Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a train, no it’s Hyperloop! Over the next few months and years you are going to hear a lot about Hyperloop, because it’s going to change the way you travel in the not too distant future. However what is it and how did it get started?
What is it?
Hyperloop is the first new major mode of transportation in 100 years. It’s designed to be safe, energy efficient, and reliable. It will take you directly to your destination at speeds of up to 700 mph, above land or underground.
From high-spec electric cars to lightning-fast trains, the way we get around is changing, and rapidly so.
As technology develops, new and innovative modes of transport are being proposed. One example is hyperloop, a radical idea that could dramatically cut travel times between cities.
Virgin Hyperloop One is among a number of businesses — others include Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, which was set up in 2013 — developing a hyperloop system. So far, it has received $295 million in funding. Investors include the Virgin Group, GE Ventures and SNCF.
So how exactly does a Hyperloop work? It’s a form of transportation that Virgin Hyperloop One says uses magnetic levitation to float vehicles above a track. Electric propulsion accelerates the vehicle through a low-pressure tube, with the vessel capable of gliding for long distances at “airline speed” thanks to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
The potential of hyperloop is, according to the company, considerable. It says that the fully autonomous and enclosed system would produce no direct carbon emissions and cut the travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco to just 43 minutes. Just to put that into prospective the quickest plane duration is 1hr 15 and the drive a mere 6 hours!
While the company’s ambitions are grand and far-reaching, its origins are humble, having started out in a Los Angeles garage in November 2014. – Some of the best and biggest tech companies today started out in garages so no bad thing there! The goal was to create the fifth mode of transport.
Progress has been relatively quick since then. In 2017, the company announced that its first generation pod, the Hyperloop One XP-1, had accelerated for 300 meters and glided above the track using magnetic levitation. The pod was able to apply its brakes and came to a gradual stop.
Malcolm McCulloch is associate professor in engineering science at the University of Oxford. Looking at the bigger picture, he outlined what would be important in the mobility sector in the years to come.
“There’s going to be three new technologies that we’re going to need in the near-term, the mid-term and the long-term,” he said. “In the near-term, it’s going to be cheaper and more compact batteries for electric vehicles. In the medium-term, it’s going to be autonomous driving and making sure that works to an acceptable level.”
In the long-term, McCulloch said that the focus would be on looking at alternative fuel sources for long-distance travel. “One of the interesting ones is going to be ammonia, which is basically a better form of carrying hydrogen.”
With the recent announcement that India and Spain are set to get the first 1,200kmph system and a new CEO Jay Walder – one of the world’s leading mass transportation and technology executives we expect that progression will be rapid just like the Hyperloop!