Posts Tagged ‘electric cars’

Heathrow Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) System

Electric transport seems to be the future. From President Obama’s $2.4 billion investment for the creation of an American electric car battery, to the huge demand from eco-warriors for electric cars, the world does seem to be moving towards an electric future. The latest enterprise to take the bait seems to be London’s Heathrow airport with the news that it plans to convert all of its inter-airport transportation system (i.e. the vehicles that take passengers to and from the plane from the terminal) to driverless electric cars, also known as a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system.

These driverless cars will take the form of electric ‘pods’ and will commute passengers in and around the terminal in under 5 minutes according to the airport operator, British Airport Authority. Some twenty-one of these cars are expected to be put into operation by early next year (2010) with over 400 after the initial roll-out. The £25 million ($45M) scheme is being hailed as a victory and is being billed as the first major PRT system to open up in the 21st century. The system itself will be running 24 hours a day, 7 days per week and will require no more human interaction than the passenger pressing a button to take them to their destination.

The pods themselves will be controlled by computer sensors which will manage the acceleration and braking of the cars; up to four commuters and their baggage will be able to fit into each vehicle.

“We believe that our PRT system can transform cities in the 21st century to provide the optimum form of environmentally friendly urban transport, relieving congestion and reducing emissions.”, Professor Martin Lowson, inventor of the PRT.

With Heathrow being the first airport to implement this service, it is unlikely that we will have to wait long for this concept to spread. The fact that we haven’t yet found a real, viable alternative to gas and diesel, only adds to the call to invest and use electricity and a power source for transport. Up to 400 of these ‘pods’ will be built and put into operation next year; with all the recent troubles Heathrow airport has had, it will be interesting to see if they become a success.

Tesla Motors Turns a Profit

In October 2008 as the credit crisis reached a critical point, Tesla Motors closed several of its offices, laid off employees and replaced its CEO in a bid to reduce costs. This was not a unique case, especially in the automotive world. Two of the big three American automakers were given billions in bailout money in a bid to keep them afloat. General Motors killed off its Pontiac brand and Ford, while hit hard by the recession was able to survive without any Federal bailout money. General Motors would later file for bankruptcy protection.

By July 2009, Tesla motors has reduced the cost of materials to build a single roadster down to $80,000 (from $145,000 just two years ago). They have delivered 609 Roadsters since production began in March 2008 but that is still shy of its 1200 deliveries per year target. With over $20 Million in revenue in July the company turned a profit of $1M, its first ever profit since the company was founded in 2002.

“We achieved bottom-line profitability thanks to a tremendous amount of hard work by the Tesla team to improve quality, while simultaneously reducing costs on the Roadster,” company CEO Elon Musk said in a statement. “This also shows there is a strong demand for the car… Moreover, customers know that in buying the Roadster they are helping fund development of our mass-market electric cars.”

However, as the company prepares to launch its Model S Sedan it is not clear if and when they will turn a profit again. What is clear however is that there is a market for electric automobiles. The US Government knows this, and thats why it has lent Tesla Motors $465M to build the Model S Sedan and the battery packs needed for that to happen.

Would you buy a Tesla Roadster or Model S if you could?

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