A new public transit project in Zhuzhou, in Hunan province in central China, aims to straddle the line between train and bus while offering zero-emissions transport. First unveiled last June, the system is now being tested for the first time, according to Futurism.com.
While it resembles a train, the Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit(ART) system does not need tracks, which drastically cuts the costs of implementation. With three cars, the ART system can accommodate up to 300 passengers, traveling as fast as 70 kilometers per hours, following a planned route like a virtual track. Using electric battery power that generates no carbon emissions, the ART currently can travel for 15 kilometers on a single charge, yet can be recharged in as little as 10 minutes.
The ART is just one of many innovative public transit projects planned in China. Already home to the world’s fastest bullet train, China’s Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation is now working on a magnetic train that uses a vacuum tube, similar to Elon Musk’s hyperloop concept. It would travel at more than three times the speed of sound, making it the first in the world designed for supersonic speeds.
China’s underground rail system is also growing at unprecedented speeds. As recently as 20 years ago, just three Chinese cities had subway systems. Now there are 60 lines in 25 cities offering metro travel to 291 million people.
Not all of China’s transit projects have enjoyed a clear path to becoming a reality. Last year, one ambitious project gained widespread attention, promising an arch-shaped bus that could straddle traffic. It turned out to be a complex investment scam, offering investors substantial returns and collecting money while failing to make progress on the project. 32 people were arrested.
The efforts to develop widespread, low-emissions public transit is part of a wider effort to cut air pollution, after many years of rapid development created dire smog issues in urban areas. Now, 40 percent of factories have been shut down, and the government is working towards banning the sale of gas and diesel cars.
According to estimates, pollution kills 1.1 million people annually in China. Premier Li Keqiang promised to “make our skies blue again” at a party congress in March.