Urban Transport

BMW proposes congestion-busting elevated roads for zero-emission commuting

BMW's Vision E³ Way concept separates bikes and electric single-track vehicles from congested roads
BMW's Vision E³ Way concept separates bikes and electric single-track vehicles from congested roads
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BMW's Vision E³ Way: elevated roads for electric single-track vehicles snake through the city
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BMW's Vision E³ Way: elevated roads for electric single-track vehicles snake through the city
BMW's Vision E³ Way: a domed roof keeps rain out, offers shade, and allows active cooling
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BMW's Vision E³ Way: a domed roof keeps rain out, offers shade, and allows active cooling
BMW's Vision E³ Way: speed limits will be set to bicycle-friendly levels
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BMW's Vision E³ Way: speed limits will be set to bicycle-friendly levels
BMW's Vision E³ Way concept separates bikes and electric single-track vehicles from congested roads
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BMW's Vision E³ Way concept separates bikes and electric single-track vehicles from congested roads
BMW's Vision E³ Way: no more traffic light stops for cyclists
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BMW's Vision E³ Way: no more traffic light stops for cyclists
BMW's Vision E³ Way: elevated roadways will connect major transit stops
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BMW's Vision E³ Way: elevated roadways will connect major transit stops

BMW's Group Technology Office in Shanghai has put forward a mobility concept for megacities that would raise zero-emission single-track commuters above ground roads and the cars and trucks that travel on them via a giant network of elevated pathways that snake through the city between key transit points.

The idea is that bicycles, as well as a range of other electric mobility devices, including stand-up scooters, e-bikes and small electric motorcycles like the BMW Concept Link we saw earlier this year, would have their own express roads, inaccessible to cars, high above the ground and free from traffic lights.

Dubbed Vision E³ Way, for "elevated, electric and efficient," the plan calls for elevated pathways with domed roofs and cooling ventilation. A speed limit of 25 km/h (15 mph) could be enforced to keep these pathways bicycle-friendly, and the entire thing would represent a significant safety boost for millions of Chinese commuters, as well as a quicker way to get around town without the stop-start nature of road traffic.

BMW's Vision E³ Way: elevated roadways will connect major transit stops
BMW's Vision E³ Way: elevated roadways will connect major transit stops

To keep things flowing, a lane system prevents traffic from merging until it's had a good chance to get up to speed. Mind you, we've got that system on roads too – the freeway on-ramp – and people don't seem to have worked that one out yet.

Shanghai, with its 25.2 million inhabitants, is the third most highly populated city in the world, and China has shown itself ready to experiment with a range of grand-scale measures to deal with overpopulation, combat pollution and bring forward the age of electric vehicles. Shanghai's main roads already use roped-off areas just for two-wheeled commuting, so perhaps something like Vision E³ Way isn't so far fetched.

As BMW contemplates an autonomous future that may see premium car sales take a dive, initiatives like these show the company is looking beyond the automobile.

Source: BMW

2 comments
cargocultist
This is a neat idea but I believe we need a more radical solution. One of the main problem of these conduits is their large size, which makes them less flexible in terms of placement, increases visual pollution and makes them poorly ‘stackable.’ After the robotization of vehicles has minimized rolling resistance and breaking losses, one major source of energy losses remains: air resistance, which is proportional to the frontal area of a vehicle and to the forward velocity squared, hence BMW chooses a 25km/h speed limit in this mobility concept. But to kill all the problems described above with one stone I’d opt for using vehicles with a much smaller frontal area. And once this tubular, electrified network takes more and more of the motor vehicle traffic load from ordinary surface roads, those can progressively be converted to some mix of bicycle lanes, footpaths and city parks. My suggestion is to use capsule-like vehicles in which the passenger lies in the prone or reclined position (whichever any particular passenger prefers) – analogues to the Olympic sports ‘skeleton’ and ‘luge’ respectively, but using wheels rather than ice skates and with the passenger in an aerodynamically shaped capsule, rather than being exposed to aerodynamic forces and the elements. Passengers would wear VR or AR glasses to give them a comfortable sense of space and motion rather than feeling trapped inside a dark tunnel. So, at what speed should these pods travel? There’s no technical reason why they couldn't go very fast, especially on long straight stretches of tube between cities. Breaking distance in the case of an emergency could be reduced by the making the vehicle press itself onto the road, or by laterally pressing breaking pads against the vertical part of the conduit to increase the breaking force arbitrarily – or by using any of a large number of obvious approaches I won’t describe here. It’s even possible that, rather than using wheeled vehicles, the wheels and electric motors will be stationary and incorporated into the road surface below the vehicles, with the vehicles just being aerodynamically efficient shells moved around by those stationary wheels, like how goods are moved in some factories and distribution centers. The passenger could then privately own this lightweight shell and be able to carry it in his/her hand to and from the tube network. But these kind of questions are best answered by running complicated simulations of traffic flows both inside and outside the tube network. Of course vehicle speed could be coupled to the amount of electricity available on the grid, which would then serve the role of demand side management, which is becoming more and more salient due to the addition of highly unreliable renewable energy sources to the electricity grid. Lastly I like to point out that this highly compact system can be incorporate into the natural and agricultural landscape between cities, by being either partly or wholly submerged in the soil or waterways. And please don’t ruin our beautiful natural and agricultural landscapes with ugly solar panels!
Nik
''A speed limit of 25 km/h (15 mph) could be enforced to keep these pathways bicycle-friendly,......'' Thats a bit geriatric! In my teens I could maintain a steady 30 mph, 50 km/h over several miles, on a bicycle, and that was on an ASP bike, [All Spare Parts] put together from bits from the scrap heap, not a super purpose built lightweight machine. I would surmise that they will need three or more lanes to cater for the speed differentials of the various machines and their riders, should this idea ever materialise. However, it would make more sense to just have moving walkways, that people could just step onto, and choose their speed lane, then all the other individual machines would be superfluous, but, then BMW would be able to make a profit from selling them.
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