China likes its trains and it has deployed some of the most advanced and the most out-of-the-box train technologies in the world.
Now its latest train is so out-of-the-box that it could just as easily not be considered an actual train.
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The new vehicle developed by China’s CRRC Corporation, one of the world’s largest train manufacturers is presented as a ‘trackless electric train’.
As you can see on the pictures above and below, the train is not constrained to actual tracks, but it instead follows virtual ones using tires and an electric powertrain – much like a bus.
The new vehicle is called ‘Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit’ (ART) system and it has a maximum speed of 70 km/h (43 mph) and carries up to 300 passengers in three carriages, reported local news outlet People’s Daily Online (via Channel News Asia).
It was first unveiled in June, but it has now started testing in Zhuzhou in the Hunan Province.
Now the idea behind the system is that it operates just like a tram or urban train, but it requires only a fraction of the investment in terms of infrastructure since tracks are not required.
The battery packs enabled only 25 km (15 miles) of range on a charge, but it charges in only 10 minutes using connectors on top of the carriages when stopped – similar to some electric bus charging systems.
Speaking of electric buses, it’s not clear what are the advantages of this particular system over deploying more electric buses, but I suppose they might find some through their test program.
China is certainly no stranger to out-of-the-box transportation systems. Last year, another Chinese company unveiled a futuristic-looking electric straddling bus concept.
They actually built a working prototype of the system, but the project failed and ended in a scandal with several arrests for “illegal fundraising.” The project has been described as “a scam from the start.”
Hopefully, this new project has a better fate. Either way, China is rapidly electrifying its transport industry with electric buses and trains regardless of if they combine both to make a hybrid.