Call it a sign of the times: Air France-KLM, Europe’s leading air carrier, is going electric.
Forget about visions of battery-electric airplanes. EV technology has its work cut out just commercializing battery-electric cars, let alone trying to catapult hundreds of passengers into the air. Instead, Air France is recognizing the energy-efficiency and convenience of commuter trains and hitting the rails.
Last week the Paris-based airline launched a joint venture with European bus and train operator Veolia to offer high-speed rail service between London, Paris and Amsterdam beginning in 2010 — the year that EU laws will open international rail travel to competition. For technology they are eyeing a new generation of high-speed coaches that’s nearing completion: the Automotrice à Grande Vitesse or AGV under development by France’s Alstom.
The AGV is faster, more efficient and can haul more passengers than its predecessor, the TGV. In speed tests in 2007 the AGV hit 574.8 kilometers per hour — within spitting distance of the speed record set by Japan’s maglevs. Alstom expects the AGV to cruise at 360 kph in regular service — about 40 kph above the TGV’s limit.
Italy’s NTV is building rails for the first AGV’s, which are expected to begin rolling there in 2011.