One part of writing Railroaded I really enjoyed was trying to come up with new technologies, or at least butchering emerging new technologies.
It’s set in a UK with higher sea levels so global warming has really affected the country and they combat that by becoming carbon neutral, this means the whole transport infrastructure needs addressing.
Here’s a little taster of what I wrote…
Amy’s car, as all automobiles and trains, are ‘levitated’ via electro-magnetism to greatly reduce drag; the base of the car ‘floats’ upon a bed of opposing magnetic forces from the road, both powered by an electro-magnet plastic, PMP (Photovoltaic Magnetic Polymer), road that generates its own power from the Sun. Once levitated the car is powered laterally by compressed air jets located around the car.
Obviously I wanted to do away with petrol. I initially thought magnetism could raise a car up, but covering the roads with metal would be an expensive and highly uneco-friendly, but I liked the idea of it especially as it got rid of the engine and wheels.
I then did an off-the-cuff search ‘magnetic plastic’ and found a link to Wikipedia about research at the University of Durham and a material called ‘PANiCNQ’. I thought this plastic could also collect energy from the sun to replenish it’s own electro-magnetic state. So I made up the whole PMP abbreviation for the road.
The electro-magnets in the car would also be solar powered. Some will say ‘solar power isn’t that powerful…blah…blah’ – yeah, but it will be, or at least could be. I’m pleading Moore’s Law here.
Then the other day I saw this – Solar Panels Built Into Roads Could Be the Future of Energy. In writing Railroaded, this kinda thing happened on a few occassions. I’d make something up or at least get two ideas and mash them together and then I’d hear of something similar further down the road.
There was a video on YouTube featuring some Japanese students demonstrating an electro-magnetically levitated toy car on a table but I can’t find the friggin thing.
So the car’s risen up, gaining power and the roads are kosher but how do you move a car around?
Compressed air. A quick search online finds ‘Air powered cars‘ but they have an engine and wheels, the air is driving the engine. I only needed air to push the car when it was sitting lightly on a bed of magnetism, like thrusters on a spacecraft. But this compressed air powered concept had to get its energy from The Sun. Here’s one object – Solar-PowerPAC – solar powered and also produces compressed air.
Here’s a video of a toy car being laterally controlled by air…
So I think that just about covers it. Whether you agree if it could viably happen or not, the basics of the technologies required are all there plus they’re actually working in reality and not just in theory.
The image I used in this post is by Peugeot, they have developed The Cellogan, a concept car using ‘electromagnetic propulsion, a system that resembles MagLev trains‘ which does restrict you to ‘rails’ but who cares when it looks this cool.