Japan's N700 Bullet Train: Same Speed, Less Energy
Japan's new N700 model Bullet Train is a kinder, gentler choo-choo... kinder on the environment and gentler on its passengers. While retaining the blindingly fast 185 top speed of the previous model, the N700 sets new records in efficiency and comfort... features loudly trumpeted by the train's developers who need much more than a pretty new face to show for the $2.1 billion and 5 years spent developing it.
Central Japan Railway and West Japan Railway, private companies both, hope the shiny new N700 will do for Japan's image as a world leader in environmental concerns what the original "Shinkansen " did for the country's image as a re-emerged great power in 1964. The numbers are impressive: while matching the speed of the current N300 trains, the N700 uses 19% less electricity. According the a statement released by the N700's designers, "The substantial reduction in power consumption and CO2 emissions contributes significantly to the effort to counter global warming." Adding to the significance is the fact the train will be making stops in Kyoto, as in "Kyoto Protocol". It would be uncouth, to say the least, if the N700 chugged into town trailing a cloud of soot like an Old West iron horse.
As for the pretty new face... well, it kind of looks like a duck. The world's fastest duck, mind you, but one might say that in the looks department, the N700 isn't all it's quacked up to be. Inside it's a different story. Passengers, at least those lucky enough to have bought first-class tickets, enjoy 120-degree reclining chairs with 6" wide arms. Each seat boasts 2 electrical outlets - even coach seats get their own individual plugs. All in all, the N700 seems like the right engine to hitch our wagons to... even if the developers' design theme of "more speed, more comfort, more beauty" misses the mark on 2 out of 3.