RUF Idea On A Rail

By Bill Moore, Editor, EVWorld

[Originally posted at EV World, reposted with permission]

The 'RUF' idea is you drive your short-range (30 mi.) electric vehicle to the nearest monorail onramp. A electronic guide system buried under the roadway deftly steers your car onto the monorail. Once you're on the rail, the car's automatic drive system engages and you are whisked up more than 12 feet onto the main rail line, merging safely with other traffic. Within a minute you are racing -- hands-free -- towards the center of town at 60 miles per hour as part of a "train" of six or seven other RUF-equipped Evs.

Until this past June, the Rapid Urban Flexible EV concept was only... well a concept. But this summer RUF took a significant step forward when a prototype "mule" rolled onto a 24 meter-long test track outside of Ballerup, Denmark. Looking nothing like the sleek 1998 concept mockup that gave physical form to the idea or the more conventional-looking Z-9 and Z-11 concept cars, the RUF mechanical test bed sports a clear plastic canopy and a heavy steel tube frame. It boasts eight wheels: four normal road wheels and four smaller track wheels hidden discretely along either side of the vehicle's centerline. There are also separate steel drive wheels that propel the vehicle along the guide rail.

Originally conceived of more than a decade ago, the RUF system is the brainchild of Danish inventor Palle Jensen. Since the concept was first presented in 1988, Jensen has successfully garnered the support of a number of major sponsors including three Danish ministries (Energy, Environment, Education) and a number of multinational corporations including Siemens, Hawker and Mannesmann, as well as a bevy of Danish firms.

What Jensen proposed and is finally seeing take shape is an electric vehicle that has a v-shaped channel down its centerline. The vehicle drives onto the guide rail where its four track wheels rest on supporting side tracks. The main road wheels no longer make contact with the ground. A pair of drive wheels firmly clasp the guide rail, which is also "hot" and provides the electricity to drive the test bed, as well as recharge its battery. A rail brake stops the vehicle.

Jensen and his collaborators propose to create a system of elevated guide ways on which thousands of RUF EVs, both publicly and/or privately owned would move commuters quickly 4 meters above street level. Essentially they envision a combination of monorail train and autonomous electric vehicles which can be driven up to 30 miles before needing to be recharged, either by parking on a side track or by being plugged into a charger similar to a conventional EV.

The goal of the RUF system is to reduce congestion while overcoming some of the more nagging problems confronting EVs such as short range and long recharge times.

According to RUF International's calculations, a single highway lane can accommodate a maximum of 2,000 cars per hour per lane. By contrast, they say the RUF system could handle as many as 3,600 vehicles per hour per rail. In addition, four rails can be installed in the same space as three highway lanes, making it possible to move many more passengers much more efficiently than our current system and with far less pollution and wasted energy.

Jensen also proposes what he calls the Maxi-RUF, a ten-passenger vehicle that would use the same track system, sort of electric mini-buses. As might be imagined, the RUF system will also be heavily dependent on smart vehicle technology that automatically routes the vehicle and directs its switching to other tracks. The driver/user simply programs into the car where it is they want to go and the computer handles the rest. It will even communicate with other vehicles to see if they are going to the same destination and automatically form "trains" to increase traffic density and reduce energy usage by "drafting".

Just as our current highway system is used for both passengers and cargo, automated cargo carriers can also use the RUF system. Shipments could be dispatched from warehouses and dropped at distribution points where EV "tractors" could pick them up for deliveries to outlying stores and shops.

The roll-out of the test bed in Ballerup doesn't guarantee the RUF system will every reach deployment, but the fact that some very serious "players" are participating in the experiment bodes well.

RUF Concept Vehicle
Rapid Urban Flexible concept EV combines flexibility of individual automobile with monorail train concept. Prototype "mule" passes first test in June, 2000.

RUF.DK Web Site

Additional Photos

Prototype test vehicle on monorail track

Prototype test mule on monorail track

Prototype test mule

Z11 concept vehicle

Z9 concept vehicle

Original RUF mockup vehicle

RUF prototype monorail close-up


Last modified: August 25, 2000