While the debate in America rages over the future of high speed rail, Japan is still looking for ever more futuristic ways to get around. The latest idea; a hovering “Aero Train” that floats above the ground.
This is like something out of the Jetsons. The Aero Train is a ground-effects vehicle…kind of like a combination between a Harrier VTOL jet and a hovercraft. Using electrically-powered motors, the aero train hovers just inches above the ground, eliminating any rolling resistance and allowing for a smooth ride and allowing for speeds of up to 124 mph. While the idea of an airplane/train hybrid is nothing new, the unique setup of the Aero Train sounds promising, if not in any way practical.
A U-shaped channel that the Aero Train travels down would control air flow and provide the Aero Train’s robotic overlord with a “road” to follow. Computers control the pitch, roll, and yaw of the prototype, which is obviously many years from any practical application. Eventually, a system of solar panels and/or wind turbines could provide zero-emissions electricity for the Aero Train which, due to its unique design, requires a lot less energy to run than your typical maglev trains. I’d be especially attracted to this idea if it eliminated the whole “mass” part of mass transit and instead provided a limited number of travelers with a comfortable and affordable way to get around. As it is, I wouldn’t mind having a hovering personal vehicle, though the applications for this as a mass transit solution are pretty far fetched.
So, while I’m not banking on such a “ground effect” vehicle showing up anytime soon, I will always admired people who can come up with a completely impractical science-fiction solution to a serious problem. And I don’t mean that in a bad way.
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.