From buses to planes, nearly all modes of transport are experimenting with green innovations that will benefit passengers, and the planet.
World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Train
Germany is set to revolutionize rail travel with the world’s first zero-emission passenger train powered by hydrogen.
The first “hydrail”, or hydrogen-powered train, is known as Coradia iLint and was developed by French company Alstom.
The super-quiet train is powered by a hydrogen fuel tank on its roof. The fuel cell is supplied with hydrogen and oxygen from the air, which then produces electric power.
Alstom’s train also has a backup of lithium batteries, which store the excess power and supply the train when required.
This train’s carbon-free design makes it a sustainable alternative to the country’s heavily polluting diesel trains and cars.
The train can cover an 800-kilometer—just under 500 miles—journey in total, reaching a maximum speed of 140 kilometers—about 87 miles—per hour.
Germany’s government has called for a ban of petrol-powered cars by 2030 giving its support to electric vehicles.
Toyota’s Fuel Cell Buses
Toyota is planning to have 100 fuel cell (FC) buses up and running for the 2020 Olympics, and wants to start commercially selling them as of 2017.
FC hydrogen buses could be converted into emergency generators, thus serving as a power-supplying source in the event of a disaster.
“The bus also uses a high-capacity external power supply system. With a power supply capable of a nine kilowatts (kW) maximum output and a large capacity electricity supply at 235 kilowatt hours (kWh), the FC bus can be used as a power source in the event of disasters, such as at evacuation sites. Its electricity supply can also be harnessed for home electric appliance use,” according to Toyota.
FC buses each have a capacity of 76 passengers—26 seated and 50 standing. Toyota’s fuel cell buses will operate on a more advanced version of the fuel system developed for the Toyota Murai, including 10 fuel tanks holding 600 liters of highly pressurized hydrogen.
Japanese automakers have been trying to manufacture more green cars, such as fuel cell vehicles lately, especially after the devastating 2011 tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan, triggering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
To implement Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “hydrogen society” plan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will invest $350 million to support the growth of both fuel cell vehicles and filling stations in the city in next four years.
NASA’s Faster, Quieter, and Cleaner X-57 Electric Aircraft
NASA is working on an electric aeroplane, which could reduce carbon emissions and flight times in the future.
An experimental aircraft called X-57 will have a unique wing design with 14 electric motors. This makes the plane five times more energy efficient and it should be able to fly at 175 miles per hour.
“Typically, to get the best fuel efficiency an airplane has to fly slower than it is able,” described NASA in a statement. “Electric propulsion essentially eliminates the penalty for cruising at higher speeds.”
The X-57 experiment has the potential to reduce noise, and operational costs – up to 40 percent for smaller aircrafts.
“As most drivers of hybrid electric cars know, electric motors are typically quieter than conventional piston engines,” NASA said. “The X-57’s electric propulsion technology is expected to significantly decrease aircraft noise, making it less annoying to the public.”
X-57—nicknamed “Maxwell” after 19th century Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell—is part of NASA’s decade-long New Aviation Horizons project. Ultimately, the goal is develop five larger X-planes for commercial production.
“NASA is working hard to make flight greener, safer and quieter – all while developing aircraft that travels faster, and building an aviation system that operates more efficiently,” said Charlie Bolden, NASA administrator.
Benefits of “going green” have encouraged industry leaders such as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, John Doerr and 15 other investors to create a new venture firm, Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC), that will invest at least one billion dollars into cleantech companies over the next 20 years.
The company’s goal, according to its website will be: “to provide everyone in the world with access to reliable, affordable power, food, goods, transportation, and services without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.”
BEC also published a plan called the “Landscape of Innovation,” serving as “a guide to other public and private investors committed to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.”