BeemCar’s pod is a lightweight, mechanically simple structure, that does not need the same level of crash protection as an automobile due to the negligible risk of collision; although pods are independently controlled, there is an element of sychronous control, such that when one pod stops on a section of beam, they all stop. The pod weighs less than 400kg (unladen) and measures approximately 2.5m long x 2m wide x 2m high externally. It has 4 forward facing seats in 2 tiered rows, with the rear seats set higher and further apart. This provides increased visibility for passengers through the large transparent front end that extends from floor to ceiling and wraps around most of the sides, similar to a helicopter cockpit.
The strength of the pod is in its lightweight ‘C’ shaped structure that forms the ceiling, rear wall and flat floor, which extends forward at the same height from the door to a point forward of the front seats, before it steps down to enable access for front seat passengers. This long central flat floor is large enough to accommodate a mobility scooter, wheelchair, pushchair, bicycle or bags. The 2-part door is set into the rear wall, and is hinged at the top and bottom. Both parts are supported by gas struts and electrically operated. The lower part of the door is wider and opens out to form a bridge between the pod and platform, across which the passengers walk. The generous width gives more room for wheelchairs. The upper door also hinges in the middle to minimise its arc of operation over the platform.
The pod’s payload is 500kgs, which is sufficient for 4 large passengers or one passenger and the heaviest mobility scooter on the market with a gross weight of 360kgs. The large flat floor will enable parcels to be carried, but if there is a demand, then a more secure dedicated parcel pod could easily be manufactured. This would have no seats, a completely flat floor, a large moulding to replace the transparency and an externally lockable door. Also, if there is the capacity on the network, then bespoke, individualised pods could be produced for the elite, at a premium price. Revenue would also be earned through advertising inside and outside of the pods.
The pods will be built and maintained to a high specification; construction will use high strength, low weight, fire retardant composite materials that have inherently good insulation properties. The technology is well proven as it was developed for the low cost manufacture of airship gondolas and used for hovercraft superstructures and helicopter parts. In line with the design philosophy, the number of parts will be kept to a minimum, especially moving parts; equipment compartments and wiring looms will be integrated into the structure, which minimises the mass that is carried around on which energy would have to be expended.
The pods will be well equipped inside; aids to assist persons with all types of disability, power points, a climate control system, a built in entertainment system, fold down tables, drinks holders and other enhanced features that may be relevant at the time of build. This will ensure passenger comfort and help entice automobile users out of their vehicles. The climate control is provided by an off-the-shelf Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) unit that is powerful enough to service a 6m recreational vehicle.
The pod is suspended by the linkage that connects between the drive unit that runs inside the hollow beam, and the flat pod ceiling. There are damping units fitted to the upper and lower ends of the linkage that will ensure pod stability, enabling the system to operate in most weather conditions, whilst the pod maintains a consistent attitude. To facilitate easier passenger entry and exit, the pod twists through 90° as it slows into the station, such that the rear door aligns with the platform edge, level with the pod floor. When the pod is at rest, it is supported from underneath by a powered support that is actuated automatically, which keeps the pod steady during boarding.