A Beijing company has unveiled a spectacularly futuristic designs for a pollution-busting, elevated bus capable of gliding over the mega traffic jams for which urban China and many other big cities around the world have become known for.
Plans for the so-called Transit Explore Bus or TEB were showcased earlier this month at a technology expo in the Chinese capital.
The “straddling bus”, which owes more to Blade Runner than China’s car-clogged highways, is supported by two legs that run along rails laid along the roadside.
Those legs allow the TEB’s giant frame to glide high above the gridlock at speeds of up to 60km per hour. Equally, vehicles that are less than two metres high will be able to drive freely underneath the bus, even when it is stationary.
“The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space,” Song Youzhou, the project’s chief engineer, told, China’s official news agency.
Song claimed his buses are capable of transporting up to 1,400 commuters and could be produced for 20 per cent of the price of an underground train while being rolled out far more quickly since the supporting infrastructure was relatively simple.
But detractors say there is a glaring flaw in the design of the TEB.
Core 77’s Rain Noe points out that the bus poses an intractable problem: its turning radius.
In early simulated videos its turning radius has apparently been faked by making the bus bend when it cornered. Critics such as Rain Noe say that without avenues as wide as Beijing’s biggest boulevards, you’d have to make some serious materials and mechanical breakthroughs to get it around even modest corners on most cities’ widest streets.
In those shots, you can clearly see he’s got the vehicle bending, as if it’s made of rubber rather than steel.
This physics problem means that the vehicle either needs to be articulated every few feet along its length, or have articulating points with an extreme differential where the carriages meet. That will be tricky to execute given the vehicle’s width–at seven meters it is nearly three times as wide as your average 2.5-meter-wide articulating bus–but not impossible to accomplish.
Indeed, at the Beijing International High-Tech Expo, where Song presented the working scale model earlier this month, it was clear he had opted for the latter approach.
One TEB could replace 40 conventional buses, he said.
A prototype will reportedly be deployed on the streets of Qinhuangdao, a coastal city about 300km east of Beijing, this summer.
The project has been greeted with anticipation in China, where traffic jams have grown as the country overtook the United States to become the largest car market on earth in 2009.
Last year alone 21.1 million passenger cars were sold here.
However, excitement over the innovation was tempered by the fact that a virtually identical contraption was unveiled at the same expo in 2010 without catching on.
Its designer? A Chinese engineer by the name of Song Youzhou.