An Out-Of-This-World Transportation Plan Lands In Edmonton
Meet George Jetson. Actually, his name is Dan Corns.
The next round of funding is crucial as Magnovate plans to build three full-sized vehicles, a small section of test track to be built in San Jose, Calif., and then a one-kilometre section of track built on University of Alberta land. Total cost of that project is $15 million. Stantec is working on a track design and PCL Construction will be contracted to build it, starting in early 2014.
"We’ve conceptually looked at what that test track should contain. It will have curves and elevation changes and grades,” Stantec vice-president of transportation Harvey Olsen said. “We are looking forward to seeing the test track in action.”
Corns said that in addition to Stantec and PCL, he is working with Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and the University of Alberta on studies to determine the feasibility of localized transportation networks.
The big picture vision is for those local networks — located on the campuses of the University of Calgary, Red Deer College and U of A for instance — to grow into wider networks and eventually into a link between Edmonton and Calgary, with 20 or more stations en route. He envisions financing from private/public partnerships.
“The drum I keep beating on is that it’s not good enough to have good technology. You need a technology that makes it possible to support self-financing business models.”
He said the line between Calgary and Edmonton would achieve that goal, not only because industry could deliver goods to markets quicker, but because the line would create next-generation, transit-oriented communities wherever a Magline station is built.
“Sustainable, walkable communities that are active 24/7 and attract the growing creative class,” he said.A creative class that would, in theory, have no trouble believing in the space-age notion of a Jetsons-like transportation system.
Original Article featured Edmonton Journal
Magnovate Technologies proposes to move people, freight and commodities, like oilsands bitumen, along an elevated track at speeds of up to 500 kilometres per hour in computer-controlled, driverless vehicles.
The trip from Calgary to Edmonton would take less than 45 minutes.
Making the leap of faith necessary to accept Corns’ vision will take some people much longer.
“There are some people who write it off as science fiction, immediately. But science fiction is turning into science fact. When you mention ideas like this in Silicon Valley, people don’t start humming The Jetsons,” Corns said.
He said his small company — it employs a five-person executive team and six engineers in Canada, the U.S. and Australia — raised $2 million from a Silicon Valley venture capital firm to produce prototypes of its proprietary Magline vehicle and track, which were built in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The vehicle is powered by a linear motor and essentially floats about five centimetres above a track formed by connected, permanent magnets.
Corns said Magnovate’s patented passive switching technology makes it possible for vehicles to pull off the main line and into a station, then resume the trip.
“It allows maglev to finally fulfill its promise. It allows complete networks of maglev to be built,” Corns said.
Maglev systems already operating in China and Japan do not have that capability.
Corns’ proposal also calls for a wider levitation gap that would reduce impact on the track and support structures, which could be manufactured out of less robust material than first-generation concrete, and would therefore be less expensive.
“This is potentially game-changing technology,” said Alex Conradi, director of investment with the emerging markets branch of International and Intergovernmental Relations.
“Certainly, we’ve seen Mr. (Elon) Musk’s Hyperloop in the press of late. Quite frankly, I think this one is closer to being real than his. But never say never.”
Musk, the co-founder of electric vehicle maker Tesla, recently proposed a transportation system between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It shares Magnovate’s use of a linear motor, but the Hyperloop vehicles would move on a cushion of air inside a sealed tube.
Conradi set up meetings in Bahrain between Corns and representatives of the Gulf Co-operative Council, which is comprised of Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. Conradi said those countries are determined to upgrade transportation linkages to create a more unified market.
“There was particular interest from Saudi Arabia in Dan’s technology. That being said, there was a recognition that he’s early stage.”
Corns said Magnovate has burned through the $2 million in seed capital and is seeking a total of $6 million from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Transport Canada and the Alberta government’s Enterprise and Advanced Education ministry. He said Transport Canada has recommended a $500,000 investment, which must now pass muster with Public Works.
“To get Transport Canada on board would be a feather in our cap. With our prototypes we’ve proven maglev can be practical and affordable,” said Corns, who estimated that construction of each kilometre of two-way track would cost $10 million to $12 million, while the costs associated with most high-speed rail networks is at least 10 times higher.