The future of transportation may not be as sci-fi as we want it to be, however, it would surely be different from what we imagine it to be. Well, at least this is what we can make out of the future transport concepts that are becoming popular nowadays. Although they do not show us exactly where we are heading, show us the direction.
According to these concepts of future transport, the futuristic roads and vehicles would have more than just physical contact. Using electromagnetic signals, the roads would be able to guide the vehicles and avoid accidents. In fact, they might even propel them. Furthermore, both the road and the vehicles would utilize renewable energy for operation. Let’s take a look at all these concepts in detail.
Future transport concepts
Eco Factor: Future highway system based on naturally occurring wind and air powered propulsion.
The future of urban transportation weaves around co-evolution of road and vehicle based on green energy. Industrial designer David Huang envisions future transport scenario as the “Jet Stream Super-Highway” and the “Hyper Wing Sail Vehicle.” Inspired Syd Mead’s way of integrating vehicles with its surrounding environment, this ingenious designer has come up with a concept that features vehicles deriving energy from the road infrastructure and roads, in turn, draws energy from the environment.
Jet Stream Super-Highway concept
The first part of his project is the Jet Stream Super-Highway concept. Based on an open-return wind tunnel design that produces a continuous stream of airflow from the environment, the roadway is shaped like a half-pipe in cross-section. It has a series of solar-powered turbines and fans hovering above to push air into the road pathway, in addition, to continuously drawing air at a controlled rate by drawing vents on the flanks. The solar panels lined on the upper surface of the road are responsible for making it a completely green energy design. Sensors communicate with vehicles on the road for necessary fine-tuned wind adjustments.
This project is a little more futuristic in its envisioning. It attempts to integrate the vehicles with the environment. Thus, a symbiotic relationship gets built up wherein the vehicles provide the thrust to generate electricity and the road supplies the vehicle with its power needs. The project is based on an open-return wind tunnel design which produces an ever-flowing stream of air. There are also solar panels lining the road and the fans hovering above push the air into the road pathway. The vehicles are also ‘tuned’ for maximum power generation via sensors that communicate with them.
Hyper Wing Sail Vehicle
The second part of Huang’s design, the Hyper Wing Sail Vehicle, is a first-generation wind-powered transport vehicle designed specifically to traverse the Jet Stream system. The vertical wing sail with dual airfoils offers efficiency and control, while the outrigger wings with rear wheels extend out provides stability during operation. Its body is designed to manage laminar airflow and air brakes combined with wheel brakes are used for braking. When this super green car moves on the highway, it transforms into a compact mode, as the vertical wing sail and the outrigger wheels fold in and is then powered by a compact onboard battery and have independently motorized wheels.
Could highways be the power plants of the future?
The need for transportation has resulted in the development of various means and modes of travel. The skies, waters, and lands have been utilized and exploited to achieve the same. The land, however, remains the most used with large areas being taken up by roads and highways. This is an important fact to consider in this age when spaces for energy generation are becoming scarce. Though the areas by the side of these roads have been lined with solar panels and there are wind turbines in the windy areas, the road surface as such has remained largely underutilized for power generation.
The need for land
The increasing population with its increasing needs and, more importantly, wants has started exerting tremendous pressure on land. Land is a resource that is forever but it is definitely limited. It cannot be created and the best that could be done is reclamation. The increasing hunger for food and energy has resulted in a greater hunger for land. It is a critical productive asset and often becomes the limiting factor.
Generating energy on highways
There are millions of vehicles moving fast on the highways of the world on a daily basis. The wind draft that they create with their motion is simply wasted. While systems that generate power from the air work on naturally available wind, the drafts from vehicles has great potential to develop into another source of energy. With speeds ranging from 3-5mph, the wind drafts on highways are more than sufficient to run turbines.
Some more future transport concepts
1. E Turbine
The proposer: Pedro Gomes
This turbine seeks to generate energy from the wind draft generated by vehicles speeding across it. It doubles up as the lane separator and it sends the energy generated into the storage batteries. The battery rack manages the storage and distribution of this electricity to power the street lamps, emergency phones and information panels. The turbine also makes use of the natural wind.
2. Turbine Light concept
The proposer: TAK Studio
Another very similar concept to the E Turbine, this attempts to generate electricity on the super highways. When the cars are zipping at such high speeds, quite a wind draft is generated. This is utilized to light up the same roads at night. Though, a thought has to be given whether such energy would be sufficient to run the lamps throughout the night, it would be a clean and inexpensive way to generate power.
3. Green Roadway
The proposer: Gene Fein and Ed Merritt
The Green Roadway has been most aptly named and it generates a combination of solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy along the busy roads and highways. It is believed that a 10 mile stretch of such technology can generate sufficient power to provide for more than 2000 homes. The turbines would be 25 feet high and placed about 500 feet away from the pavement. In looks also, they will be elegant and neat.
4. Highway Wind Turbines
The proposer: A student from the Arizona State University
This turbine has been so designed to fit the horizontal steel tubes that run across the highways to hold boards and signage. The average speed of vehicles moving on such highways has been calculated to be 70mph which produces sufficient wind draft to turn the axis-shaped turbines fitted overhead. However, even at a minimum wind speed of 10mph, the turbine will generate 9.600Kwh of electrical energy. Moreover, there are plans afoot to light up and power the Grand Canal, Piestewa Parkway and the Osborn road using the energy generated from such highway turbines.
There are three major limitations of this technology. They are:
1. High cost: The very high installation costs that make the idea prohibitive.
2. High maintenance: The maintenance of such installations requires a lot of energy and expenses.
3. Other means of transport: With rising fuel prices, long-distance road travel may go out of vogue and other forms of transport may soon replace it. Then, the installations will not get sufficient power.