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High-Speed Rail Expands from 14 to 24 Countries

By Worldwatch Institute (11/8/11)

The number of countries running high-speed rail is expected to double over the next few years, according to new research by the Worldwatch Institute. By 2014, high-speed trains will be operating in nearly 24 countries, including China, France, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United States, up from only 14 countries today. The increase in HSR is due largely to its reliability and ability to cover vast geographic distances in a short time, to investments aimed at connecting once-isolated regions, and to the diminishing appeal of air travel, which is becoming more cumbersome because of security concerns.

In just three years, between January 2008 and January 2011, the operational fleet grew from 1,737 high-speed trainsets worldwide to 2,517. Two-thirds of this fleet is found in just five countries: France, China, Japan, Germany, and Spain. By 2014, the global fleet is expected to total more than 3,700 units.”

A 2006 comparison of greenhouse gas emissions by travel mode, released by the Center for Neighborhood Technologies, found that HSR lines in Europe and Japan released 30-70 grams of carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometer, versus 150 grams for automobiles and 170 grams for airplanes.

Although there is no universal speed definition for HSR, the threshold is typically set at 250 kilometers per hour on new tracks and 200 kilometers per hour on existing, upgraded tracks. The length of HSR tracks worldwide is undergoing explosive growth in order to meet increasing demand. Between 2009 and 2011, the total length of operational track has grown from some 10,700 kilometers to nearly 17,000 kilometers. Another 8,000 kilometers is currently under construction, and some 17,700 kilometers more is planned, for a combined total of close to 43,000 kilometers.

By track length, the current high-speed leaders are China, Japan, Spain, France, and Germany. Other countries are joining the high-speed league as well. Turkey has ambitious plans to reach 2,424 kilometers and surpass the length of Germany’s network. Italy, Portugal, and the United States all hope to reach track lengths of more than 1,000 kilometers. Another 15 countries have plans for shorter networks.

But in Europe, France continues to account for about half of all European high-speed rail travel. HSR reached an astounding 62 percent of the country’s passenger rail travel volume in 2008, up from just 23 percent in 1990, thanks to affordable ticket prices, an impressive network, and reliability. And in Japan, the Shinkansen trains are known for their exceedingly high degree of reliability. JR Central, the largest of the Japanese rail operating companies, reports that the average delay per high-speed train throughout a year is just half a minute. On all routes in Japan where both air and high-speed rail connections are available, rail has captured a 75 percent market share.

Investments for Expansion of HSR

A draft plan for French transportation infrastructure investments for the next two decades allocates 52 percent of a total of $236 billion to HSR.

In 2005, the Spanish government announced an ambitious plan for some 10,000 kilometers of high-speed track by 2020, which would allow 90 percent of Spaniards to live within 50 kilometers of an HSR station.

Currently, China is investing about $100 billion annually in railway construction. The share of the country’s railway infrastructure investment allocated to HSR has risen from less than 10 percent in 2005 to a stunning 60 percent in 2010.

Intercity rail in Japan accounts for 18 percent of total domestic passenger-kilometers by all travel modes—-compared with just 5 to 8 percent in major European countries and less than 1 percent in the United States.

In France, rail’s market share of the Paris-Marseille route rose from 22 percent in 2001 (before the introduction of high-speed service) to 69 percent in 2006. In Spain, the Madrid-Seville rail route’s share rose from 33 to 84 percent.

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Renault Installs 60MW Solar Energy for its Manufacturing

Renault has received orders for 100,000 of its Renault Fluence Z.E. electric car from Better Place for massive deployment in Israel, Denmark, and other countries. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is the clear leader in freeway speed electric car sales with Nissan delivering the LEAF, and both using common electric drive system and lithium battery components.

These electric cars are zero emission from battery to wheels, but each car does contribute to tons of CO2 emission over its lifetime from manufacturing through thousands of electric charges to recycling of batteries and parts. Due to the 80 percent efficiency of electric drives compared to 15 percent efficiency of gasoline engine drives, electric vehicles produce 70 to 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline cars. Charging with renewable energy makes the reduction greater than a typical grid energy mix of 50 percent coal generation.

Renault wants to extend its leadership in carbon emissions reduction by installing the world’s biggest automotive industry solar roof project.  With a stunning 60 MW of solar energy, Renault will cut CO2 emissions by 30,000 tons a year. In partnership with Gestamp Solar, which took over the project started by Eiffage, Renault is launching the biggest solar panel project in the global automotive industry.

When the 450,000 m2 of solar panels are operational, they will cover an area equivalent to 63 football fields.  The project is part of Renault 2016 – Drive The Change, Renault’s strategic plan to reduce its carbon footprint by 10% by 2013 and by a further 10% between 2013 and 2016.

Renault has implemented several actions to reduce consumption at its plants (e.g. the zero carbon plant in Tangiers). With the solar roof project, Renault is showing its concern to conserve resources by diversifying the energy mix used to generate electricity, and particularly by using renewable energy sources. Solar panels will also cover the roofs of the delivery and shipping centers at the Douai, Maubeuge, Flins, Batilly and Sandouville sites, and the staff parking lots at Maubeuge and Cléon.

The start date for installation is mid-June 2011 and completion is scheduled for February 2012.

The Renault Fluence Z.E. lithium batteries can be switched at Better Place charging stations in minutes to give drivers unlimited range where switch Better Place Switch Station Renault Leads in Electric Cars and Solar Power for its Manufacturingstation networks are installed. They batteries can also be charged at traditional charge points. At switch stations, stored batteries could be charged with renewable energy off-peak and battery power could be provided to the grid during peak hours, thereby reducing the need for dirty coal power and inefficient natural gas peaker plants.