BeemCar is a modern, high capacity, attractive and sustainable, integrated, environmentally friendly, urban transport system that contributes to improving quality of life by providing automobile users with a viable alternative, resulting in reduced congestion.
Macro Economic Benefits
A recent survey carried out by TomTom estimated that in the worst congested cities in Europe, automobile drivers spent about 30% of their time in traffic jams, the cost of which is substantial. Estimates vary from $6.5bn quoted by the UK Government (2011 figures) and $12bn by the UK Confederation of British Industry, and predictions are that this will more than double in the next decade.
Other studies show that air pollution in the UK causes as many as 30,000 premature and avoidable deaths each year, and recently published research has highlighted that 2.5µ particulates could be contributing to another 100,000 deaths per year across Europe from heart failure. These deaths are in addition to those caused directly by road accidents, of which there are about 3,000 per year in the UK. Obviously, it is difficult to estimate the economic impact of these findings but data from official sources suggest that each death costs the economy over $2m, which puts the total per annum at over $80bn (assuming a 7% contribution towards death from heart attack).
Despite the increase in the number of EVs and more efficient ICTs, automobiles still burn around 20mtOE per annum of petroleum and diesel, at an estimated cost of over $55bn (based on 2011 UK oil prices). This accounts for a large proportion of the 119mtCO2 equivalent of GHGs generated by transport in the UK in 2011. These costs will increase further as energy prices rise.
In summary, operating automobiles in major UK cities is costing the UK economy somewhere in excess of $100bn per annum, which equates to about 5% of the UK’s GDP, money that is being wasted and could be put to better use, and is much the same in many other countries across the world. BeemCar aims to tackle congestion at its root and to provide automobile drivers with a viable and attractive alternative for their daily commute within city boundaries. Based on the above estimates for the UK, just reducing the number of automobiles driving in urban areas by 10% would save in the order of $10bn per annum. In comparison, the cost of developing and operating BeemCar pales into insignificance against these huge amounts. One year’s saving of $10bn would be enough to pay for 100 UK towns and cities to have a small loop system of about 10km each, or 10 cities to have 100km networks.
In addition, there will be savings for individuals, local authorities, the health service and businesses. These will come from indirect sources, and because BeemCar is a socially inclusive system:
- Lower road maintenance costs
- Lower parking enforcement costs
- Fewer school buses
- Reduced crime rate
- Lower cost travel
- Lower vehicle ownership costs
- Less wasted time
- More productive travelling time
- Lower stress levels
There is much data available on the energy consumption of various forms of urban transport systems, but it is not easy to be able to provide a fair comparison, as it is difficult to determine what aspects of energy usage has been included in the figures, such as air conditioning. This can be the biggest user of energy and its use depends on local environmental conditions. Also, there are differences in vehicle size and the number of passengers they can carry.
Based on a variety of available data and making some simple assumptions, a generalisation of comparitive energy efficiencies has been developed, based on a common denominator – energy used per passenger seat kilometre. Comparing different forms of transport with BeemCar produces the following conservative estimate of energy savings, taking into account the contribution made by BeemCar’s integrated solar PV panels:
83% saving over LRT
80% saving over an ICT powered automobile
70% saving over an electric automobile
67% saving over an urban bus
30% saving over Low Capacity PRT
Road transport produces approximately 25% of all CO2 emissions in the UK, and the automobile contributes 60% of these. By replacing some automobile journeys, BeemCar will significantly reduce emissions, the level of which will be relative to its success. For example, if BeemCar replaced 10 – 15% of journeys, which is not an unrealistic expectation, then this would result in an annual reduction in the order of 10MtCO2, based on the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change statistics.
There is evidence from across the world that automated vehicles, which operate on their own RoW are inherently safer than other forms of transport, especially those that operate at street level. For example, in Sheffield and Manchester, road traffic has to share its space with trams, which have been the cause of a number of accidents. In considering rail, it is particularly vulnerable, as trains often have to share the same tracks, so there is the possibility of head-on crashes, and unlike BeemCar, points are used to switch tracks, which is one of the biggest causes of all rail accidents.
US studies demonstrate that the Morgantown PRT, which has been operating for more than 30 years, is 100 times safer than conventional transit systems. BeemCar operates at height and pods travel only in one direction. It is only ever at street level when stopped at stations, when it is off the main highway and the risk of collision with other objects is negligible. Also, in an emergency, BeemCar pods are able to stop under emergency braking without colliding into the pod in front. Therefore, heavy collision resistant structure is not required.
In the past, poor planning and routing of major roads and rail lines has physically split some communities into two parts, with inadequate links between the two. The infrastructure of BeemCar is such that it causes no severance whatsoever, as people are able to pass underneath the beams. Moreover, BeemCar could also be used to join up small communities, currently isolated by the lack of public transport, as the routing of BeemCar is much more flexible.
Renewable Energy Sources
BeemCar’s energy consumption is extremely low compared to other transport systems. The PV solar panels integrated into the beam will provide a significant source of sustainable energy that will reduce consumption even more, which then makes the use of fixed, localised low carbon energy sources a viable proposition. The benefits are a higher reliability than having total reliance on the grid, minimal distribution losses, and lower energy supply costs. Also, using low carbon sources, particularly renewable sources where they are available, will be much more environmentally sound.
BeemCar has an extremely low noise signature, more than 30dB less than a car, which makes it suitable for use in residential areas. As the plastic wheels run on plastic, noise levels on curves is negligible compared to other systems where noise is generated by the squealing of steel wheels on steel tracks.
One of the biggest problems with monorails, elevated rail and PRT systems is the visual intrusion of the beam or guideway, particularly those systems where the vehicle sits on an elevated track or guideway and the width needs to be the same or greater than the vehicle width to be able to support the vehicle. Being suspended, BeemCar does not require the beam to be the full width of the vehicle, and is in fact less than one quarter of the pod’s width. This is similar to the H-Bahn monorail that has a beam width of less than 700mm wide and a vehicle that is 2.25m wide.
Also, BeemCar’s beam is more than 7m above ground level, more than 2m higher than an elevated rail or guideway, and in comparison, when viewed from below will appear much smaller. In addition, the shape of the beam can be tweaked to provide a more pleasing and less intrusive shape. In localised areas, the beam can be blended in with the background, using building lines and other features, all of which serve to further reduce visual intrusion.
Because of its lightweight beam, BeemCar’s support posts are much smaller than the thick concrete and steel supports used for elevated rail and guideway. BeemCar’s overall footprint is small, and because the beam is supported by cantilever arms, the support posts are offset to one side of the pod’s track. This means the land under the beam doesn’t need anything doing to it, and it can be used for other activities, such as walking and cycling. Also, compared to elevated rail and guideways, much less land is needed for temporary access and construction.
Use of Recyclable Materials
Much development is currently taking place with natural fibres such as flax and hemp, and where practicable, BeemCar will take advantage of this work and use materials that are more easily recycled. Also, battery usage on BeemCar will be minimal and could even be zero, which reduces the need for battery disposal, an expensive and unfriendly environmental process.