Three former SpaceX engineers have raised $50 million to build what is described as “Tesla for freight trains”. Their company, Parallel Systems, has invented electric motorized train wheels. Cargo containers can be placed on top of the wheels, and the wheels can drive the container up to 500 miles on a track.
The idea came to cofounder Matt Soule when he realized that one way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was to move more shipments by rail instead of truck. Trains are roughly four times more energy efficient than trucks. Majority of rail shipments have been long-haul shipments of 1,000+ miles, while short haul shipments have been left to trucks.
Today’s trains can by almost 3 miles long, but Parallel Systems envisions their longest trains would be a half-mile long. The shorter trains allow for more flexibility to fit in more places in our infrastructure, and break off from one another to use short-haul tracks that are largely unused.
Parallel Systems cars can carry 2.8 times more than a semitruck, allowing shippers the option to load up to 128,000 pounds into containers. The cars recharge in an hour and the wheels would be able to drive another 500 miles.
Although the technology isn’t ready for the market yet, the company is finishing up a second-generation prototype. Let’s see if they can move quick enough to compete with the electric semitruck movement of Tesla and car manufacturers.
1. Former SpaceX engineers raised $50 million to build a Tesla for freight trains, Fast Company, January 19, 2022. Accessed Jan 24, 2022.
2. Image and video: courtesy Parallel Systems