A couple of months back, when a full-scale prototype of China's bizarre bestriding bus was promised for July, we didn't actually expect to see one on the road so soon. Well the wheels are starting to turn on this extraordinary traffic and pollution solution, with Beijing company Transit Explore Bus (TEB) rolling the electric vehicle onto the streets in China's north to kick off the first phase of testing.
When it comes to ideas to ease congestion and air pollution, few seem more audacious than the Elevated Transit Bus (ETB). The electric vehicle spreads itself across two traffic lanes and travels along tracks on either side of the road, allowing cars up to 2 meters (6.6 ft) tall to pass underneath.
It can travel at up to 60 km/h (37.2 mph) with passengers hopping on and off by way of ramps that fold outwards when the bus reaches a stop. Reportedly, the ETB could replace up to 40 conventional buses, save 800 tons of fuel and 2,480 tons of carbon emissions each year, all at around 16 percent of the cost of a subway.
Transit Explore Bus demonstrated a small functioning model of the ETB at the China Beijing International High-Tech Expo (CHITEC) in May, rehashing an idea chief engineer Song Youzhou had floated six years earlier. Song said at the time that a full-scale version was in the works and would begin testing in July or August. But with much time having passed since the original concept and little apparent progress towards its materialization, these resurrected transit plans were treated with a touch of skepticism.
But here we are. The TEB-1 took to a test track in Qinhuangdao in China's Hebei Province, on August 2. This allowed for testing of the braking system, along with drag and power consumption. The test bus does stretch over two lanes of traffic, though the model is only long enough for 300 passengers – the company imagines TEBs eventually carrying as many as 1,400. But from a toy-like model to showing off a life-size, functional version in the space of a couple of months is some exciting progress.
China Xinhua News reports that the TEB has already received interest from governments in Brazil, France, India and Indonesia.
Update August 8: Since news emerged of these tests, more than one Chinese media outlet has claimed that the TEB project is actually a scam to extract funds from investors. It has also been reported that authorities in the city of Qinhuangdao were not aware of the test, indicating that the trials were conducted internally, rather than on public roads. New Atlas has reached out to Transit Explore Bus for clarification and will update this story if more information comes to light.