Even with increased numbers of hybrid vehicles hitting the road, UPS and FedEx trucks guzzle lots of gas. What if we could take them off the streets altogether? The Urban Mole system, developed by designer Philip Hermes, attempts to do that.
The concept design, which came in second place in the Bayer MaterialWorksVisionWorks contest, consists of a capsule-like device called the Urban Mole that travels through an underground pipe network that transports packages of all stripes–groceries, books, CDs, documents, etc. Each Mole comes with its own electric motor that is powered by rails, much like a subway system.
The pipe system acts like a road network–more congested areas have wider pipes, so more Moles can travel easily at the same time. According to Hermes, “A future scenario might look like this: you run out of the exotic spices that you need to complete your dinner and the next spice shop is on the other side of the town? It takes only 1 minute to order them and another 8 minutes until they arrive at the next Molestation around the corner. ” Molestations are designated delivery centers for packages–think your local post office.
It’s an ingenious system, but we probably won’t see Urban Moles zipping through our sewers anytime soon. It’s difficult enough to build an electric car infrastructure aboveground, let alone build an entire subway system for packages underground.
Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.