A train on the street

December 15, 2006
A train on the street
The AutoTram® can carry as many passengers as a streetcar, but is as versatile as a bus. © Fraunhofer IVI

Streetcar or bus? The AutoTram® offers the best of both: Up to 36 meters long, it can carry as many passengers as a streetcar while being as versatile as a bus. A flywheel energy storage system absorbs part of the braking energy and cuts operating costs.

The advantages of a train and a bus are united in the AutoTram: It has the transportation capacity of a streetcar and the versatility of a bus. Fraunhofer researchers (Germany) have cooperated with Hübner GmbH to devise a new concept for a modular vehicle that, depending on the volume of passengers, can either be operated as a single bus or assembled to form a uni-directional or bi-directional high-capacity vehicle.

The AutoTram needs neither rails nor an expensive system of overhead lines. The articulated train trundles through the streets on rubber wheels like a bus. The Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI in Dresden presented a prototype of this novel transportation system to industry specialists a year ago. In collaboration with Hübner GmbH, the scientists have now taken the concept further.

An active multiple-axle steering system with integrated guidance ensures a safe journey. Based on video and differential GPS, the system assists the driver of the AutoTram and enables him to steer the vehicle accurately, even round sharp bends. The 24-meter bi-directional vehicle consists of two low-floor modules, joined back-to-back by a symmetrical articulated coupling made by Hübner – a design that allows flexible operation. On routes with a low passenger volume, the two modules are separated and used as single buses. If a particularly large number of passengers are expected, an additional module can be inserted, extending the AutoTram into a high-capacity vehicle 36 meters long.

Another special feature of the AutoTram is its hybrid drive concept. It draws its power from a 180-kW diesel engine and a flywheel energy storage system (4 kWh/200 kW). The storage system absorbs part of the braking energy, enabling the AutoTram to travel short distances – up to two kilometers – completely without noise or emissions. The technology evolved by the IVI is also deployed in other vehicles. RailwayService GmbH (RWS), for example, recently announced that the Eberswalde trolley-buses are to be equipped with flywheel energy storage systems. The technology helps to reduce operating costs and is kinder to the environment. The AutoTram is of interest to public transport operators. The system is between 30 and 50 percent cheaper than conventional railway systems.

Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Explore further: Laboratory on wheels

Related Stories

Laboratory on wheels

October 17, 2011

Electric and hybrid vehicles will be conquering the cities: cars, bicycles, buses and trains. This is why new ideas are in demand for individual and public transportation. In "Fraunhofer's System Research for Electromobility" ...

Off to the office aboard the AutoTram

August 11, 2010

Electric and hybrid vehicles will take over the cities: cars, bicycles, buses and streetcars. New concepts are needed for individual and local public transportation. In the large-scale project “Fraunhofer System Research ...

Recommended for you

Drone market to hit $10 billion by 2024: experts

October 3, 2015

The market for military drones is expected to almost double by 2024 to beyond $10 billion (8.9 billion euros), according to a report published Friday by specialist defence publication IHS Jane's Intelligence Review.

Radio frequency 'harvesting' tech unveiled in UK

September 30, 2015

An energy harvesting technology that its developers say will be able to turn ambient radio frequency waves into usable electricity to charge low power devices was unveiled in London on Wednesday.

Professors say US has fallen behind on offshore wind power

September 29, 2015

University of Delaware faculty from the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), the College of Engineering and the Alfred Lerner School of Business and Economics say that the U.S. has fallen behind in offshore wind ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.