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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Test-Riding Personal Rapid Transit in Masdar City (Video)

by Brian Merchant


Photos: Brian Merchant

Masdar City was designed to be a cleantech geek's dream come true -- it will be almost entirely powered by renewable energy, cooled by towers that draw wind into breeze corridors, and navigated by a number of futuristic mass transportation options. The Personal Rapid Transit system -- all-electric, driverless pod cars that would ferry denizens around Masdar along magnetically guided lines -- was the transportation proposal that perhaps attracted the most excitement. And for good reason: the PRT is sleek, low-carbon, and pretty damn fun to ride. I had the good fortune of testing it out during an extensive tour of Masdar City yesterday -- it went something like this:

Nick Aster of Triple Pundit was on the tour as well, and he put together this great video of the PRT ride (sadly, Air's electro-lounge background music wasn't included in the real-life experience -- but if you had to pick a single song that should be, this one's got my vote ...).


Now, the PRT has been the subject of much speculation, and it looks as if plans to adopt the system to the scale originally envisioned (3,000 units making 150,000 trips a day) have largely been abandoned. They're made by the Dutch company 2GetThere, and are essentially little electric cars, each powered by lithium-phosphate batteries. As it stands, there are just a handful of the vehicles ferrying the slightly larger handful of people who currently live in Masdar between the two stations -- while we waited, some residents did hop on the PRT.

Granted, there's only one cluster of buildings built thus far in Masdar, so it was a short ride. But it amply demonstrated the comfort, smoothness, and general I-feel-like-I'm-in-the-future-ness one would expect from riding the PRT.