May 10, 2007 Since we last reported on the BladeRunner we've been keeping an eye our for further news on the innovative high efficiency British train/truck. Now it seems the vehicle's innovative Steering Control System is finally under review by the UK government and the company is looking to begin developing a fuel cell powered ultra light rail passenger system based on the high efficiency technology.
Steering Correction Mechanism
The BladeRunner's ability to lower an extra set of flanged steel wheels and take advantage of the low rolling resistance and fuel economy of rail travel is not the only energy efficient feature of the vehicle. Due to a clever steering system, the truck is able to carry larger, longer loads than other vehicles while still being able to turn inside specified turning circle limits. Transporting larger loads with a single fuel-efficient cab compounds the dollar and emissions efficiencies for freight and transport companies.
The steering system works by linking the rear two axles to the truck's trailer by means of a pivot that allows the rear wheels of the truck to steer independantly of the carriage. See this video for a demonstration.
Because the rear wheels steer without being fixed to the cargo, the truck is able to turn in a much tighter circle. Silvertip Design, the vehicle's creators, hope that this will allow them to obtain permits for longer freight vehicles than are currently allowed on European roads, as turning circle and swing-out around tight corners have typically been the limiting factors stopping larger trucks being approved. This is currently under investgation by the British Government.
The Steering Correction Mechanism also has further safety benefits - high speed turning on a truck with the system fitted is much more stable than a traditional design, as this fun video demonstration shows.
This combination of high speed stability and low speed manoeverability has won the design the 2007 Trailer Innovation award. See the award website for an excellent English language video explaining the benefits of the system. Click on the photo marked "Silvertip Design." Tesla: the upcoming Ultra Light Rail Vehicle As the BladeRunner itself develops, Silvertip tell us they're looking at another cutting-edge vehicle they're calling the Tesla. It will be a smaller version of the BladeRunner, suited to public transport applications. Head of Design at Silvertip, Carl Henderson, tells us: "This vehicle will be classed as a dualmode Ultra Light Rail (ULR) vehicle and will explore combining state of the art technologies including active guidance, electric drives and fuel cell modules."
Only in the design concept stage at the moment, we're able to offer a couple of glimpses of how it is taking shape - see this article's image gallery for sketches. The benefits of a dual-mode public transport vehicle are obvious - huge efficiencies where rails are available, but also the ability to extend public transport routes to include areas that aren't serviced by rail infrastructure. And of course the fact that breakdowns, rail failures and accidents that block the tracks won't stop these little beauties from running on time.
We'll keep our eye out for further developments from Silvertip, they're making some fantastic headway.