The System: I

Small lightweight electric vehicles are the basis of the system. These are two - and four seat passenger vehicles, and light vans for cartage. The three primary controls, steering, braking and acceleration, are electrically actuated. Each vehicle is fitted with a proprietary coupling front and rear, through which power and data can be transmitted. When formed into a train with other vehicles, primary controls are handed over to the lead vehicle. When the vehicles are uncoupled, these revert to individual vehicles.

A Day in the Life of a FlexiTrain Commuter

John's company has bought a fleet of FlexiTrain Commuter cars. They draw a lot of favourable comments: the company accountants like their low lifecycle cost, the young employees like their chic looks and zippy performance, the environmentalists are happy with their low energy use and lack of pollution. Outsiders like them too: there is visitors parking available in the basement for the first time because the fleet only occupies about 65% of the space used previously.

John is a natural sceptic but is trying a Commuter for a week before deciding whether he should dump his four year old gas guzzler for an EV.
This morning is a bit chilly, so the thermostat has kicked in the car pre-warmer. The interior is pretty cosy as John opens the door with his smart card. Once inside, he inserts it into the reader to activate the vehicle, and unlock it from the charging post. He clicks the "R" button on the sidestick controller and eases the stick backward. Silently the car backs out of the carport.  In the street, another click on "R", forward on the stick and away. Not too difficult, really. Forward for go, back for stop, side to side to steer.

He is impressed by the acceleration: very smooth, very strong. The car is deceptively quick up to it's maximum 70 km/h. The low top speed bothered John until he found that off the highway, he never got to that speed anyway. No real rush this morning, John has allowed his usual commute time of 45 minutes door to door. Today should be about half an hour.

John lives 7 kilometres from the highway connection node. Nine minutes later he is at the highway on-ramp in the line-up to make the train. The queue slows down about 100m away from lock-on but doesn't stop because there are three departing lanes continually cycling. He is directed into the yellow departure lane. He is the first to arrive at the waiting pilot vehicle, so there will be a 2 minute wait for the train to connect up. He checks the  red "Connected Successfully" display one more time, then flips out the tray from the dashboard and works on the latest sales report on his laptop computer. He notices that the lead vehicle today is a bus which is taking on passengers from the Park and Ride area next to the highway. He has heard that these fuel cell/electric bus conversions easily generate enough power to allow charging of cars on the way if you need it. John doesn't, because his range meter still shows 43 km left, which is ample for the day's needs.

The train departs and quickly gathers speed, not much slower than the car itself, in fact. The pilot vehicle is using all the cars to help in the acceleration. In the cruise, it will return some of this energy. When they slow down, regenerative braking will return the rest. The smart card in each vehicle checks the energy flows, and tallies the totals at the end of the trip, so John will not be out of pocket.

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