The European Union has recently introduced a piece of legislation that could, if passed, ban all short hall flights in favor of high speed rail. Proponents argue that the legislation would help to decrease carbon output on the continent by more than 60 percent by 2050, as well as reduce airport and other traffic congestion. Not to mention, it is more comfortable and convenient to rely on city center to city center high speed rail than to taxi back and forth between airports, go through customs, etcetera.
Could high speed rail ever work in Phoenix Arizona, or the broader US? A lot of people have asked this question, and the answers have often been a reluctant “Probably not”. Why? Because, among other things, since the completion of the historic Rt. 66, the American political machine has not been particularly keen on heavy intercity infrastructure projects. Los Angeles and Las Vegas, for example, have been talking about building an intercity high speed rail system for more than 30 years, without much sign of progress. Even in the public transit bastion of the northeast, the “high speed” rail lines existing between large cities, are not really high speed, at least not by most international standards.
One possible solution to a growing problem is the solar airplane. This conceptual form of transit recently garnered some deserved attention when the first international solar powered flight, between Switzerland and Belgium, took place. The flight was manned by André Borschberg, the CEO and co-founder of Solar Impulse.
“It’s unbelievably exciting to land here in Brussels, at the heart of Europe, after flying across France and Luxembourg,” Borschberg said in a statement. “And to fly without fuel, noise or pollution, making practically no negative impact, is a great source of satisfaction.”
Exciting to say the least, but not exactly high speed, with touch down taking place in Brussels, 12 hours and 59 minutes after takeoff.
While very few people will be signing up to fly on an aircraft soaring at speeds up to 31 miles per hour, this historic flight does work well to draw global attention to new possibilities in long distance transit. AND, with many of the world’s greatest engineering minds working on new and innovative ways to draw more energy from solar sources, there is a serious possibility of viable short haul solar powered flights in the relatively near future.
What does this mean for the pocket book of the average Phoenix Valley resident? Well, seeing as how inefficient short haul flights are, airlines are forced to charge high prices, with round trip flights from the Phoenix Valley area to LA or Las Vegas averaging around $400, just to cover jet fuel costs. With a solar powered flight, prices could come way down with in air times going slightly up.
This could also impact the automotive community in a big way. If the entirety of the transportation industry were to invest in solar power research and development, then that means more advanced solar technology coming into all sectors of transit on a short time line. For Phoenix Valley drivers, harnessing the power of the sweltering Phoenix Arizona sky, and transforming it into less cash spent at the fuel pump, has a certain redeeming appeal.