The explosion in e-commerce over the last 10-15 years has had a corresponding impact on city streets, with delivery vehicles and the emissions they produce rising steadily over time. This expansion is growing, with global shipping volumes expected to reach 200 billion parcels by 2025.
This continuing rise in deliveries comes with an environmental cost at a time when there is renewed focus on curbing emissions. The World Economic Forum is predicting a 30 per cent rise in urban last-mile delivery emissions in the planet’s 100 largest cities by 2030, an article in World Steel Association said.
The Magway system aims to provide a safer, faster, more reliable and more sustainable way of delivering parcels than current solutions.
Co-Founder and Commercial Director of Magway, Phill Davies, says, “Magway is a solution for addressing the explosive growth of online deliveries and the resulting volume of goods that have been transported on polluting vehicles.
“We take the goods off the vehicles, the vehicles off the road and deliver them sustainably and reliably through pipes.”
Davies co-founded Magway in 2017 with his business partner Rupert Cruise, who worked as an engineer on Elon Musk’s Hyperloop project. A pilot scheme was first developed using $2.16m of crowdfunding, before the UK government’s ‘Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge’ awarded the project a further $2.6m, the article said.
“Magway’s faster, safer, cheaper, and most importantly greener, than other alternatives,” Davies says.
Initial installations are focused on connecting a west London distribution centre with two large consolidation centres just outside the city, with the connection having the capacity to handle more than 600 million parcels a year. There are also future plans to install 850 km of track in decommissioned gas pipelines that can service consumers directly in the capital.
A key aspect of Magway’s approach was in miniaturising the system. The carriages that carry deliveries will run through pipes that are just one metre in diameter. While this may seem small, the system is capable of handling 90% of parcels that are ordered for delivery.
Magway can deliver large amounts of volume through its pipeline networks, with Davies highlighting that, “We’re able to run our carriages very close together, meaning a single system can carry the equivalent of 40,000 articulated lorry journeys per week.”
The system also offers a range of other benefits when compared with current approaches. There are no driver limitations, and the tunnel system offers a highly secure delivery method with no chance of road accidents. It can also operate efficiently at any time and in any weather, as well as offering accurate tracking of parcels along delivery routes.
Magway estimate that cost savings can be greater than 70% when compared with road network alternatives.
Riding the wave
Magway runs inside plastic small diameter pipes similar to those utilised by large gas and electricity providers. This eases the installation process as existing techniques and technologies of tunnel boring and pipe installation can be used.
Moving around new or existing pipe systems that can run below ground, underground or even suspended, Magway’s carriages travel just milliseconds apart from each other at speeds of up to 50kph. Automated loading and unloading processes controlled by advanced computer programming maintain a steady flow of carriages through the system.
“From a durability point of view steel is ultimately almost the only way to go. So, we have a steel wheel on steel rail to give us maximum durability of the carriage as well as the track,” Bradley Smith, Project Engineer, Magway, said.
The carriages themselves are lightweight plastic with a steel carriage and wheel structure that does not contain a motor or battery. Instead, they are propelled by linear synchronous magnetic motors that are installed in the structure of the track. Mounted to each carriage is an array of extremely high-strength permanent magnets. This array is then propelled forward by a magnetic wave that repels the magnets in the carriage.
The magnetic wave of electrical current is powered directly from the grid and the lack of moving parts in the drive train keeps the operating and maintenance costs very low, the report added.