On July 29, Hyperloop One successfully tested its Hyperloop technology on its 500-meter development track in Neveda. The high-speed transportation system took a big stride towards the day it flings passengers between cities in near-vacuum tubes. Here’s everything you need to know.
The Hyperloop is a next-generation ground-transport system that would travel faster than a commercial airliner at a fraction of the price. This concept was popularised by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in 2013.
The transport system would carry passengers and freight on board a vehicle travelling at up to 760mph. These fantastically high speeds would be made possible by two key differences to modern trains.
Firstly, the vehicle would be raised above the track, using either magnetic levitation or a cushion of pressurized air, removing resistance as the wheels turned. Secondly, the vehicle would travel inside a vacuum tube in order to reduce the speed lost to friction. To sum up, it comprises of pressurized capsules riding on an air cushion in low pressure tubes at speeds close to 800 miles per hour.
Hyperloop in Mars
The Hyperloop concept to work on Earth requires low-pressure tubes to reduce air resistance. However, Musk considers Hyperloop to be useful on Mars as no tubes would be needed. Because the density of air in Mars is just 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere. So the lower air resistance will allow a Hyperloop technology to work with no tube and only a track.
Revolution in transportation
The proposed high-speed Hyperloop transportation would have the following distinct features:
- Immunity to weather
- Twice the speed of the plane
- Low power consumption
- Energy storage for 24 hour operations
Besides, Hyperloop routes could massively reduce the time it takes to travel between major cities. For instances, it just takes 30 minutes from San Francisco to LA, 50 minutes from
London to Edinburgh, eight minutes from Helsinki to Tallinn, 55 minutes from Melbourne to Sydney.
Most notably, the Hyperloop transport company ET3 postulated a mere $50 trip between the US and India.
The Hyperloop One calculates that the passenger vehicle and light cargo can hit a top speed of 670 miles per hour and 1080 kilometers per hour respectively. This is 3 times
faster than high-speed rail and magnetic levitation trains, and 10-15 times faster than traditional rail.
Hyperloop One’s first test
Hyperloop One successfully conducted its world’s first Hyperloop test in a vacuum environment on May 12, 2017. The company conducted its first phase in its test track ‘DevLoop’ in the Nevada Desert.
Making the foundation of future transit system, this first generation ‘XP-1’ passenger pod travelled for 300 metres above the track using magnetic levitation. The system achieved 2Gs acceleration and hit a maximum speed of 70 mph travelling for 5.3 seconds.
Hyperloop One’s second test
On 29 July, the company conducted its second test of its Hyperloop passenger-pod prototype in its 500-metre development track in Neveda.
This 500-metre long concrete tube allows the Hyperloop One to accelerate a levitated pod at high speeds in a near-vacuum employing its electric propulsion and control systems.
Mounted on 16 wheels, the 8.7 metre passenger pod is made of structural aluminium and light weight carbon fibre.
In this test, the electric propulsion system applied an equivalent of 3000 horsepower to the pod. The pod remarkably levitated in a vacuum tube depressurised to the equivalent of flying at 200,000 feet above sea level.
The system made a breakthrough into the future of mass-transportation by commuting 315 feet at a top speed of 192 mph or 310 kmph. Ambitiously, Hyperloop One expects to transport cargo by 2019 and passengers by 2021.
Various companies including TransPod in Canada and AECOM and Arivo in the USA are working on Hyperloop systems.
One of the notable competitors to Hyperloop One, TransPod is building a computer-controlled system that operates at more than 1,000km/h.
As part of these efforts, the ET3 Global Alliance represents a consortium of organizations that have been working on realizing a system similar to Hyperloop since the late 1990s.
Human factor considerations
With a pod going at the proposed 800 mph by Musk, every little detail of the entirety of the depressurized tube needs to be perfect to avoid a collapse. Any sort of dent or crack along the tube could lead to a total system collapse. Similarly, a speed bump even just a centimeter high could derail the pod and be completely catastrophic.
Most people have not travelled at Hyperloop’s proposed speed. Experts say the G-force at 800 mph would not cause nausea, and that the feeling would be comparable to taking off on a plane, which submit passengers from 0.1 to 0.3 G’s. The effects would last roughly two minutes during acceleration and slowdown until the body adjusts.
When the pod makes turns, the G force is high. This will push the blood around through a person’s body which is extremely uncomfortable for the passenger and potentially pose a health risk for certain individuals.
In addition to this, Ingenious Express analysis found that the actual project cost will double the Hyperloop One original proposal. The evidence that these numbers are just projections bring endless questions as to the creative math behind these ambitious plans.