Virgin Hyperloop and several other companies are working on hyperloop transportation technology that will zip vehicles between cities inside vacuum tubes at speeds of up to 700 miles per hour.
The plan is to create hyperloop systems that “carry more people than a subway, at airline speeds, and with zero direct emissions,” says Virgin Hyperloop. And this week the company did a successful test run with real people inside a hyperloop pod.
The test took place at Virgin Hyperloop’s 500-meter DevLoop test site in Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s where the company has been running hundreds of tests with unoccupied pods.
For this test, the pod was traveling at 48 meters per second, which is the equivalent of about 107 miles per hour.
The XP-2 test vehicle is a 2-seater. But Virgin envisions hyperloop vehicles that will seat up to 28 passengers and travel between cities hundreds of miles apart in just minutes.
“Hyperloop is about so much more than the technology. It’s about what it enables – the trips you’d be able to take from Paris to Berlin, Lisbon to Madrid, or Warsaw to Prague,” said Sara Luchian, Director of Passenger Experience for Virgin Hyperloop, and one of the testers.
(This post is a slightly different version of a story I wrote for CNBC)
Think of how well-traveled and eco-responsible
you would be if you could economically zip between cities at speeds exceeding
700 miles per hour in a comfortable, carbon-neutral way.
Without going to the airport.
That’s the promise of hyperloop. The ground
transportation technology envisions moving people (and, no doubt, cargo)
between cities in pods or capsules traveling on magnetized tracks in vacuum
tubes running above or below ground.
Could hyperloop happen?
For decades, hyperloop has been the stuff of
science fiction. But advances in technology, and mounting frustration with
existing transit modes, means hyperloop has gone from fantasy to likely
Getting hyperloop on the fast track is a goal embraced
by the likes of entrepreneur Elon Musk, transportation technology companies such
as Virgin Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and many
cities around the world.
And while there are plenty of economic,
technological, safety, regulatory, public policy and other hurdles to overcome,
advocates believe hyperloop could truly revolutionize the way we travel by addressing
many of today’s transportation hassles.
“My sense is that hyperloop will absolutely happen,” said Devin
Liddell, principal futurist at Seattle-based design company Teague, “Think about the emerging traffic
problems in some of biggest U.S. cities. Yuck. We need a new system like
hyperloop because our present systems are terrible. This is a better solution.”
Where might hyperloop happen?
hyperloop system to carry passengers will likely be built in India or the
United Arab Emirates. “We’re talking years, not decades,” said Ryan Kelly,
spokesman for Virgin Hyperloop One, “And here in the US, the race is on to be
the first state in the nation with hyperloop technology. Nine states are
exploring hyperloop technology: Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Ohio, North
Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, Indiana, and Oregon, in addition to Nevada,
which hosts our test site.”
The North Central Texas
Council of Governments has high hopes for hyperloop. “An RFP for the Fort Worth-to-Dallas high-speed transportation project is
expected to go out in the next few weeks,” said council spokesman Brian Wilson,
“Both high-speed rail and hyperloop technology will be examined as
possibilities for this corridor.”
Public and private
entities in Great Lakes Mega Region are working with Hyperloop Transportation
Technologies (HTT) on a multi-state hyperloop project that would connect
Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh in less than an hour.
And in Kansas
City, Missouri, where a hyperloop by Virgin Hyperloop One proposes to replace
the four-hour drive between St. Louis and Kansas City with a 30-minute ride, city
officials see hyperloop as transportation destiny.
“Ever since covered wagons stopped here, resupplied and went west, we have always been a transportation hub,” said Ryan Weber, President and CEO of the KC Tech Council, “We have a major river system here. The highway interstate systems started here. Transportation has been a big part of our history, it’s a big part of our future. So hyperloop will flourish here.”
How will hyperloop happen?
Proponents envision hyperloop travel as being more
affordable, much more convenient and far less stressful than many forms of
For example, the autonomous systems could have
different-sized cars or pods that operate on an on-demand basis, eliminating
the need for a traveler to show up at a station at a prescribed time.
And because hyperloop vehicles will travel in tubes, weather
delays would be avoided.
“Hyperloop also takes some of the great things of rail,
such as getting us close to city centers, but adds the advantage of the speed
of air travel,” said Teague’s Liddell.
And while passengers will spend far less time inside
a hyperloop pod than most now do in airplanes, designers are already thinking
about the hyperloop passenger experience.
“With Hyperloop we are aiming for the
experience to be as entertaining or as productive as being in your own living
room or your office,” said Dirk
Ahlborn, chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
HTT enlisted PriestmanGoode, a company known for designing
aircraft cabin interiors, trains and small spaces to design a prototype
hyperloop capsule. However, “When designing something as
completely revolutionary as hyperloop, we consciously did not
reference existing forms of transport to ensure that our thinking was clear
and unrestrained,” said PriestmanGoode chairman Paul Priestman.
When cities are linked by hyperloop it may also
change when and why people travel.
People could more easily work in one city but live in another. Or visit another city for dinner, a movie, a sports game a museum or a show.
“Hyperloop would bring jobs and economic
benefits to linked cities,” said Ryan Weber of the KC Tech Council, who also
notes that there’s likely to be a big tourism bump for whichever U.S. city
begins selling tickets to a hyperloop ride first.