How the SolTrain Works
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How The SolTrain Works


The SolTrain is designed to address three major obstacles associated with public rail transit: high capital and operating costs; low passenger appeal; and the burning of fossil fuels, which causes air pollution and adds to global warming. The SolTrain offers the maximum transportation gain with minimal cost and environmental impact, and provides a major increase in personal convenience. Small, self-propelled SolTrain vehicles offer innovative, pollution-free solutions to environmental degradation produced by existing automobile transportation systems. The SolTrain is designed as a 30 passenger, low-impact, noiseless rail car based on recent advances in strong composite materials and solar-electric racecar technology. The railcars are 35 feet long, 8 feet wide and have 6' 2" of headroom. The SolTrain is very light-weight at 500 lbs per passenger vs. 2,000 lbs per passenger for normal light rail. Total weight, including passengers is estimated at 15,000 lbs. SolTrains travel on existing tracks, which require minimal upgrading because of the light weight of the vehicles. They are self-propelled with on-board batteries & electric motors and will safely travel at up to 40-50 mph. Energy is provided from photovoltaic solar cells mounted on the railcars and at recharging stations. The existing SolTrain body has been built by Powers Design International, a well known transportation prototype developer.

STATIONS: Solar cells on the SolTrain roof and at passenger stations recharge the on-board batteries. Recharging stations will be double-tracked for 100 feet on both sides, where the on-board batteries are "quick-charged" during passenger pick up. Quick charging keeps the batteries at maximum potential value. Backup fuel cell or bio diesel generators and/or solar-electric "buy-back" credits from the Power Company are available for cloudy days or emergency needs. Drivers have regenerative braking which will help to recharge on-board batteries as the brakes are applied. A driver compartment at each end avoids the need for "turn-around".

COMMUNITY BENEFITS: Small, self-propelled SolTrain railcars will allow more frequent arrivals and departures to all destinations. SolTrains can be built locally to increase local job opportunities. The SolTrain solar, pollution-free characteristics are genuinely good for the environment. The uniqueness of the SolTrain will create publicity to attract ecotourists, charged per ride, which will off-set operating costs and keep local resident fares at 50 cents. Bike racks and wheelchair access will be available on each rail car.

SAFETY: The safety inherent in strong composite materials and a proposed GPS satellite technology will keep SolTrain cars at safe distances from one another and operating smoothly through double-tracked stations. Pound for pound, composite materials are substantially stronger than steel bodies. Production models will be linked via GPS satellite technology to track the identity, position, speed and operational status of each vehicle. This positioning information can be updated and transmitted continuously to a central headquarters computer, and then to other rail vehicles to maintain safe operating distances. Start/stop functions can be controlled by both the driver and automatically with special infrared sensors that will automatically stop the vehicle if other vehicles or objects are located in the rail path. Because of the low speed and quiet operation, the SolTrain avoids the problems of noise, smoke, vibration and visual impact associated with other rail transit systems.

MINIMAL INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES. Major improvements to existing railroad infrastructure (welded tracks, new bridges, etc) will not be necessary because of the ultra-light weight (15,000 lbs including passengers) of the cars. SolTrains are designed with superior vertical and horizontal suspension systems offering a smooth ride. When the traffic lights are timed and GPS satellite navigation utilized, SolTrains will flow easily with existing automobile cross traffic and will be able to pass each other at double-tracked stations. Because the cars are small and self contained, the frequency of departure can be easily adjusted to meet daily shifts in commute and tourist demand. The cost savings of using one driver with linked cars on more popular routes or during rush hour can substantially cut labor costs. Additional rail extensions off of standard tracks would be relatively inexpensive because of the ultra-light weight of SolTrain vehicles.

OPERATIONAL COSTS: Operational costs will also be low because of the fewer moving parts inherent in electric vehicles. A modular (in and out) design of the vehicles five major components will reduce repair and maintenance costs. Far less energy is required, and fewer personnel are required to operate SolTrain railcars than a heavy conventional passenger train. Linking several cars together, using only one driver on the more popular high-traffic routes is possible and can also reduce driver costs. Conservative estimates project an operating expense similar to buses at per hour, although true operating costs are expected to be lower.

SOLTRAIN RAIL SYSTEM COST PROJECTIONS: SolTrain "production-models" are expected to sell retail for about FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS per seat or about FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND per vehicle. This is 50% of the cost per seat of other small self-propelled rail systems. (Cost comparisons THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS per seat for vintage San Francisco Market Street Trolleys, diesel multiple units, European models and conceptual US version costing over One Million Dollars per vehicle. The SolTrain system is part of a regional approach to traffic congestion which focuses on alternative transportation such as walking, bikes, e-bikes, electric vehicle pools and SolTrains combined with development of high-density, mixed-use, sustainable ecoVillage communities at SolTrain recharging stations. Housing development at railway stations is based on the European railway model. The SolTrain solution offers the maximum transportation gain with the minimum overall expense to resources, the environment or personal convenience. It is quiet, comfortable and safe. It does not burn fossil fuels or pollute the environment, it does not add costly new infrastructure and protects the local beauty of the area. SolTrains use an unlimited solar power supply and will help reduce congestion on major highways. It is a low cost, low impact, no noise, and no vibration alternative, which is practical, timely and inexpensive solution in todays world.

Contact the Soltrain office at (831) 425-0116