3:00 in that video. Do you really want to add all that visually intrusive overhead equipment to the motorways? It looks awful IMO.

    I think other technologies would leave this idea redundant within 25 years, so a huge investment would be wasted. It'd also HAVE to be done at a European level so truck manufacturers would actually install the kit. If only Irish trucks had to be fitted with the pantographs etc. it would end Irish trucking overnight. Foreign hauliers simply wouldn't haul here and Irish hauliers would be bankrupted paying for the extra kit.

    I believe the solution is in a mixture of hybrids/battery and a bit further out hydrogen fuel cells. I don't believe that adding fixed infrastructure on this scale is the way forward at all.


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators Posts: 13,991 Mod ✭✭✭✭ monument


    murphaph wrote: »
    Look at 3:00 in that video. Do you really want to add all that visually intrusive overhead equipment to the motorways? It looks awful IMO.

    Motorways look awful in general, this would hardly make them look much worse.
    murphaph wrote: »
    I think other technologies would leave this idea redundant within 25 years, so a huge investment would be wasted.

    What are you basing that on?
    murphaph wrote: »
    It'd also HAVE to be done at a European level so truck manufacturers would actually install the kit.

    So what? That's not really that much of a barrier.

    murphaph wrote: »
    If only Irish trucks had to be fitted with the pantographs etc. it would end Irish trucking overnight. Foreign hauliers simply wouldn't haul here and Irish hauliers would be bankrupted paying for the extra kit.

    Why would it be mandtory? Where are you getting that idea from?

    murphaph wrote: »
    I believe the solution is in a mixture of hybrids/battery and a bit further out hydrogen fuel cells. I don't believe that adding fixed infrastructure on this scale is the way forward at all.

    For EVs and hydrogen to work, both also require fixed infrastructure on a massive scale.


  • Registered Users Posts: 18,884 ✭✭✭✭ murphaph


    monument wrote: »
    Motorways look awful in general, this would hardly make them look much worse.
    Disagree but it's a question of taste so no point debating it.
    monument wrote: »
    What are you basing that on?
    I read the ADAC magazine every month and all the major auto manufacturers are putting substantial money into alternative propulsion systems.
    monument wrote: »
    So what? That's not really that much of a barrier.
    You think? Ok.
    monument wrote: »
    Why would it be mandtory? Where are you getting that idea from?
    Presume if we install billions of Euro worth of catenary on the motorways that we'll need some carrot or stick to make hauliers use it.
    monument wrote: »
    For EVs and hydrogen to work, both also require fixed infrastructure on a massive scale.
    EVs already have the fixed infrastructure largely in place: your house already has sockets that can charge your car. Hydrogen would require new investment at selected service stations but if we all go electric then the oil companies will be out of business completely so I presume they'll be "happy" to make that investment. There are already hydrogen stations in Berlin btw.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,735 Irish and Proud


    bk wrote: »
    <snip>But while in Poland over the weekend, I thought of an alternative. In Gydnia they have trolley buses, buses which run off electric power from overhead power lines.<snip>

    Interesting!

    The problem with electricity ATM is storage! :( However, I believe there's new battery technology being developed where (in 2015 hopefully), a mobile (of todays specs I presume) could be powered up for 1 week in the space of just 15 minutes! :D AFAIK, the technology involves the drilling of micro holes into metallic fibres which results in great storage potential regarding electrical energy. Now, if that technology could trickle its way into bigger things such as car batteries, then who is to say that larger vechicles wouldn't eventually benefit from the evolving technology.

    Then there's your concept which might work if the problem of renewable energy consistency could be overcome by a smart trans European grid (using a combination of renewable technologies across the continent - wind, solar, tidal, hydro etc.) in conjunction with some limited storage capability in the future. Also, since surplus power is produced overnight, that would be the opportune time for battery charging in the home etc.

    Regards!


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    However, I believe there's new battery technology being developed where (in 2015 hopefully), a mobile (of todays specs I presume) could be powered up for 1 week in the space of just 15 minutes! :D

    I believe it when I hold it in my hands. I've been hearing about advances in battery technology for years.

    However you do raise an interesting point. In the past battery technology was driven by the automobile industry. When oil prices were high, people researched battery tech, but when oil prices dropped again their funding was cut off, so it never really got anywhere.

    However now battery technology R&D is being driven aggressively by the mobile electronics and perhaps more importantly it is being heavily commercialised and actually built at large scale by this industry.

    This is great as this battery tech can then be scaled up to be used in vehicles too.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,106 antoobrien


    bk wrote: »
    I believe it when I hold it in my hands. I've been hearing about advances in battery technology for years.

    There's some interesting research going on into battery storage (the paintable battery) as well as other alternative storage systems. There's a team at University of New South Wales who have come up with an interesting method of storing and releasing hydrogen in a safer manner than as a gas/liquid.

    Again it's probably years away from anything that could be mass produced but an interesting potential alternative none the less.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 17,738 ✭✭✭✭ corktina


    Mad idea....all you would need is one Trolley Micra with 80 yr old Granny doing 40 km'h and you'll be behind them for ever. One of the biggest drawbacks with trolley Buses which led to their demise was the inflexibilty inherant in Trolley Poles which makes overtaking almost imposssible.

    (Of course we all know that the decision of BICC to stop making the wiring was the final (if not main) reason for their demise (in the UK....he adds rapidly...)


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    corktina wrote: »
    Mad idea....all you would need is one Trolley Micra with 80 yr old Granny doing 40 km'h and you'll be behind them for ever. One of the biggest drawbacks with trolley Buses which led to their demise was the inflexibilty inherant in Trolley Poles which makes overtaking almost imposssible.

    In the modern case, like in the video above, the vehicles can disengage and run off the pole when needed.

    Also modern trolley buses and the vehicles in the video above can move up to two lanes out of the trolley lane, while still maintaining contact with the overhead wires.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 17,738 ✭✭✭✭ corktina


    It was always the case in the old days that this could be done too. Didnt mean they were flexible enough to survive though. In the case of the system I am most familiar with, every Trolley with the exception of some of the 6 prototypes had backup batteries and all could deviate from the lane they were in.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,658 ✭✭✭ Markcheese


    I suppose if diesel becomes expensive enough you could see electric road trains pulling 3 to 5 artic trailers up and down the motorways to groupage or marshalling yards to be picked up locally.. A bit like road trains in Australia...
    How would an electric line cope with a very heavy load... Ie a large number of trucks on the same road all using the same section of overhead wire... Overheating ? Shorting ?

    Slava ukraini 🇺🇦



  • Closed Accounts Posts: 17,738 ✭✭✭✭ corktina


    in trolleybus days, the wires were divded into sections (marked by a red dot on the roadside post on a white background in my experiance) if the driver didnt shut down at these pioints , circuit breakers in the cab would blow very noisily.)


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,139 Red Crow


    The problem is with batteries is that we have had no 'major' breakthrough despite all the companies working on them which is basically every technology giant in the world. Fully electric cars will require as little human input as possible as like with everything we are more detrimental to it's success. So they would have to be mostly computerised which I think in reality will fail.


  • Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 20,994 Mod ✭✭✭✭ bk


    The problem is with batteries is that we have had no 'major' breakthrough despite all the companies working on them which is basically every technology giant in the world.

    That isn't true, Lithium Poylmer atteries have proven a major success. Lithium Air batteries (x2 the performance of LiPo) are making their way to the market and then there are even bigger leaps in battery tech which are still currently a few more years from being commercialised but are coming.


  • Moderators, Business & Finance Moderators, Motoring & Transport Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 61,013 Mod ✭✭✭✭ L1011


    bk wrote: »
    That isn't true, Lithium Poylmer atteries have proven a major success. Lithium Air batteries (x2 the performance of LiPo) are making their way to the market and then there are even bigger leaps in battery tech which are still currently a few more years from being commercialised but are coming.

    Lithium Polymer batteries have been withdrawn from use in a lot of consumer electronics due to their instability. Lithium air batteries are a nearly 50 year old technology too.

    Compared to virtually every other technical advance, battery technology has really hit a wall for a very long time.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,093 ✭✭✭ hi5


    MYOB wrote: »

    Compared to virtually every other technical advance, battery technology has really hit a wall for a very long time.

    Of course they have, there's a lot of livelihoods depending of the value of oil staying high ;)


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 1,060 darkmaster2


    Cool huh ? :)

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/06/tunnel-solar-belgium-rail
    High-speed Euro train gets green boost from two miles of solar panels
    Tunnel on Paris-to-Amsterdam line topped with 16,000 solar panels to power Antwerp station and Belgian train network


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