HYPERLOOP – Capsule Travel at Greater than an Airplane’s Speed?


Have you ever thought of going from London to Edinburgh in just 30 minutes, or San Francisco to Los Angeles in about 35 minutes or from Sydney to Melbourne in 55 minutes? Imagine traveling from Manchester to London in 18 minutes, London to Stoke in 14 minutes or from Delhi to Mumbai in less than an hour?!! Well! All this may soon become a reality! Traveling at near supersonic speed, faster than an airplane in a revolutionary transport or a pipe (pod) or simply a train is known as HYPERLOOP seems no more an impossibility.

What is it?

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and aerospace company SpaceX in 2013 proposed a new concept of traveling at a speed greater than an airplane but at a relatively low cost. He described it as ‘A cross between a Concorde, a railgun, and an air-hockey table.’

The need? Already overburdened and costly transport, traffic clogging and pitiable air quality, and a greener way to travel intercity or intracity. And Hyperloop One is the company making Elon Musk’s reverie a reality… Apart from Hyperloop One, HTT, GE Ventures and Khosla Ventures back the idea of Hyperloop.

According to Josh Giegel, Hyperloop One’s President of Engineering, they are not selling transportation but ‘time.’ To further the benefits, it takes into account being energy efficient, and prevents from any natural calamities affecting transportation services. A short public test of the propulsion system was demonstrated in May 2016 (maximum speed was 116 mph). 

The Hyperloop

Construction is on and by the end of this year, the company plans to have the ‘Kitty Hawk’ moment or a full system test. The test track – DevLoop – is being built in the Nevada Desert near Las Vegas. The test track is around 500 meters long and around 3.3 meters in diameter, weighing one million kgs.

Finally, Hyperloop is expected to move with a maximum speed of 760 mph or 1200 kms per hour wherein the speed of a Boeing is maximum 825 kms per hour. Hyperloop is essentially a pod (tube) that can hold passengers and/or freight which magnetically levitates inside enormous tubes (traveling in a vacuum) and are encircled with a cushion of air (or expelling air from the vessels themselves). Due to reduced air pressure and cushion inside the pods, friction to reduces enabling the pods to stream through safely. Keeping in mind environmental concerns, the pods will be making use of solar energy (solar panels on top of the tube), wind power (wind turbines in the pylons), and regenerative braking; the tubes stand on pylons (to avoid earthquakes and other natural calamities ) and are kept balanced off the ground. Each pod can hold around 28-40 passengers which imply around 1,64,000 passengers traveling daily through these pods.

A departure could be possible in every 40 seconds and the pod will weigh 20 tons. The tunnel is expected to be 100 feet long and 2.7m in diameter.

Apart from land ownership and bureaucratic requirements, Hyperloop needs to keep into account the twists and turns between cities. The other aspects which the Hyperloop teams need to keep in mind are lower costs, convenience, weather resistant, sustainable self-powering, and not being troublesome along the route.

Construction world-over

Hyperloop One is proposing routes all over the world. Dubai seems to be etched in first. In the next five years, it will be the first country to focus on traveling in the Hyperloop train where the route would be from Dubai to Abu Dhabi taking just 12 minutes. Depending on the progress and feasibility, Hyperloop may be constructed from Dubai to Riyadh taking just 50 minutes.

In Asia, the first agreement for a feasibility study is focused on Jakarta, then connecting Java and Sumatra. Further routes and regulations study will continue in Toulouse, France, Brno (Czech Republic) to Slovak, Abu Dhabi to Al Ain, Quay Valley, California; and Bratislava in Slovakia will aid in connecting Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest.

Hyperloop is also in talks with India where two companies have shown interest. Bullet trains in India will be built by 2023 costing $12 billion, but according to Bibop Gresta, chairman of HTT, “I think it (bullet trains) would be a big mistake for India. India has the potential to really embrace new technologies. Put $1 billion in Hyperloop and you will never need a bullet train.”

The routes proposed in Europe are: Germany: Autobahn, Estonia/Finland: Tallinn-Helsinki, Spain: Madrid-Tangiers, France: Corsica-Sardinia, The Netherlands: Dutch Loop, Poland: Warsaw-Wroclaw, United Kingdom: Glasgow-Cardiff (in 45 min), United Kingdom: Liverpool-Hull (in 15 min), United Kingdom: London-Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Northern Arc and Glasgow to Liverpool in 25 min. Many British teams plan to vie for this project to be first tested in their cities.

Various teams have proposed routes for US. They are: Boston-Somerset-Fall River-Providence, Cheyenne-Denver-Dallas-Forth Worth-Houston (Wyoming to Texas), Kansas-Columbia-St. Louis, Orlando-Miami, Los Angeles-San Diego, Reno-Las Vegas, Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh, Seattle-Portland (for cargo first), Denver-Greeley, Denver-Vail, Denver-Colorado Springs, Cheyenne-Fort Collins, Fort Collins-Denver, Dallas-Austin, Austin-San Antonio, San Antonio-Houston.

With thousands of hours of design, investigations and analysis, Hyperloop intends to make pollution free, cost-effective and swift travel a reality. It can be aptly titled as futuristic transportation with the threshold set at 17 feet above the ground.

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