High-speed podcars are completely powered by renewable energy. They replace a large percentage of flights as well as vehicular traffic.



Podcars and PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) has been proposed in the past and has even been presented by the Climate CoLab to the UN and US congress as a climate-change mitigation proposal back in 2011.  This idea has been percolating in different forms for many decades.

The difference is that we start high-speed routes and expand into cities instead of starting with city routes, though either way is OK.  Another key difference is capacity which matches BRT or LRT.  A third is roundabouts and dual-direction guideway instead of the more traditional single-direction guideway and its need to use two parallel corridors where typically only one is defined in city plans.

This proposal uses a two level guideway with two directions of travel on a single support structure.  This means a large capacity is possible per ROW (right of way).  This large capacity means that the cost of the guideway structure is spread over a large number of trips.  The podcars travel in trains of 12 cars or so such that wait for departure is minimal and organizing of trains is done without rider intervention.  A high ridership is expected because of the characteristics of podcars.

This proposal can carry two people in a row on the top guideway which maximizes energy efficiency. It can carry four people plus cargo in the bottom pods and is ADA compliant. The bottom pods can also carry ULD (unit load devices) used by airlines to move cargo. By connecting airports with this system, cargo can be moved directly to and from aircraft and efficiency can be improved by consolidating loads that might otherwise be flown to multiple destinations.

So there is a potential to electrify not only person flights and car travel but also a portion of truck traffic. This reduction in vehicular traffic could reduce traffic congestion and energy wasted by idling cars stuck in traffic.

More information can be found at http://LoftyTaxi.com

What actions do you propose?

Getting a podcar system built is a monumental task that requires not only expertise from many disciplines, but a clear path from initial investment to payoff for investors.

Assuming a validated design, investments can be found to build an initial prototype which can be evaluated and improved. Locations for implementation and business plans based on estimated ridership can be written and the key people needed to bring this project to fruition can be located and turned on to the possibilities this new mode would entail.

High-speed podcars are a definite, visible, tangible embodiment of climate-mitigation, an improvement in travel and a lowered dependency on foreign oil. Working on this project might mean seeing these systems implemented world-wide along major transportation corridors and knowing you had a part in making them happen.


Further Ideas

Some ideas to mitigate build impact are hemp based composite plastics and  "green" concrete.

Solar and wind power connected to the grid equivalent in kWh used.

Batteries as backup power for the podcars and for load leveling.

Eventual integration with driverless taxi for areas without traffic congestion.

Who will take these actions?

The federal and state/provincial governments need to allocate rights of way.  A private and/or public entity can design, build and operate the system.

Where will these actions be taken?

Mainly countries/areas where high-speed rail isn't working.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?


Assuming 600 kW (800 HP) for the large train and 400 kW (535 HP) for the small train each of 12 pods, traveling at 320 km/h (~200 mph).

So 1000 kW/320 km/h/24 = 130 Wh / km which is ballpark energy use for EV traveling at highway speed.

8,000 vph per direction

11 hours of full operational equivalence per day (including freight movement)

600 km route from San Francisco to Los Angeles

vehicles per km = 8,000 vph/320 km/h

Maximum vehicle km: 8,000 * 11 * 600 * 2 * 365 = 38,544,000,000 km per year

flight: 0.277 kg CO2 per passenger mile

car: 0.364 kg CO2 of gas consumed per mile


Using .364 since passenger miles on flight must be divided by vehicle occupancy (1.3 and ignoring extra km of indirect route)

38,544,000,000/1.6*0.364 kg CO2e per year for 600 km route (like San Francisco to LA)

or 8.77 MtCO2/year for the 600 km route.  ( please verify )

Given 12,000 miles traveled per car per year, it is like taking about 2 million cars off the road.

What are other key benefits?

  • Less car use
  • Less fuel use
  • More mobility
  • Faster travel
  • Better access to goods

What are the proposal’s costs?

The exact cost is yet to be determined and will depend on geographic and other factors, but tends to be estimated at $12M USD per lane km which includes everything for a standard installation, all vehicles, guideway and stations.  A very rough estimate however.

In terms of GHg created during construction, it depends on the materials used.  The greatest contributors would be Steel and Concrete for the guideway.  A quick estimate is 1 ton of steel per m of dual-direction guideway which means up to 2 tons CO2e per m unless green steel is used, which greatly reduces this number. See references.  Concrete foundations every ~27 m (no estimate yet)  steel piles may also be used (no estimate yet).

Time line

First systems deployed in in the short term and possibly rapid deployment after the first system is available for evaluation and study.


Related proposals


The lofty taxi website has more detailed information:http://LoftyTaxi.com

Green Steel, it seems electrolysis can be used to make steel greatly reducing steel making's GHg footprint: http://news.mit.edu/2013/steel-without-greenhouse-gas-emissions-0508

Green Concrete, claims to be "carbon neutral": http://www.ceratechinc.com/products/ekkomaxx


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Proposal Summary
High-Speed Podcars for intercity travel and cargo transport
Team Proposal: Only members listed on the Proposal's Contributors tab will be able to edit this Proposal. Members can request to join the Proposal team on the Contributors tab. The Proposal owner can open this Proposal for anyone to edit using the Admin tab.  
By:  eph
Contest: Transportation 2016
What initiatives, policies and technologies can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector?