Video: Velosolutions Create the 'World’s First Fully Electric Built' Trail in Switzerland

May 29, 2020
by Velosolutions Global  

Press Release: Velosolutions

The visionary mindset, the overwhelming natural beauty, the endless mountain bike trails and an initiative called Greenstyle were the reasons for Velosolutions to move to the Swiss holiday destination Flims Laax Falera in 2018.

Two years later, Velosolutions is able to announce a big milestone on its way to the goal of becoming a fully electric construction company:

Nagens - the World’s first mountain bike trail that is built with 100% electric machinery, all charged with renewable energy.

What this means:

· No combustion engines are allowed on the mountain.

· Electric excavators, electric compactors, electric dumpers, electric chainsaws.

· All transports of the crew, including visits of the authorities, photographers, officials, supervisors etc. are done by e-cars or e-bikes.

· All batteries are charged with sustainably produced electricity from hydro or solar power.

How is this even possible? Only a few days before construction started, Velosolutions realized that there were power outlets for the snowmaking installations all along the planned Nagens Trail. That’s when the 48 hour race started, trying to source all the electric machinery. Thanks to a big team effort, all the machinery arrived in Flims right on time.

The Velosolutions team around Claudio Caluori and Reto Fry from Flims Laax Falera are committed to 'go all the way', even if that might come with some challenges. Since there was no electric powered truck big enough to transport the machinery up to the mountain, they decided that the machinery had to make it up there using their own battery power, which led to the first challenge: They ran out of battery halfway up. Luckily, they could reach the next power output and were back on their way up, 2 hours later.

Taking on a ‘Worlds-First’ project is obviously not the easiest pathway, every day there is a new challenge that pops up, from the threat of lightning, to broken machinery. Claudio is so committed to this greenstyle project that he won’t let any staff up the hill in a fossil fueled car, not even photographers. Just to make sure nobody is cheating, he rides his Kenevo up there every day, sometimes a couple times per day…what’s up with that??

The best way to get to the trailhead is to catch the chairlift Foppa-Naraus from Flims and then ride across to the Graubergbahn cable car. The new enduro single trail connects Nagens and to the plateau at Plaun with 4 kilometers of action-packed fun. It was the missing part to reach Flims from Grauberg summit station on a mountain bike trail. From Plaun, bikers reach the valley via the existing trails Green Valley and Runca.

Like the existing Runca trail, the Nagens trail has the difficulty rating of ‘red’, for advanced mountain bikers, looking for a fun challenge. Thanks to the new trail, hikers and mountain bikers do not have to share a single trail anymore.

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  • 74 1
 This is excellent. No doubt some will find ways to poke holes in it; but even if it's not a perfect approach it's setting a high aspirational bar, and a standard that all outdoor and natural environment development should be aware of.
  • 32 5
 It's also just simpler. Electric stuff tends to be far more pleasant to work with and require far less maintenance. Any electric car owner can vouch for how nice it is to no longer have oil changes, transmission service, spark plugs to replace, brake pads to wear out (because of motor resistance braking), the list goes on. Once you go electric it's hard to go back, from leaf blowers to cars.

We all should be looking for ways to go electric and ditch internal combustion. It's WAY better and far more pleasant to work with.
  • 49 1
 @rickybobby18: one of the factor is of course how was the electricity produced to power the electric car. For instance in Maryland you would be driving your coal or nuclear powered Tesla. Here in BC it wold be mostly Hydro power, while in Alabama it would mostly be a natural gas powered car.

The list of toxic elements and chemicals need to produce batteries is very long, the manufacturing base needed to make electric vehicles could only be built and maintained by oil. I don't believe there is an alternate energy source on the planet today that can exist without oil.

I am not saying we HAVE to use oil to power civilisation, I am saying without oil we would have a much smaller and simpler society on earth today. Oil and debt have built our civilisation, now we have to clean up after the biggest party ever.
  • 14 0
 @Bomadics: Great comments. The embodied energy required to create EVs and electric tools isn't zero. And the electric generation portfolio in certain geographies means that a tidal wave of EVs could actually require an increase in coal-fired plants. It's not a global rememdy...but it's a step. As is natural gas as a transport fuel, scrubbing of coal-fired stacks....the list goes on. We just need to work the problem and realize there's not silver bullet...or green bullet.

In the meantime, bikes are awesome and we should all ride them more. amen.
  • 2 1
 @Bomadics: well said.
  • 6 0
 @rickybobby18: I agree, generally, but it also smacks of posturing if the people who use the trail all get there in i.c.e. vehicles, especially planes. If by "holiday destination" they mean "ski area", then using an electric chain saw to build the trail isn't going to make much of a dent in what is likely a massive carbon footprint. It's like buying a Prius to save fuel, without taking into account the energy it took to build it-your 10-year old Ranger probably has a lighter total impact on the planet.

As an alternative, how about when I sling my McCloud over my shoulder and ride my bike to where I'm building. trail built, using only toast and water for fuel...
  • 2 1
 @Bomadics: Everything should be solar powered, and the deficiencies in solar should be offset by tidal and nuclear energy. Because nuclear energy doesn't need to be Chernobyl and Fukushima, but people get the fear and think nuclear engery is bad.
  • 5 2
 @larr: if you look into the numbers on solar or any alternate energy source, they just don't provide the consistent cheap energy that oil can.

The end surplus is what we are looking for, even oil has a decreasing surplus. For instance in the 70's it took about one barrel of oil to get 50 to 70 barrels of oil to market. Now that same barrel of oil get you about 10 to market, after all costs are considered like transportation, refining, infrastructure etc.

Right now all alternate energy sources are net negative. Meaning once costs are factored in, mining, manufacturing, building, maintaining and decommissioning, they use more energy than they produce unless you use oil to subsidise those costs, and even then most barley produce much extra energy. Meaning they cannon stand on their own yet, not even all the non fossil fuels sources on the planet can power our society, not even close.
  • 1 0
 @Bomadics: True, however, I read a study a while ago (sorry completely forgot where to find it) that said electric cars are overall better for the environment unless the electricity they run off comes from oil fired power plants. So while they aren't perfect by any means, they are better for the planet overall, except in that one circumstance, which probably just applies to oil rich middle eastern countries.
  • 6 0
 @larr: Yes but do you know what happens if that plant has no way to cool the reactor? We do not have the ability to stop the meltdown, it has not been invented yet.

It's like me selling you a car that when it runs out of gas it will explode over and over with no way of stopping it,the only thing to do in encase your entire garage in concrete. Would you buy that car? This is exactly what happened in both Chernobyl and Fukishima, simple power loss to the cooling system.

This doesn't even touch on the waste issue either.
  • 4 0
 @ali-chapple: Sure that is true on a day to day operation only basis, but it does not take into account the over all foot print of both manufacturing the vehicle, and recycling. Did you know that most vehicle batteries can not be recycled yet? Tesla won't share their proprietary chemical blend, so no one knows how to deal with them.

The total footprint of an electric car compares to roughly 5 average cars, when everything is factored in, and that assumes the recycling technology will one day appear to deal with the batteries, if that doesn't happen then these cars are just as bad, if not worse than oil based cars.
  • 2 2
 @Bomadics: I’m no electric car fan, but most of your information here seems to be wrong. Care to share your sources?
  • 1 2
 @Bomadics: the money is not the reason to run on solar....its the greenhouse gasses and particulate pollution, and the fact that oil will theoretically run out or become so scarce that its no longer fesable to mine. But guess what the sun will be here long after us humans are gone. You say electric cars are more of a burden to make, but they have only been being made for a handfull of years mass production, opposed to internal combustion engines that have been made for a long time. As for the nuclear engery maybe dont put your nuclear powerplant where it will get hit by a tsunami, look up solves all the meldown problems, but the gas companies wont let that be made if they can pay it away.
  • 3 2
 @rickybobby18: sure if you only need to drive a couple hundred kms at a time, and only carry 3 bags of groceries.
Not to mention all the mining that is required to build the batteries. Oh ya flood a couple more valleys to build the extra Hydro dams needed for all these eco friendly cars...
  • 1 0
 @Bomadics: Yep, “nuclear is clean” is a supreme political con game. I’ve lived 1.5 miles from a leaky nuclear plant, nearly all of my life now. In the US, the nuclear regulatory commission is staffed by those who go to school to learn how to operate new plants... so the ‘watchdogs’ are bred and raised at the teat of the defilers. Big surprise then that year after year, violation after a violation, Pilgrim nuclear power station continued to receive polite little, “You’re not doing this right but we’re going to give you a 35th chance to try to get it right”- love notes from the NRC, plus beyond-designed-lifetime License Extensions despite consistently endangering its 40 million neighbors.
And example so good you couldn’t make it up - pilgrim, like Fukushima, and I forget exactly how many ~20 or 30 other plants in the US - are General Electric Mark 1 designs. As construction began, the NRC realized the containment structure was not strong enough to *actually contain* a runaway reaction. The Magic bullet? Just retrofit these reactors with vents. Because venting an out of control reaction of DNA-scrambling radionuclear isotopes Is better than...? We guess it’s better than the silhouette and PR disaster of a nuke plant that’s blown it’s wad. After all the average citizen probably doesn’t even know that “contain” and “vent” aren’t synonyms anyway right? We’re good here gentlemen, meeting adjourned.
  • 1 0
 @brianw: but of course you wouldn't build a new coal fired plant, you'd spread out some solar and wind farms. If you're adding capacity, it makes sense to do it in a responsible manner.
  • 1 0
 @ermoldaker: very true, at least here and where you live. I guess my main point is that many believe that “renewables” are some kind of alchemy or magic, poof, energy. But folks don’t think about the embodied energy and natural resources in turbines and solar panels. And many nearly bankrupt governments will face in inability to subsize uneconomic technologies until they (if they) can scale. Natural gas will continue to play a large role and smaller nukes (but long timelines) methinks...
  • 32 0
 What about all the fossil fuels used to... oh, be quiet. This is a step in the right direction and better than watching the black plume of smoke come out of the skid-steer every time it was revved up. Mining for batteries isn't great-yet, but steps and demonstrations like these are vital to moving forward with a greener future.
  • 17 0
 I'm reminded of those idiots who made fun of refinery protestors sitting in plastic kayaks. The point isn't using NO fossil fuels, the point is using them in a way that doesn't destroy the local and global environment. Having enough oil to produce a kayak is a lot different, impact-wise, than operating an internal combustion engine. There are many uses of oil that should continue and don't entail changing our climate. Many plastics, fabrics, etc. Fossil fuels aren't evil, they're just evil if they're used in a way that destroys the only inhabitable planet we know of.
  • 5 0
 Exactly. Some people get their pride panties in such a knot. No one is asking us to go live in trees. They are asking us to shift our energy focus away from fossil fuels until it becomes a minority player. It will be an important minority for a very long time to be sure.
  • 2 0
 @canuck7870: It's like wheel sizes, pick a side and be a dick about it. People taking sides leads to extreme positions that are almost always wrong.
  • 2 0
 @rickybobby18: Exactly, and plastics are a super material - light, strong, incredibly durable. Why would we want to keep burning the best raw material to make them when alternatives exist?
  • 2 4
 "renewable energies" suck, no future
  • 22 9
 What about everyone here who has been building trails by hand for years? Yes, electrically built trails are better for the environment, but it's still a step backwards from building a trail by hand.
  • 19 6
 Not really viable to build every trail by hand, far too slow and expensive.
  • 6 0
 @themegawatt: This I have to move rocks miles at times where I do trailwork. If I could use equipment to haul I could finish sections in a day time instead of a whole week or more.
  • 3 0
 At minimum, around here most hand built trails will still use gas powered chainsaws at some point in the process.
  • 4 0
 @bulletbassman: Just thinking out loud: I wonder how CO2 emissions would stack up if you compared a 3 man team using electric equipment to build a trail in, say, a week, and a 15 man team building the same trail by hand in the same amount of time. When you account for the emissions produced from all the extra calories burned by more people who are working harder, plus the emissions produced from the extra food it takes to fuel those people, it very well may be better for the environment to use electric equipment anyway. Human bodies aren't as fuel efficient as we would like to think.
  • 4 2
 @themegawatt: I was told ur mum was too slow and expensive.
  • 7 0
 @reindeln: I used to do greenhouse gas accounting, and as you're showing, the hardest part is defining the scope/boundaries of your comparison.

As an example, what would those extra 12 people be doing if they weren't building the trail? Would they be consuming more or less calories? Are they trail building instead of jogging, or instead of sitting on the couch?
  • 5 0
 @themegawatt: You sir, need to learn about the pyramids.
  • 2 0
 @reindeln: Most place don't have electric power generation from 100% hydro and solar. Germany said no to nukes and now they just burn that coal.
  • 4 0
 @DhDWills: ... we also buy nuclear power from France and Poland at high-demand-times, while reimbursing wind-park-owners for every excess kW they produce that our system can't pick up/store.... it's a "green" mess over here.
  • 1 2
 In all seriousness, its silly to use solar/wind except for edge cases when we have modern nuclear power. Its safer, cheaper (this is kinda debatable), more reliable, and can completely replace FF while wind and solar need supplemental energy generation. If fusion power ever becomes practical, and there are some exciting advancements in that area, this will only become even more true.
  • 4 1
 @DhDWills: Dang it facts.

Why do you have to get in the way of such a simple narrative like "now they just burn coal".
  • 3 3
 @hamncheez: Fukushima, melted, still melting. We need 40 years to invent the technology to stop it melting, not safe.

Tell me what happens to a nuclear facility once they have no electricity, then tell me how it's safe?
  • 1 1
 @Bomadics: Why don’t you ask Bill Gates. He seems to think he has it figured out.
  • 14 0
 This will blow some people’s fuse.
  • 4 0
 I’m shocked you would say that.
  • 1 0
 @tbmaddux: I'm electrified by your opinion
  • 10 0
 Local riders must be amped!
  • 2 0
 Positively charged up, I hear...
  • 7 0
 I like this!!
  • 3 0
 At first I thought "whoa an AI built trail" then I realized they meant all the equipment was battery powered.

...but then I thought about an AI built trail that reads the terrain and makes the perfect trail.
  • 7 2
 Wouldn’t exactly say hydro is sustainable. Dam construction makes a fairly significant impact.
  • 5 0
 This will be an electrifying trail
  • 1 0
 Sweet! next step is to get a couple of solar panels with a bank of supercapacitors with a medium inverter and they could probs power most regularly used power tools during the day at least without needing to store the energy
  • 1 0
 so when are we going to use AI to man the equipment and build trails 24/7? At least for beginner flow trails which will allow more focus on tech singletrack to the trailbuilders.
  • 3 0
 Humm the lithium lobby is going strong... meanwhile some countries are at risk of losing their mountain tops and tracks...
  • 1 0
 Cheaper and more environmentally sound to just burn fuel.. the batteries are so bad..take a look at the latest Michael Moore movie.. it debunks all of this!! Especially in Europe where bio files are big!!
  • 1 0
 ...... this is a feel good story for the sake of it. In the scope of a 4 season resorts carbon foot print, digging trails with mini excavators is a tiny drop in a very large ocean.
  • 5 2
 I bet all those people drove cars to get there though....
  • 4 1
 My favorite trails are fueled by beer and weed
  • 3 0
 I wonder about the carbon footprint of my shovel.
  • 4 1
 Only E-bikes allowed
  • 1 1
 If all the equipment used to build the trail was battery powered, then all the bikes used on the trail should be battery powered also......
  • 2 0
 Philipp Bont will enjoy the new gear :-)
  • 2 0
 working without the continual noise of a diesel engine has to be a bonus
  • 2 0
 This is shocking news.
  • 2 0
 Electric shovels I see?
  • 6 7
 E-bikes are for people that don't know how to ride. "I need assistance, whaaaa" lol
  • 1 0
 strong work claudio!!!
  • 1 1
 What a funking con job you suckers, hahahaahaha
  • 2 2
 Wer hat's erfunden?
  • 1 1
 Ricola ;-)
  • 1 1
 Ebikes ftw
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