If you were to take a train from Paris, France to Le Havre, France today, the average travel time by train is three hours and five minutes. Imagine if you could do that journey in 30 minutes.
French start up project Spacetrain is hoping to achieve that and more with its revolutionary technology. Powered by hydrogen fuel cells, Spacetrain is an autonomous shuttle, circulating in sustentation by means of air cushions, on a reversed “T” track, with an average speed of 540 km/h.
“Our aim is to reform the conception of mobility,” Emeuric Gleizes, Spacetrain’s CEO, tells gasworld. “Nowadays, the passenger transportation market is changing and we want to offer the best solution in order to respond to cost, speed and environmental problematics.”
“We are convinced that considerably reducing the length of journeys between metropolises will have a positive impact on the economic dynamism of these areas.”
The company has grown considerably since its inception three years ago, currently standing at a team of 25 employees, 15 of those, engineers. Spacetrain has an office in Paris, as well as a laboratory in the north of Orléans where a prototype is being built.
“Currently our engineers are building our first prototype with a scale of 1/2. It will be tested on a terrestrial “T” track of 70 meters in our lab from March (2019). This is one of our very important steps for this year,” Gleizes explains.
“These tests should help us to raise funds. Several very big companies have already approached us and are waiting for proof of operation of our technology.”
The construction of a kilometre of double track monorail has been estimated at €10m, depending on the engineering works the topography imposes.
“This average is largely inferior to a kilometre of traditional high speed train and even more to high speed modes of transportation circulating in a depressurised tube,” Gleizes says.
Spacetrain technology is autonomous, sustained by air bearing and propelled by linear motors motorised by embedded graphene batteries. The shuttle will be able to circulate with an average speed of 540 km/h and a maximum of 720 km/h thanks to electric induction and hydrogen fuel cells.
“One of the objectives of the Spacetrain project is to conciliate innovation and environment. The use of clean techs allows us to propose a zero-emission solution. As an example, a 100 kilometer Spacetrain connection would allow to cut 32,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year,” Gleizes explains.
Autonomous and hybrid traction allows circulation without catenaries. The electrical energy is supplied by two sources: hydrogen fuel cells and graphene batteries that can be used as buffers during acceleration and braking by recovering the kinetic energy of the train.
The optimal use of both sources requires an energy management system. This unique algorithm controls, via power converters, the energy flows that pass through a 650 to 700 V DC bus.
Following the construction and tests of the 1/2 scale prototype this year, the company will increase its development team and look to construct a scale 1 prototype in 2020. Spacetrain would also look to rehabilitate a track to test the prototype on.
In 2021, the company hopes to launch the first real size prototype on the test track and continue tests until 2025. Spacetrain hopes to open the first commercial line in 2025.
“Our main goal in 2019 is to raise funds and convince partners to join us. After that, everything will go very quickly because our technology is very accomplished,” Gleizes says.