Infrastructure

Why RIL is betting on pod transport system in India

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MUMBAI: Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) on Sunday announced more than doubling its holding in US-based SkyTran Inc to 54.46% from 26.3% for $26.76 million, underscoring its ambitious plans for eco-friendly transport systems.

With road traffic worsening by the day, impacting quality of life and economic development across the world, SkyTran’s pods aim to help people move around seamlessly. Pod taxi is a driverless personal rapid transit system, which runs along a predetermined course either through overhead suspension or magnetic levitation.

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“A SkyTran vehicle only stops at your chosen destination. Bypassing stations along the way, you travel at high-speed for the duration of your trip. This is the very definition of seamless point-to-point travel,” explains SkyTran on its website.

SkyTran’s proprietary maglev technology allows vehicles to move along the track on a cushion of air. The vehicles are electric, producing zero emissions and allowing for high energy efficiency.

SkyTran explains that its networks have tremendous capacity as the lines do not interfere with each other.

“At every intersection, vehicles can either go straight through or change lines without stopping. Vehicles arrive on demand and stations are always a short walk away.”

All this fits with RIL’s green energy plans.

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Reliance BP Mobility Ltd (RBML), a joint venture of RIL and UK’s energy major BP Plc, will set up battery swapping stations at its fuel outlets and spend around Rs3,000 crore to expand the fuel retail network, under the Jio-BP brand. It also plans to build a full stack electrolyzer and fuel cell solutions in India which will be used to run hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

“We will replace transportation fuels with clean electricity and hydrogen,” RIL chairman Ambani had said at the company’s annual general meeting in July last year.

RIL is already experimenting a pilot with SkyTran at its office in Navi Mumbai. But given India’s infrastructure bottlenecks, how will SkyTran and RIL partner to build this transport system?

SkyTran says given their passenger vehicles are extremely lightweight and compact, infrastructure required has minimal ground footprint – using small concrete foundations and support poles just every 50 metres. Track is fabricated and assembled off-site in advance, minimizing construction time and disruption to communities.

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