Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
I would prefer a new generation of ultra light rail street-cars running on biomethane myself. If the Swedish bus fleet can run on it, so could street-car fleets, without the rolling resistance.

Take Edinburgh.

Trams are pretty heavy and not cheap, so it cost £ gazillions to reinforce roads.

Then there's the cost and visual intrusion of the cabling; the heat lost when carbon fuels are burnt; transmission losses and so on.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Oct 14th, 2012 at 02:22:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not a fan of bio-any-kind-of-fuel, on the grounds that planting over every square meter we can find with fuelcrops is not, in fact, good stewardship of the earth.

Doing something with the waste streams of food production is just good sense, but that does not scale - once you are planting crops solely to process them and burn them, the only green thing still associated with that policy is the chlorophyll in the monoultures killing ecosystems.  

All plans have consequences, of course, but at least lithium mining operations mostly wreck salt deserts and the metal can, and should, be recycled.

by Thomas on Sun Oct 14th, 2012 at 06:32:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  • What's your distinction between "streetcar" and "tram"? I'm not aware of a categorical difference.
  • What are you thinking of when writing "ultra light"?
  • Of course light rail (be it called streetcar, tram, light rail or whatever) is too heavy for existing pavement, that's why they have their own track in the road, not a 'reinforced road'. In fact, anything with capacity similar to that of light rail is too heavy for road pavement, as shown by the failure of such a system in Caen and the bankruptcy/sale of the manufacturer of a rival system.
  • Of course light rail is not cheap when compared to road vehicles using existing roads, but that's a pointless comparison because buses don't have the capacity (or comfort) of light rail (not to mention a heavy rail metro). That's why the Brazilian city of Curitiba, which runs a system touted by US American anti-light rail BRT advocates as a model, is projecting a proper metro system.
  • The visual impact of overhead lines is a regular theme of US anti-transit propagandists, but, on one hand, I think it is way overblown, on the other hand, there are now various catenary-free systems for the electricity supply of light rail, including ones employing on-board energy storage with batteries and supercapacitors.
  • The issue of carbon fuels can be addressed by changing to renewables in electricity generation. Transmission losses are dwarfed by the losses of the internal combustion engine (you can use your biomethane more efficiently by burning it in a biomass plant and powering an electric tram) and then there is the issue of regenerative braking.
  • No, you can't extrapolate from the Swedish buses example, biofuels don't have the potential to replace all conventional fuel used in transport globally, not even if displacing food production. (This has been a regular theme on ET, I'm surprised you even bring it up.)

So I maintain my preference for a system consiting of overlaid networks of electrified railways, metros, trams and trolley buses.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 15th, 2012 at 04:03:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
anything with capacity similar to that of light rail is too heavy for road pavement

Let me correct myself: the issue is not weight itself, the issue is how the weight impacts the road in high-frequency fixed-guideway traffic. For any given cross section of the road, the weight of the wheels that pass several times a day always rests on the same narrow band of the road surface.

Modern trams have axle loads of around 8-10 t when fully loaded (with the CAF trams for Edinburgh at the high end of the spectrum). In contrast, the limit for road vehicles in most EU countries is 11.5 t/m for drive and 10 t for non-drive axles, and modern buses get pretty close to the first limit. So a bus rear axle weight is actually often higher than that of any axle of a tram. The failed 'road tram' system of Caen had an average axleload of 10 t (40 t on four axles, I found no data on mass distribution).

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

by DoDo on Mon Oct 15th, 2012 at 03:05:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Firstly, I'm thinking of this sort of thing

Parry People Movers

Secondly, the issue for the foreseeable future is with heat losses from the carbon-fuelled power which provides the electricity.

It surprises me that burning gas in a power station to provide and distribute electricity to power electric trams is more energy efficient than gas-powered internal combustion trams would be. Do you have a source for that?

Thirdly, I wasn't suggesting bio-gas could replace conventional fuels on all conventional transport.

I was merely thinking that there is a role for simple solutions which can be rapidly implemented without vast cost and complexity.

I suggest that a new generation of really light street-cars/trams/whatever running on suitable track might be a good way of rolling out public transport rapidly, particularly in countries like Venezuela, Nigeria, and Iran who waste energy - and particularly gas - on a massive scale.

I don't see this as an alternative to heavy metro, merely as a complementary solution, since such ULR vehicles could presumably run over existing tram tracks as well as their own.

Finally, I think that in a 'for profit' and increasingly risk averse world simple and lightweight solutions are rarely put forward, or taken seriously when they are.

There's not much profit in either the vehicles or the supporting infrastructure.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Oct 17th, 2012 at 07:54:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Parry People Movers

This is a small-capacity solution for low-frequented routes, in particular in rural areas; thus a replacement for a bus or a small branchline DMU (their webpage focuses on the latter comparison). It is not a replacement for high-capacity vehicles on busies routes and certainly doesn't eliminate the need for track construction, even if maximum axleload is just 5 t (they only claim that there is no need to dig below the road base).

I was merely thinking that there is a role for simple solutions which can be rapidly implemented without vast cost and complexity.

This can be implemented without vast cost and sensibly only on branchlines without passenger trains (or in threat of losing them) with track in relatively good shape. Due to its limited capacity, people mover sized ULR can only be complementary to normal trams, too (not just heavy rail). For such uses in cities and for uses on new lines in rural areas, the real question is then the (new) track, the construction of which will be neither cheap (compared to the cost of the vehicles) nor simple. While it will likely be cheaper than normal heavy or light rail, the ridership and ticket income will be lower, too. So the costs need to reduce to scale, and I am very sceptical about that, they need to prove it in practice.

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

by DoDo on Thu Oct 18th, 2012 at 07:13:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It surprises me that burning gas in a power station to provide and distribute electricity to power electric trams is more energy efficient than gas-powered internal combustion trams would be. Do you have a source for that?

This shouldn't be surprising. The internal combustion engine has losses a gas turbine doesn't: air compression, piston movements. In addition, a diesel engine on a public transport vehicle is constantly revved up and down, while a power plant gas turbine is operated closer to the ideal range, thus practical average thermal efficiency differs from the maximum more. Electricity transmission losses are only a few percent.

Here is one source with a concise summary:

Trolleybus UK

The thermal efficiency (electricity out/fuel in) of modern combined cycle thermal power stations is essentially constant at around 60% (i.e. 40% gets lost to heat, not the 70% mentioned elsewhere), very large (marine) diesels do almost as well at around 55%, automotive diesels (bus engines) do about 40% at best but less at part load. In a diesel bus operating an urban duty cycle and unlike a trolleybus there are significant losses in fluid element automatic transmissions, while idling and moving at low speeds and operating at well below engine maximum efficiency levels, while burning fuel to regenerate particulate traps, etc. The efficiency of a diesel bus at the road wheels is a lot less than engine peak efficiency might suggest.

...Including all the grid, substation, overhead wiring, on-vehicle etc, losses, and regeneration gains for a trolley and all the transmission, cooling, idling and part load running losses, etc, for diesel, a diesel bus is somewhere around 25% efficient at the wheels based on typical MPG and a trolley around 40%.

For the "around 60%" figure for (combined-cycle) gas plants, here is the state-of-the-art in 2010:

CCGT: Breaking the 60 per cent efficiency barrier - Power Engineering International

GE, of course, announced the achievement of that lofty goal several years ago. But that turned out to be a little premature. These days, GE is a lot more conservative - by far the most conservative of the major OEMs - at least with regard to efficiency announcements.

Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Limited (MHI), on the other hand, are claiming an imminent victory. According to Carlos Koeneke, technical director at Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, the company's J-class machine will provide in excess of 61 per cent by 2011. In the meantime, the Japanese company leads the pack with 59.1 per cent verified on an M701G2 gas turbine at the 1500 MW Tokyo Electric Kawasaki power station in Japan.

Siemens claims that it can match this figure. Fischer states the Siemens F class in combined cycle operation scores in the 58 per cent to 58.7 per cent range at ISO conditions 1-on-1 configuration. Recently they reached well over 59 per cent in Irsching 5 which is a combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant in a 2-on-1 configuration based on two SGT5-4000F with a special optimized cycle design. In future, the coming H-class will offer above 60 per cent," says Willibald Fischer, programme manager for the Siemens SGT5-8000H. After undergoing heavy testing at the Irsching prototype plant in Germany the machine will be released on the market. The company is so confident of its numbers that it is virtually guaranteeing 60 per cent for current orders.

Note that the figure can be even higher if the plant supplies distance heating, too, and heating use is included in the efficiency number:

Austria's most efficient thermal power plant goes on line - Hand-over ceremony for the Mellach combined-cycle power plant - Siemens Global Website

In the opening ceremony held on June 22, 2012, Siemens officially handed the Mellach combined-cycle power plant (CCPP) over to the Austrian power provider VERBUND Thermal Power GmbH & Co. KG. The heat-and power cogeneration plant had already commenced operation in May 2012. With an electrical rating of 838 MW and an efficiency of 59.2 percent in straight power generation, the new plant surpasses the contractually agreed performance values. Thanks to the district heating output of 400 MWth, more than 80 percent of the energy in the fuel is put to effective use.

For the "about 40%" figure for bus diesel maximum thermal efficiency, here is a state-of-the-art number:

Scania Delivering 85 Ethanol Buses to Stockholm Suburbs; E95 in a Diesel Engine | OnGreen

The third-generation ethanol engine is an adaptation of Scania's 9-liter diesel engine with charge-cooling and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). The engine delivers 270 hp (201 kW) of power and torque of 1,200 N·m (885 lb-ft), and offers a thermal efficiency of up to 43%, compared to thermal efficiency of up to 44% for diesel, according to Scania.

For transmission losses, here is an overall number which is a national average for the USA:

How much electricity is lost in transmission and distribution in the United States? - FAQ - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

According to EIA data, national, annual electricity transmission and distribution losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Oct 18th, 2012 at 08:32:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Display: