Green Future: 4 Zero Emission Mass Transit Projects

In the U.S., transportation alone produces 26% of our total fossil fuel emissions each year, following closely behind electricity at 30%. Thanks to rapid innovation in the personal transportation industry, that percentage is likely to fall in the near future.

However, even though electric vehicles are more affordable than ever, it will be a few years before an affordable, used Tesla makes its way to the average person.

Additionally, a significant portion of our society utilizes public transportation in their day-to-day lives. Each weekday, people board public transportation 35 million times. Even greater numbers of US citizens would likely utilize public transportation if better accommodations were available. It’s no secret that US public transportation ranks as some of the lowest in the world — in terms of commute times and proximity of stops — and spending in the area is stagnant.

In order to make a drastic cut to our fossil fuel emissions, greener public transportation options cannot be ignored. Here are four innovative projects that have taken on the challenge.

1. Hyperloop One

Photo by Kevin Krejci. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The Hyperloop One train is a mass transportation project that has been proposed in Dubai — an oil-rich country with rapid growth in technology. If built, the train will be the fastest in the world, reaching speeds up to 750 miles per hour.

Magnetic propulsion levitates the passenger pod in a low-pressure tube, allowing the train to travel at high speeds by reducing as much friction as possible during movement. Reduced friction allows the technology to power using very little energy. Proposed designs are completely solar powered. If built, the train would be capable of moving passengers almost 40% faster than by plane.

The technology was designed by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX. It completed its first tests in May 2016 and is planned for construction in Dubai as early as 2020.

2. Zero Bus

While the innovation in electric vehicles is definitely exciting, so far the technology has been aimed at one of the least polluting forms of transit — compact cars. Tackling pollution from mass transit means also taking a look at the larger vehicles like buses, which are currently very inefficient — idling, stopping and starting frequently throughout the day.

Louisville, KY recently kicked off a new mass transit service called Zero Bus, which includes a 100% electric fleet of public transportation buses. Electric buses use only 20% of the energy that a typical diesel bus would use to go the same distance.

This and similar projects, like those in South Korea, New York and London, are exciting because not only do the buses operate independent of fossil fuels, but they eliminate a huge source of air pollution in metro areas.

Photo by Ed Mullin. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

3. Solar Impulse 2

The Solar Impulse plane made headlines when it accomplished an amazing feat — circumnavigating the entire globe without any fuel or emissions. The solar-power plane changed the face of green transportation, completing the first ever solar-powered night flight, the first solar-powered intercontinental flight, the first solar-powered ocean crossing, the farthest distance and longest duration.

The plane has a wingspan larger than a Boeing 747, but it is only 0.5% of the weight. This generates significantly greater lift, which when combined with slower speeds allows the plane to fly using minimal energy.

Solar Impulse 2 took 12 years to develop and a little over a year to complete its flight around the world. It’s only recently completed its journey and made it back to Switzerland, where its creators are now looking to find it a permanent home.

4. Coradia iLint

The world’s first zero emission train is set to launch in Germany at the end of 2017. This passenger train is powered by hydrogen and enabled by advances in battery manufacturing.

A hydrogen fuel tank stored on the roof of the train powers the fuel cells to produce energy. Oxygen and hydrogen are burned, releasing only clouds of steam as a byproduct.

Hydrogen technology has been used by NASA since the 1970s, but this is one of the first times its seen use in the broader public. The engine modification to what would other-wise be a normal train allows the Coradia iLint to utilize pre-existing infrastructure, which means we could be seeing many of the world’s passenger and freight trains slowly replaced by this cleaner technology.

Enomad is an eco-concious group of engineers, designers and explorers devoted to expanding energy around the world while leaving only only footprints. Information about our portable, hydropower generator for backpacking and hiking can be found here. To follow more of our adventures, find us on our blog, Facebook or Twitter.

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