A futuristic street-straddling bus that allows regular traffic to pass underneath made its first road test in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, on Tuesday, August 2, 2016. A Chinese company, Transit Explore Bus (TEB), designed the Transit Elevated Bus with the goal of making better use of the congested road space. The version of the vehicle tested on Tuesday has only one carriage, which is 22 meters long, 7.8 meters wide and 4.8 meters high. It is able to carry up to 300 passengers. The passenger compartment rises far above other vehicles on the road, allowing cars to pass underneath. The test-run attempted to simulate real traffic conditions with one bus compartment traveling at a speed of 10 km per hour on a section of a 300-meter-long test track.
After revealing the ambitious ‘Straddling Bus’ concept as a scale model back in May, TEB has produced a full-scale prototype which has begun its pilot run in the coastal Chinese city of Qinhuangdao, about 300 kilometers east of Beijing. The massive high-riding bus uses both solar power and electricity, powered by battery packs that are charged by electric stations installed along the vehicle’s route. Through a technology called relay charging, the bus receives electricity as it enters a bus station. It is equipped with sensors on its front, rear and sides to warn vehicles to not get too close and large vehicles to not pass below. Straddling two lanes, the Transit Elevated Bus is far wider than a regular bus and most trains, allowing a much higher passenger density and greatly improving public transit.
With the same purpose as an underground subway system, the Transit Elevated Bus provides mass transit without consuming precious space for road traffic (as cars can pass underneath it) for only a fraction of the cost – TEB estimates the Transit Elevated Bus costs around 16% of an underground train line. If the pilot project proves successful, the Transit Elevated Bus system could help to solve China’s growing air pollution and traffic problems, with its all-electric powertrain and greater passenger capacity compared to regular buses. The TEB Development Company says one bus could replace 40 conventional buses and could save 2,640 tons of carbon emissions.
However, the Transit Elevated Bus may not just be impractical and unfeasible, as critics say. Several Chinese state media outlets now say the whole thing was an illegally funded project aimed at scamming investors. Global Times and Sina have both claimed that the TEB is a fraudulent peer to peer (P2P) investment project aimed at ripping off investors. The TEB is funded by P2P financing, which the Chinese government has started cracking down on recently. The TEB’s designer has also been attacked for having only an elementary school education.
According to The Shanghaiist, the “road test,” during which the bus only traveled 300 meters at a slow speed, was nothing more than a publicity stunt, with the sole purpose of drumming up more interest among potential investors for a project that would never actually be created. Although its maiden voyage received wide media coverage, the city apparently didn’t even know about the test, let alone approve it. The bus can only run on a mostly straight track and is unable to perform sharp turns. It also turns out a number of cars and trucks wouldn’t actually be able to fit under the bus as the clearance is just 2.1 meters, lower than the national height limit for smaller vehicles in China, the People’s Daily reports.
So this elevated bus, which is actually a train, may never actually get off the ground.