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I think one must be careful about the train versus car efficiency argument. Trains, for example, are big. You get a dining car, aisles to walk around in, lots of extra space that you don't get in a car--and that needs to be carried around with the people.

Let me turn this into a point that actually carries weight (because, carrying empty space, cost nothing). Indeed it is true that while on a modern train with average filling (40-50%), you have roughly 1 ton for 1 passenger, while for a car (a car not a SUV), you have that when just the driver sits in it.

However, mass is the main factor only when you accelerate. At constant speed, friction is the factor, and trains rule. But even acceleration doesn't really make them worse. On one hand, trains typically gain speed/brake with much lower accelerations (no 100 km/h in ten seconds). On the other hand, modern electric trains (especially those using a lower-than-grid-frequency separate railway AC system, say the 16.7 Hz in Germanic and Scandinavian countries) have regenerative electric brakes, and send much of the braking energy back to the catenary - which can have a greater efficiency than even hybrid cars that recharge themselves while braking. (There are also experiments with adding gyros to diesels for similar short-term energy conservation.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Feb 6th, 2006 at 03:04:24 PM EST
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