Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another green scheme from the land of ideas

We’ve all been stuck behind them, those dirty, noisy trucks. And we’ve probably all asked ourselves why everyone is pushing for hybrid cars, when those smoke-belching monsters are still on the road. Over sixty percent of goods are transported solely by truck in the United States, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and that’s not counting the goods that are flown or shipped into the country and driven by truck to their final destination. The fact is, when you buy something at the store, it probably got to that store by truck. No wonder the streets are congested.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get the trucks off the streets? Dr. Dietrich Stein, at the Ruhr University of Bochum, Germany, has come up with a clever solution. It’s called CargoCap, and it’s an innovative system for transporting goods in high-traffic downtown areas by underground pipelines. Goods are loaded into the Caps, which are independent, computer-operated vehicles. A Cap can hold two euro-pallets, which are the common cargo transport units in Europe. This means the Caps are small enough to be transported through tunnels with a diameter of 1.6m, or about 5 feet three inches.

The advantages of this system are obvious: reductions in traffic, pollution, noise, accidents, and road expansion. The founders have even come up with a way to build the system without disturbing everyday life aboveground. They plan to use an underground, computer-controlled pipe jacking system to precisely drive the pipes into place. Displaced earth is automatically returned to the surface by way of the pipes. The pipe jacking system and small diameter of the pipes allows CargoCap to be implemented near existing infrastructure, and the system can easily be expanded to meet increases in demand.

So far, CargoCap only exists as a model. Dr. Stein and his team are planning to start a company to build the Caps, but realization of the CargoCap system in a German city will take many years, as the political machinery stands in the way.

Intrigued? See

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