German combo bus-train hybrid uses new propulsion technology

Looking like bus rapid transit vehicle on steroids, the German AutoTram is described as a fully electric, zero-emission light-train on wheels. Said to be as long as a streetcar but as maneuverable as a bus, a new propulsion system sets the vehicle apart. Instead of running on a single charge, Fast Company writes, the prototype uses a battery system and super capacitors that allow the vehicle to store large amounts of power quickly. This lets the AutoTram recharge at closely spaced charging docks, ideally while passengers are boarding and alighting. The vehicles can travel 1.2 miles between charges, but a back-up diesel generator is on-board in case of emergency. “I think this is most useful in countries which only have diesel buses and want to do something new with transportation,”said Ulrich Potthoff, head of the transport department at the Fraunhofer Institute, which developed the concept. “They are calculating that overhead lines and infrastructure is very expensive compared to our system.” Life-cycle costs are expected to be 30%-50% cheaper than light rail but more expensive than diesel bus. Link to full story in Fast Company.

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