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Minneapolis-Based JPods to Test Solar-Powered Commuting System

This rendering gives you an idea of how the JPods concept would work in the suburban Twin Cities.

This rendering gives you an idea of how the JPods concept would work in the suburban Twin Cities.

A Minneapolis-based company called JPods will soon be testing a futuristic solar-powered transit system in the New York City suburb of Secaucus, New Jersey.

The company's founder, Bill James, describes his concept as "a way to make our cities independent of foreign oil."

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"We've been offering to build this without taxpayer expense for a long time," James tells us. "We don't need urban transportation to be powered by foreign oil. We can transform the lifeblood of America from oil to ingenuity."

Here's a James-narrated video explaining how JPods work:

And here's a video detailing the West Virginia system mentioned in that clip:

To read more about JPods' New Jersey project, click here.

James argues JPods could serve the same purpose as transit systems like Green Line LRT at a fraction of the cost.

"The [LRT] connection between St. Paul and Minneapolis took forever to build and tied up traffic on University Avenue," he says. "It cost $100 million per mile, while our system costs $10 million [per mile] and can be built at no taxpayer expense."

"I offered this to Governor Pawlenty and [former Dayton transportation commissioner] Tom Sorel, the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and none of them would do it," James continues. "That's because they strive for consistency [in transportation networks], so they go back to the 1800s for technology instead of looking for 21st-century solutions."

James dismisses the notion that JPods are nothing more than a science fiction-like thought experiment.

"If you think about the internet and innovation, it always looks impossible to the people who can't see how to build it," he says. "If you would've tried to explain the iPhone to people in 1982, they would've scoffed at it. The core part of this is that all of us [involved in JPods] studied nuclear engineering at West Point, so I'm not in la-la land."

With regard to the solar-powered aspect of JPods, James says, "People scoff and say, 'What are you going to do at night when there's no sunshine?'

(For more, click to page two.)

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"Trees have figured it out," James continues. "And if we're not more clever than a tree, then we deserve to die."

"There are no oil wells in Minnesota, so why are we dependent on foreign oil?" he adds. "When I think of the monolithic dependence on energy outside of self-reliance, I think of the Irish and their reliance on a strain of potatoes in the 1840s. That turned out badly for them, and it's gonna turn out badly for us unless we embrace the idea that there's nothing more important than energy self-reliance."

Though he's focused on JPods' efforts in New Jersey in the short term, James says he'd "love to build this in Minneapolis."

"We will create thousands of jobs in Minnesota because we will create such a demand for steel and iron," he says.

Finally, here's a news report from 2008 detailing James's vision for JPods as it existed then and showing City Council President Barb Johnson sitting in one:

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.