Solar Powered Personal Rapid Transit - Luxury Life Goals
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Solar Powered Personal Rapid Transit

Innovations in public transportation are becoming more widespread in recent years. Indeed, this is a trend that is expected to continue apace over the course of the coming decade. One area in which public transport innovations are occurring is in regard to what technically is known as personal rapid transit, or PRT. PRT is also known as podcars.

What are Podcars?

Podcars or PRT is a type of public transportation that features small, automated vehicles that operate on a network of specially designed guide-ways. Podcars are designed for individuals or a small group of people. Typically, a podcar is capable of carrying three to six passengers in each vehicle.

The guide-ways on which podcars run include diverging points for individual stops. This design permits podcars to go from point of pickup to final destination without stopping

Oldest Personal Rapid Transit System in United States 

The oldest personal rapid transit system in the United States is Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit, located in Morgantown, West Virginia. The system has been in continual operation since 1975. It is connected with West Virginia University and serves a variety of popular destinations located throughout the city.

 Proposed PRT Systems

A growing number of PRT systems have been proposed, but not many are yet in operation worldwide. In 2010, the 2getthere system has operated in Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates. The system features 10 individual podcars

In 2011, the 21 vehicle Ultra PRT launched at London’s Heathrow Airport. The 40 vehicle Vectus launched in Suncheon, South Korea, in 2014.

The History of PRT Concepts

The modern concept of PRT stemmed from research that commenced in 1953 by Donn Fichter. Fichter was a city transportation planner. He began research on PRT and alternative transportation methods in the early 1950.  In 1964, Fichter published a book that analyzed an automated public transit systems for areas of medium to low population density. In his book, he made the points that people in these types of locations would not abandon the use of their cars in favor of public transit unless a system was more flexible and provided end-to-end transit times that bested systems existing at that time. In the end, this level of flexibility and performance was something only a PRT system realistically could provide, according to Fichter’s research and analysis.

In the aftermath of this research and the referenced book, some early experimentation took place, but nothing concrete followed in the more immediate aftermath of the research and book. In the United States, the Morgantown PRT system was the first to come to fruition in the United States. Moreover, it remains a standout in that regard even at this juncture in the 21st century.

 Solar Energy and Personal Rapid Transit

The expanded use of solar energy in the transportation arena has caused there to be something of a fresh look at PRT or podcars. One of the key reasons is found in the fact that the size of podcars render them more amenable to solar energy propulsion.

The drawback in utilizing solar energy as a primary power source for public transport vehicles is found in the fact that they are large. The one real exception to the size issue is found in PRT vehicles.

The combination of the smaller size of podcars, coupled with the breakthroughs in solar energy — including cost of installation — is lively to result in a broader use of PRT around the world. Indeed, this possibility is being more widely seen in planning for the future that involves combining PRT and solar energy technology.

Future of Solar Powered PRT

The 1950s study pertaining to PRT contains conclusions that hold true today. In other words, a PRT system is likely to be most beneficial in medium to low population density areas. Morgantown remains a perfect example of this type of implementation. London and Heathrow Airport are providing an existing example of how PRT might be utilized in a larger, more populated urban area. There is evidence to suggest that connecting PRT with airports is a solid approach to introducing it into a larger, high population density urban area.

Because PRT overall is something on the proverbial (and literal) drawing board in different locations and this time, combining this technology with that associated with solar energy is logical. Indeed, during the coming 10 to 20 years, the development of new PRT systems is likely to always be tied with solar energy as the primary power source for the operation of podcars around the globe.


Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading steel tubing suppliers of carbon, alloy and stainless steel pipe, tubes, fittings and flanges.

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