CATS: Is it time for ePRT or ‘elevated’ personal rapid transit?

Number 30 in the Clean Air Technologies Series.

There is personal rapid transit or PRT, so why not “elevated” personal rapid transit or ePRT? That’s right: Why not ePRT?

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When I think rapid transit, I typically think of something along the lines of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) service in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. But, now there appears to be an up-and-coming personal rapid transit system that is gaining ground and looking quite promising. Known as skyTran, could this be the ticket?

First of all, what is skyTran? The platform is described in a Jun. 23, 2014 skyTran, Inc. press release.

“skyTran is the developer of the patented high-speed, elevated, levitating, energy-efficient, skyTran transportation system,” as it is explained in the release in question. “The skyTran system is a network of computer-controlled, 2-person, ‘jet-like’ vehicles employing state-of-the-art passive, magnetic levitation (maglev) technology. skyTran systems will transport passengers in a fast, safe, green, and economic manner. skyTran intends to revolutionize public transportation and, with it, urban and suburban commuting.”

And passive maglev, what is this?

From my book: “The Departure Track: Railways of Tomorrow,” company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Sanders describes passive maglev thusly: “Passive MagLev requires one magnet traveling within a field of coils, the motion of the magnet generates its own magnetic field and thus causing levitation; very inexpensive, low energy use, versatile, efficient and effective.”1

Meanwhile, Christopher Perkins, company Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, in the same source explains the difference between passive and active maglev.

“Active maglev requires external electrical power to induce levitation. Passive maglev requires no external power to levitate vehicles. Rather, the magnetic repulsion is produced by the movement of the vehicle over shorted wire coils in the track. Essentially, a linear motor that provides vehicle locomotion does double duty by inducing the levitation effect.”2

Will skyTran be the next generation in railway technology? If the company has anything to do with it, then this could very well be the case.

And related to this in the same Jun. 23, 2014 press release mentioned above, skyTran, Inc. announced that it and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) “entered into an agreement today for the construction of a skyTran Technology Demonstration System (TDS) on the grounds of IAI’s corporate campus.”

So, what does the TDS entail?

The TDS “will provide a platform for skyTran vehicles to travel at high speeds, with full payloads while levitating. The TDS will enable testing, refinement, and validation of skyTran’s technology in a controlled environment.”

The “testing, refinement, and validation” aspect is preparatory to planned installation and operation of an actual service also in Israel, in Tel Aviv, this, of course, based on what I understand information printed in said release to mean.

If this comes to pass, the environmental benefit of this type of system should be obvious: moving passengers sans any harmful emissions being introduced into the air.

skyTran to take personal passenger rail transit to new heights via an elevated personal rapid transit or ePRT platform? This time with emphasis: Why not?!

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  1. Alan Kandel, “The Departure Track: Railways of Tomorrow,” Dec. 8, 2013.
  2. Ibid.

– Alan Kandel