Late last week, people all over the internet were excited to see the first “prototype” of a revolutionary traffic-straddling bus from China released to the public. Despite the photos, there is some interesting news coming out about both the low build quality of the prototype unit, and the additional possibility that the entire project might just be a huge scam.
An automotive blog based out of China, Car News China, have released some close-up shots of the vehicle, the test track, and the test station that were constructed in Beidaihe, a beach area in the city of Qinghuandao in Hebei Province. After taking a close look at the pictures, the entire construction project does look indeed a bit shoddy.
The automotive blog was surprised to see that the bus was using rubber tires in a simple channel rather than an actual track. At closer inspection, the channel is more of a narrow concrete trench. Many, however, got the initial impression that rubber tires were always part of the design plan, as it seemed like the end goal of the project was to build something that could operate on normal roads.
Test track and prototype look a bit shoddy
Despite the confusion on whether the vehicle would run on tires or on rails, the entire project does indeed seem quite sketchy upon closer inspection. For example, the tracks are entirely mud-choked and the pain is already peeling on the vehicle itself. The construction sounds like it was rushed, as the station was built in two months, according to Car News China. Additionally, the presence of components such as a home air conditioning unit don’t exactly instill confidence in a high-tech operation.
However, the entire was project was just considered as a prototype, and prototypes are generally considered works-in-progress. The company that built the bus, TEB, has said that this was just a test of acceleration and braking systems.
TEB called out by Chinese state media
The fact that this construction is only a prototype helps to explain the poor look of the vehicle, but accusations from two Chinese state media outlets that suggest the entire project is just a big scam to get money out of investors certainly does not.
A rough translation from Chinese state media says that “In addition, the ‘iron bar’ chief architect Song Youzhou only [has] primary school level [education]…” Ouch. Claiming that the chief engineer of the entire project isn’t qualified is not a good look for TEB. “Bar iron” or “iron bar” is a literal translation from Chinese, but is probably better understood as “rail bus.”
Chinese state media goes on to say that “the most important is that behind the ‘iron bar’ project is actually doing a P2P network of financial companies in the financial operation, but the company has been to attract investors deposit, and promised to return to high interest rates, but the money chain high risk…”
It continues on saying “therefore, when the upright brother to remind you, do not blindly be affected by some of the mainstream media, too ‘credulous’ bar iron reported to be careful – especially ordinary family people do not take their own money to invest in this project.”
The report also outlines the lack of newer technology in either the prototype or the station, and goes as far as to accuse the entire running gear of the bus is in fact that of a large mobile iron gantry crane.
Maybe the company was doomed from the start due to a bad job of explaining how the prototype was supposed to drive, or maybe the entire project is in fact a scheme to swindle money away from investors. We will keep an eye on the project and hopefully the truth will emerge sometime in the future.