News   Feb 26, 2021
 513     0 
News   Feb 26, 2021
 1.1K     0 
News   Feb 26, 2021
 2K     7 

General railway discussions

Urban Sky

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Oct 5, 2014
Messages
839
Reaction score
1,555
Location
Montreal
Happy new year, everyone!

Given that the number of posts in the VIA Rail thread has exploded recently (680 posts in December 2020, i.e. almost 22 posts per day!) and that the creation of a thread dedicated to transport policy discussions did fail to reduce the volume of discussions which relate only tangentially with the topic at hand, I would like to create this thread for all kinds of rail-related discussions which don't really relate to any rail operator, its current or past operations (routes, schedules, fleet) or future plans.

Examples for topics which would probably be better suited for this thread include:
  • Pros and Cons (or any kind of comparative analysis) of various rail (or non-rail) modes, including Monorails, Maglevs or Hyperloops
  • Pros and Cons (or any kind of comparative analysis) of various rail propulsion technologies, including discussions about different electrification technologies
  • Pros and Cons of transport infrastructure investments (including social impacts, like housing prices)
  • Any kinds of rail-related discussions which concern multiple railroads or a railroad to which no thread has been dedicated so far

Thank you very much for your interest in this thread and I hope that we can keep the discussions in the VIA Rail thread more focused by spinning off digressions into this new thread, which is of course open to all other rail-related topics...! :)
 
Last edited:

kEiThZ

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 31, 2008
Messages
9,975
Reaction score
3,644
I do tend to agree with you. My only concern is if the advancements in battery technology continues at the same pace over the next decade as it has over the past decade (a near doubling of energy density and a decrease in cost per kWh by an order of magnitude), we could see a situation where the transition to ZEVs goes significantly faster than the government's current target. In that case, we could have a situation where by the mid 30's, the majority of road users aren't paying any carbon taxes but VIA is.

I am not saying this is a probable outcome (there are good reasons why, especially on the cost front, battery progress won't continue at the same rate), but it is possible.

This is substantially optimistic. It's not just about battery technology improving. It's about that tech filtering down to cars that people will buy. If you listen to most proponents, forecasters, etc, they'll cite a 200 mile EV for US$25 000 by 2025. Tesla will probably achieve this by 2023. But that's not a car the average North American would buy (even though that is one that would sell well in Europe and Asia). The minimum viable product for the average Canuck is probably a CUV that does 400 km (nominal) for under CA$35 000. That might be closer to say 2027.

The likelihood that majority of road users wouldn't be paying carbon tax is extremely low. The average car stays on the road for 12 years. And SUVs and pickup trucks seem to be lasting longer (mean might be closer to 15 years). Most cars sold today that will be on the road in 2030. Heck, most will be on the road in 2035. We'd have to hit something like 100% of sales being BEVs by 2025, to end up in a situation where the majority of road vehicles won't be paying carbon tax in 2030. Possible? Theoretically. Probable? No.

On the topic at hand, something BEVs won't and can't solve is traffic congestion. With the GTA adding another million and Ottawa-Gatineau adding another 150k, the centre-to-centre drive times are only going to get longer. Advantage: HFR.

A battery loco fleet will be only so expensive. Worst case, suppose it’s $15M a copy in 2021 dollars. Even 50 units would only cost $750M (plus inflation). Saving $1B plus now by not stringing wires, against having to spend $750M (escalated) at some future date, seems like a good deal.

If the carbon tax proves painful, and the technology really soars in a hurry, VIA could partially or gradually replace diesel with battery, and reap whatever level of benefit it can afford.

Diesels typically depreciate in 15 years - so if the Chargers were written off after ten years its’s not a crippling hit to the balance sheet. Whereas the wires will be a pay-upfront, long-term depreciation proposition - and not scalable. So one has to think that the wires are a riskier investment and potentially a bigger stranded asset if battery comes on strong.

- Paul

I'm going to let @Urban Sky correct me. But generally, I've understood that catenary will only make economic sense where traffic is at suburban rail levels. Something like departures every 15-20 mins. HFR launching with hourly frequencies and maybe half hourly frequencies in a decade seems like a poor return.

Also, the per seat emissions for VIA are so low (on the existing fleet), that even $170/tonne only adds about $2-4 for a long trip (> 400 km). For the short regional trips (< 200 km) it would only add $1-2. Cars face a substantially higher carbon tax bill (double or triple), even with multiple occupancy. And aviation might face a carbon tax bill that is 5-7x more per seat. The new fleet should be even more efficient. VIA should have a substantial advantage with rising carbon taxes.
 
Last edited:

afransen

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 22, 2007
Messages
3,753
Reaction score
2,039
The minimum viable product for the average Canuck is probably a CUV that does 400 km (nominal) for under CA$35 000.
That would sell like crazy. Considering annual fuel savings of ~$2k. I'd buy one tomorrow (assuming it is not unreasonably stripped down in other areas). I think Model Y is too pricey still. I may consider it when they offer a standard range rear motor version. Otherwise it is pretty much everything I would be looking for in a vehicle.


Also, the per seat emissions for VIA are so low (on the existing fleet), that even $170/tonne only adds about $2-4 for a long trip (> 400 km). For the short regional trips (< 200 km) it would only add $1-2. Cars face a substantially higher carbon tax bill (double or triple), even with multiple occupancy. And aviation might face a carbon tax bill that is 5-7x more per seat. The new fleet should be even more efficient. VIA should have a substantial advantage with rising carbon taxes.

This is the great thing about carbon tax vs top-down 'green' projects. Letting the price signal drive investment rather than gut feeling or political pressure. We will never get the job done with public pressure driving ribbon-cutting projects, or nebulous investments in 'green technology'.
 

kEiThZ

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 31, 2008
Messages
9,975
Reaction score
3,644
That would sell like crazy. Considering annual fuel savings of ~$2k. I'd buy one tomorrow (assuming it is not unreasonably stripped down in other areas). I think Model Y is too pricey still. I may consider it when they offer a standard range rear motor version. Otherwise it is pretty much everything I would be looking for in a vehicle.

It would sell like crazy. But getting to that point is still a long ways away.

Even Tesla is starting to get that 200 mi / 320 km is too short a range. Musk has said that they will aim to have all their cars at 300 mi / 480 km minimum. With winter weather and highway speed range loss, 480 km of rated range is probably more like 300 km on a cold January day driving 120 kph on the 401. So Elon's thinking does make sense here. To get vehicles that go beyond first adopters, they really do need ranges that don't involve the compromises that an enthusiastic first adopter might make) accept today.

But getting to that price point means getting battery costs much lower than they are even today. And then building out the chassis platforms to take advantage of those batteries. There's easily 5-7 years of work here.

On topic, we need to really invest in active and public transport in the coming decade. There's way too much focus on EVs saving us from it all. Partly driven by tech and EV fanatics who think externalities of cars end at the tail pipe. And partly by those who are lazy and don't want to tackle tougher issues like urban sprawl.
 
Last edited:

afransen

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 22, 2007
Messages
3,753
Reaction score
2,039
We are staring down the barrel of an robotaxi hellscape, at least on the suburban fringe, with potentially a big increase in VMTs in urban areas and syphoning of people away from public transit. The only hope is that people will be willing to share rides for long distance travel.
 

kEiThZ

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 31, 2008
Messages
9,975
Reaction score
3,644
We are staring down the barrel of an robotaxi hellscape, at least on the suburban fringe, with potentially a big increase in VMTs in urban areas and syphoning of people away from public transit. The only hope is that people will be willing to share rides for long distance travel.

Yep. This entire discussion is being driven by Americans and techbros who hate public transport.

Elon Musk is particularly notorious for his dislike of public transit in particular. In no small measure because he just doesn't understand it, and it suits him well to sell more cars. That's why he thinks the solution to a shortage of roadspace is more tunnels.
 

ssiguy2

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Feb 3, 2010
Messages
3,224
Reaction score
979
As you note with different technologies, it is important to distinguish them. Monorails and Maglevs are proven technology and have systems running in many different countries. This is especially true with monorails which have been around for more than a century and carries millions of passengers safely and efficiently everyday. Hyper Loop is at this point just a pie-in-the-sky idea which hasn't carried a single person 10 feet. I'm no engineer so I don't know if the technology is there or ever will be but at the this point it's just a fantasy plan driven by an egocentric investor.

I think the biggest gains for relatively short run/suburban service will be in battery power and especially in cities that already have core catenary systems in place like much of Europe or Australia. For longer distance travel in both freight and passenger rail, hydrogen is the only viable option. Battery may one day to able to go thousands of km on a charge but not in our lifetimes and in a world desperately needing to decarbonize and fast, hydrogen is the most expedient way to do it.
 
Last edited:

Urban Sky

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Oct 5, 2014
Messages
839
Reaction score
1,555
Location
Montreal
I'm going to let @Urban Sky correct me. But generally, I've understood that catenary will only make economic sense where traffic is at suburban rail levels. Something like departures every 15-20 mins. HFR launching with hourly frequencies and maybe half hourly frequencies in a decade seems like a poor return.
This is correct and even though fuel-operation quickly becomes highly uneconomic beyond 160 km/h (100 mph), I wouldn't electrify anything which doesn't already see at least 2 trains per hour.

Hyper Loop is at this point just a pie-in-the-sky idea which hasn't carry a single person person 10 feet. I'm no engineer so I don't know if the technology is there or ever will be but at the this point it's just a fantasy plan driven by an egocentric investor.
The established engineering standard for looking at how mature a technology is is the "Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)" framework formulated by NASA (ranging from "TRL1" where "basic principles are observed and reported" to "TRL9" where a component is "proven through successful mission operations"). In the "Preliminary Feasibility of Hyperloop Technology" tabled by engineering consultancy AECOM to Transport Canada last summer (July 2020), only 3 of the 8 key components identified appeared to have exceeded TRL 4 (meaning that they have not just been validated in a laboratory environment, but also in a "relevant environment") and 2 key components (High-Speed Tube Switching and Axial Compressors) haven't even reached that early stage, which is why publications by actual Engineers (as opposed to tech-obsessed pseudo-futurists, not: whoever worked on the AECOM report!) write that Hyperloops are at the very best "decades away":

3. Hyperloop Concept and Engineering Design
3.1 Introduction

1609643835067.png

Note: whereas it is unfortunately not clear from the above what the difference between TRL 7 and TRL 8 is, NASA clarifies in the link provided in above graphic that "TRL 7 technology requires that the working model or prototype be demonstrated in a space environment. TRL 8 technology has been tested and "flight qualified" and it's ready for implementation into an already existing technology or technology system."

3.2 Engineering Design Requirements and Challenges

1609644498623.png

1609644511194.png


3.2.4 Propulsion and Power Delivery


1609644550891.png



3.2.13 Engineering Review Conclusions

1609643824140.png

In any case, what makes me most skeptical is the mere fact that the developers and promoters of Hyperloops keep insisting that the first commercial application is just 1-3 years away from the current date rather than acknowledging the bluntly obvious engineering challenges they still face...
 
Last edited:

Northern Light

Superstar
Member Bio
Joined
May 20, 2007
Messages
10,375
Reaction score
14,973
Location
Toronto/EY
This is correct and even though fuel-operation quickly becomes highly uneconomic beyond 160 km/h (100 mph), I wouldn't electrify anything which doesn't already see at least 2 trains per hour.


The established engineering standard for looking at how mature a technology is is the "Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)" framework formulated by NASA (ranging from "TRL1" where "basic principles are observed and reported" to "TRL9" where a component is "proven through successful mission operations"). In the "Preliminary Feasibility of Hyperloop Technology" tabled by engineering consultancy AECOM to Transport Canada last summer (July 2020), only 3 of the 8 key components identified appeared to have exceeded TRL 4 (meaning that they have not just been validated in a laboratory environment, but also in a "relevant environment") and 2 key components (High-Speed Tube Switching and Axial Compressors) haven't even reached that early stage, which is why publications by actual Engineers (as opposed to tech-obsessed pseudo-futurists, not: whoever worked on the AECOM report!) write that Hyperloops are at the very best "decades away":

3. Hyperloop Concept and Engineering Design
3.1 Introduction

View attachment 292147
Note: whereas it is unfortunately not clear from the above what the difference between TRL 7 and TRL 8 is, NASA clarifies in the link provided in above graphic that "TRL 7 technology requires that the working model or prototype be demonstrated in a space environment. TRL 8 technology has been tested and "flight qualified" and it's ready for implementation into an already existing technology or technology system."

3.2 Engineering Design Requirements and Challenges

View attachment 292148
View attachment 292149

3.2.4 Propulsion and Power Delivery


View attachment 292150


3.2.13 Engineering Review Conclusions

View attachment 292146

In any case, what makes me most skeptical is the mere fact that the developers and promoters of Hyperloops insist that the first commercial application is just 1-3 years away rather than acknowledging the bluntly obvious engineering challenges they still face...

Outstanding reply!

1) Answers question
2) Provides explanation
3) Shows evidence, including citations!
 

kEiThZ

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Jul 31, 2008
Messages
9,975
Reaction score
3,644
Should be noted too that in the aerospace sector, you need to demonstrate a substantially high TRL for something that involves safety of flight or crew or passengers.
A new weapon system can be low TRL because the aircraft and crew aren't at risk. A new onboard oxygen system? Not so much.

This is what makes Hyperloop hilariously off schedule to actual engineers.
 

afransen

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 22, 2007
Messages
3,753
Reaction score
2,039
As you note with different technologies, it is important to distinguish them. Monorails and Maglevs are proven technology and have systems running in many different countries. This is especially true with monorails which have been around for more than a century and carries millions of passengers safely and efficiently everyday. Hyper Loop is at this point just a pie-in-the-sky idea which hasn't carried a single person 10 feet. I'm no engineer so I don't know if the technology is there or ever will be but at the this point it's just a fantasy plan driven by an egocentric investor.

I think the biggest gains for relatively short run/suburban service will be in battery power and especially in cities that already have core catenary systems in place like much of Europe or Australia. For longer distance travel in both freight and passenger rail, hydrogen is the only viable option. Battery may one day to able to go thousands of km on a charge but not in our lifetimes and in a world desperately needing to decarbonize and fast, hydrogen is the most expedient way to do it.
From what I've read, ammonia has more potential as a liquid synthetic fuel than hydrogen. Batteries have decades to improve (and they will, with enormous R&D investments directed to them) before diesel hybrids/range extenders need to be phased out completely.
 

afransen

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 22, 2007
Messages
3,753
Reaction score
2,039
One thing I think is getting muddled is the distinction between Hyperloop (1/10th baked idea that Musk is not really pursuing himself and seems to be quietly distancing himself from) and his 'loop' tunnel system. The Las Vegas pilot system will be opening shortly. His company is already looking to extend it along the Vegas strip and onwards to the airport and the city seems to be rather enthusiastic (no public funds required). From what I've seen, it looks like TBC has much to learn about station design to improve flow. I think they will also learn that the idea of cars driving 150 mph in a tunnel is needlessly aggressive (I think it is frankly insane), and even the ability to travel at an average speed of 80-100kph point to point would make it the fastest mode in the city (except perhaps helicopter) and justify a premium.
 

Urban Sky

Active Member
Member Bio
Joined
Oct 5, 2014
Messages
839
Reaction score
1,555
Location
Montreal
One thing I think is getting muddled is the distinction between Hyperloop (1/10th baked idea that Musk is not really pursuing himself and seems to be quietly distancing himself from) and his 'loop' tunnel system. The Las Vegas pilot system will be opening shortly. His company is already looking to extend it along the Vegas strip and onwards to the airport and the city seems to be rather enthusiastic (no public funds required). From what I've seen, it looks like TBC has much to learn about station design to improve flow. I think they will also learn that the idea of cars driving 150 mph in a tunnel is needlessly aggressive (I think it is frankly insane), and even the ability to travel at an average speed of 80-100kph point to point would make it the fastest mode in the city (except perhaps helicopter) and justify a premium.
The whole “Las Vegas Loop” idea is building a high-cost infrastructure, but replacing the high-capacity vehicles (i.e. actual trains) through low-capacity vehicles (Teslas) and then desperately trying to compensate for the lack of capacity on any one vehicle by maximizing their frequency beyond any reasonable levels (basically the REM on steroids). Just skip forward to approximately 80 seconds to be mesmerized by the simulations of how well that would work in reality:
 
Last edited:

afransen

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 22, 2007
Messages
3,753
Reaction score
2,039
Passenger trains are relatively light and well suited to battery power, compared to freight rail. Particularly for short and medium haul. It really doesn't seem like a difficult technical challenge--it can be done with existing technology. Probably there is no market for it yet, which is why they haven't really taken off yet (much like hydrogen trains).
 

afransen

Senior Member
Member Bio
Joined
Apr 22, 2007
Messages
3,753
Reaction score
2,039
The whole “Las Vegas Loop” idea is building a high-cost infrastructure, but replacing the high-capacity vehicles (i.e. actual trains) through low-capacity vehicles (Teslas). Just skip forward to approximately 80 seconds to be mesmerized by the simulations of how well that would work in reality:
I'm familiar with that video. A lot of the criticism is valid, but some of it is not, or does not properly understand that the LVCC system is just a small-scale proof of concept. It would not make any sense if that was the ultimate extent of the system.
 

Top