Could electric rail vehicles be the future of freight? | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: July 16, 2024

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, medium- and heavy-duty trucks are responsible for 24 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions spewed by the transportation industry in the US. A team of former SpaceX engineers has designed an electric rail alternative to upturn this statistic.

Called Parallel Systems, the California-based startup has recently raised $49.55 million in its first round of funding. The company’s objective is to reimagine the American freight industry by building autonomous battery-electric freight vehicles that take the emissions of a diesel locomotive out of the equation.

“We founded Parallel to allow railroads to open new markets, increase infrastructure utilization, and improve service to accelerate freight decarbonization,” said Matt Soule, co-founder and CEO of Parallel Systems. “Our business model is to give railroads the tools to convert some of the $700 billion US trucking industry to rail. The parallel system can also help alleviate the supply chain crisis by enabling low cost and regular movement of freight in and out of ports.”

Parallel System’s invention is made up of autonomous railcars that transport standard-sized cargo containers. Each motorized platform is individually powered, meaning that they can either come together to form a single unit or split off towards different destinations while on the go. The system has a payload of 58 tons, and its electric battery has a range of 800km and a charging time of less than one hour.

According to the company, its system of battery-electric rail vehicles is four times more energy-efficient compared to semi-trucks driving on a highway. “Parallel vehicles use just 25 percent of the energy compared to a semi-truck and offer the lowest operational cost of any surface freight transportation mode. Less energy means smaller batteries, less strain on the grid, and lower charging infrastructure costs.”

Co-founders Ben Stabler, Matt Soule, and John Howard established the company in January 2020. Now, the team is testing its Parallel system on a closed track in Los Angeles.

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