The transit elevated bus TEB-1 is on road test in Qinhuangdao, north China's Hebei Province, Aug. 2, 2016. China's home-made transit elevated bus, TEB-1, conducted a road test running Tuesday. The 22-meter-long, 7.8-meter-wide and 4.8-meter-high TEB-1 can carry up to 300 passengers. The passenger compartment of this futuristic public bus rises far above other vehicles on the road, allowing cars to pass underneath. (Xinhua/Luo Xiaoguang)
Financing questions overshadow 1st test drive
Experts cast a shadow over the first test drive of China's elevated, road-straddling superbus, voicing doubts over the vehicle's practicality and warning that it "could be a financial fraud."
The road-straddling Transit Elevated Bus - dubbed Batie - underwent a 300-meter test launch on Tuesday in Qinhuangdao, Northeast China's Hebei Province, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The vehicle's passenger compartment spans two lanes and sits on blades that raise it up to 4.7 meters above the road surface, leaving the roadway clear for ordinary cars to pass underneath. According to Batie's official website, cars under 2 meters tall can easily pass under the 54-meter-long bus at all times.
Batie can travel at a top speed of 60 kilometers per hour and is powered by electricity, the website stated.
The elevated bus and its inventor Song Youzhou were featured in The New York Times in August 2010, and the bus was listed as one of "The 50 Best Inventions of 2010" by Time magazine in November of that year.
However, after the global fanfare, people began to question its feasibility, and the project slowly faded from the public view, West China City Daily said.
"The idea of the road-straddling bus was shot down six years ago by a panel for its impracticality. Yet it was brought back to the public again," Yin Zhi, dean of Urban Planning and Design Institute of Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Thursday,
"The question lies in how to provide electricity to Batie," Sun Zhang, a rail expert and professor at Shanghai Tongji University, told the Global Times. "Just like the subway, Batie is designed to use a third rail to provide it with electricity. But the city's traffic may become worse if the roads are covered with third rails."
"It is also doubtful that such a long vehicle will be able to make turns on our cities' roads," said Sun.
The third problem is Batie's height, as there are many overpasses, buildings and even trees in cities that the 4.5-meter-high vehicle would find it impossible to pass, said Sun.
But Song insists Batie's creators have already thought about these challenges. Song told National Business Daily in May that traffic lights can be adapted to let other cars pass before the bus to prevent difficulties in making turns.
"Outside of Beijing, it is expected that the bus can pass under overpasses in most cities, which allow cars 4-5 meters of clearance. We can lower or raise the height of those overpasses that the bus cannot pass, which is not complicated," said Song.
Batie has begun to raise money by distributing bonds under the auspices of Huaying Kailai, an assets management company, according to National Business Daily.
The company has been attracting investors with projected returns rates of 10 percent to 13 percent, Beijing Business Today reported in November 2015. The Contemporary Business View found that the company's branch in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province was suspected of illegal fundraising in 2015, after it offered rates reaching 16 percent.