In our last article about Hyperloops, we discussed various facts and figures about Hyperloops. In this article, we are going to dive a bit deep into the topic.
What exactly is Loop?
The Boring Company expects that Loop will be one of the applications for these tunnels, as well as Hyperloops. This is a high-speed underground public transportation system that transports passengers on autonomous electric skates’ that travel at speeds ranging from 125 to 150 miles per hour.
Electric skates can transport eight to sixteen persons or a single-passenger vehicle. Passengers (and vehicles) would enter the pods at street level, then take elevators down to the Loop level to complete their journey below, avoiding street gridlock (with pedestrians and cyclists getting priority over cars).
Since the hyperloop is relatively a new idea and not many people have been in a hyperloop we will start discussing how it would feel to be in a hyperloop.
Hyperloop: How does it feel?
Critics of Hyperloop have warned that riding in the tube could be unpleasant due to nausea-inducing acceleration and lateral G-force on bends along the route. However, Virgin Hyperloop One claims that a Hyperloop voyage will feel similar to travelling in an elevator or a passenger jet.
“Although Hyperloop will be fast, the systems we are building will accelerate with the same tolerable G-forces as that of taking off in a Boeing 747,” and acceleration and deceleration will be gradual with no G-forces and turbulence it added.
Travelling in a concrete pipe in a windowless pod means there isn’t going to be much to look at; Musk’s original vision said that a “beautiful landscape will be displayed in the cabin” and each passenger will have access to their own personal entertainment system.
We already discussed the cost of building a hyperloop but haven’t discussed the price we have to pay.
Hyperloop: How Much Do The Tickets Cost?
Musk’s LA-to-SF version offered $20 per ticket, but Virgin Hyperloop One’s plans are hazier: “Difficult to say as it will depend greatly on the route, but the goal is to make it affordable for everyone,” it said, while Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) expects “a profitable system with low ticket price projections.”
Now the real question. Is it financially feasible in the practical world?
Hyperloop: The Probability Of Success
This is the massive, multibillion-dollar and as yet unresolved question surrounding Hyperloop. The notion has been around for a long time, but technology has been lacking until now. This time, it’s possible that technology has only recently caught up with the concept.
There are well-funded companies vying to be the first to deliver a working service, but many initiatives are still in the pilot and experimental stages, despite their optimistic timetables. Going from tiny test routes to hundreds of kilometres of the track is a significant step that none of these companies has taken.
Some other deciding factors on the profitability of the hyperloop are,
- It’s unclear whether Hyperloop can move more people than existing modes of public transportation.
- More pods will be necessary to carry the same number of passengers as traditional rail.
- There are also several engineering challenges to overcome
- Making the tubes sturdy enough to withstand the strains of transporting the high-speed pods while being energy and cost-efficient.
What About The Profit?
Companies developing Hyperloop services claim that they are much less expensive to build than high-speed rail systems. Musk claimed in his Hyperloop Alpha paper that his LA-San Francisco route could be built for one-tenth the cost of a high-speed rail option. Other companies have stated that their services may cost one-third to half the price of rail services while being significantly faster. Because these services are less expensive to establish, they should be profitable quickly.
Hyperloop: Who Are The Main Players?
Despite laying the basis for Hyperloop services, Musk initially stated that he was too busy to construct his own. A number of companies are currently striving to make the notion a reality, including startups and those who have been working on it for some time. Virgin Hyperloop One, HTT, TransPod, Arrivo, and others are among them. Each is working on a somewhat different collection of technologies, but the essential concept stays the same.
Is Elon Musk constructing a Hyperloop system?
Despite claiming to be too busy, Musk appears to be interested in the Hyperloop concept. Last year, he stated that he had received verbal approval for a New York to Philadelphia to Baltimore to Washington DC Hyperloop, which would reduce the New York to Washington DC travel time to 29 minutes. “There is still a lot of work to be done in order to gain formal permission,” he noted.
The Boring Company
Musk founded the Boring Company to make it easier and faster to dig tunnels beneath and between cities in order to make Hyperloop projects a reality. Tunnels can cost up to $1 billion per mile to dig; The Boring Company wants to dig tunnels for one-tenth the cost. The company claims it will be able to accomplish this by excavating smaller tunnels, developing faster and more efficient digging machinery, and replacing diesel-powered machines with electric ones. In addition to more efficient digging machines, the Boring Company produced a range of caps and, more unusually, flame throwers, both of which were quickly sold out.
The Boring Company was awarded a $48.6 million contract in May to design and build the city of Las Vegas’ planned loop of underground tubes for autonomous electric vehicles. The tunnel is scheduled to open by the end of the year.
What precisely is the Hyperloop Pod Competition?
Musk’s SpaceX has its own Hyperloop test track at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, which is approximately one mile long and six feet in diameter.
SpaceX established the Hyperloop Pod Competition in 2015 to speed the development of functioning prototypes and stimulate student innovation. The competition challenges university teams to design and build the best transit pod, which is assessed using different criteria each time. The greatest speed for a self-propelled pod on the test track was the objective in 2018, or as the competition puts it: “Fastest time without crashing wins!” It was judged on the highest speed with successful deceleration in 2019.
Virgin Hyperloop One
Virgin Hyperloop One is one of the frontrunners in the race to build a commercially viable Hyperloop system. It was formed in June 2014 and now employs over 300 people. It has raised $295 million in order to establish an operating system by 2021. The organisation is now working on projects in Missouri, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, the Midwest, India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Some other notable attributes of the company are,
- The company has revealed its intentions to develop a Hyperloop between Pune and Mumbai in the Indian state of Maharashtra
- The entire Pune-Mumbai route (a 25-minute ride) would be built in five to seven years.
- It added the high-capacity passenger and cargo Hyperloop route could eventually see 150 million passenger trips annually.
“I believe Virgin Hyperloop One might have the same impact on India in the twenty-first century that trains did in the twentieth,” said Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin group’s founder.
Hyperloop Transportation Technology
Hyperloop Transport Technologies (HyperloopTT or HTT), founded in 2013, is another company attempting to make Hyperloop a reality. It employs 800 engineers and is headquartered in Los Angeles. It plans to develop a transportation system based on passive magnetic levitation, with 30-metre capsules capable of carrying 28 to 40 passengers and travelling at a maximum speed of 1,223 kilometres per hour, transferring 164,000 passengers per day on a single line at full efficiency. The company cites reinsurance giant Munich Re’s assessment of their system as “feasible and insurable” as evidence of its accomplishments thus far.
TransPod is another competitor, and it just issued a report predicting that a TransPod Hyperloop system would cost 30% less than high-speed rail lines in Europe and would be more efficient for passengers and freight, travelling at more than three times the speed. It further claimed that a Hyperloop would be 50% cheaper and four times faster than a high-speed rail between Toronto and Windsor in Canada. TransPod reported the closure of the first $15 million round of funding from Angelo Investments in November 2016.
Hyperloop is a technology that has the potential to have a major impact. It has the potential to minimise air travel between major cities, improve economies and trade, and relieve strain on city housing by allowing commuters to reside further afield. But none of this has been verified as of yet. There are significant technological and financial challenges that Hyperloop technologies must overcome before they can transport passengers in comfort through a pneumatic tube, let alone alter the world.
The next step for Hyperloop is to proceed beyond preliminary testing and feasibility studies and begin longer-distance trials of the technology, as well as, more significantly, passenger testing.