The Hyperloop is novel ground transportation and a buzzword for transportation enthusiasts. Hyperloop is currently being developed by a number of companies. It might be able to transport passengers at speeds of up to 700 miles per hour in floating pods that race along inside gigantic low-pressure tubes, either above or below ground.
Hyperloop: What Makes It Stand Apart?
There are two major distinctions between Hyperloop and conventional trains. To begin with, passenger pods in Hyperloop travel via tubes or tunnels in which most of the air has been removed to reduce friction. The pods should be able to travel at speeds of up to 750 miles per hour as a result of this.
Secondly, instead of wheels like a train or car, the pods are meant to float on air skis, similar to an air hockey table, or to employ magnetic levitation to eliminate friction.
Hyperloop: What Are The Advantages?
Hyperloop enthusiasts say that Hyperloop might be less expensive and faster than train or car travel, as well as less expensive and less polluting than air travel. They claim it is also faster and less expensive to develop than traditional high-speed rail. As a result, the hyperloop might be utilised to relieve congestion on congested roadways, making travel between cities easier and potentially yield significant economic advantages.
Hyperloops: When Can We Hope On One?
Several companies are striving to develop the concept into a viable commercial solution. Despite the fact that the basic concept of hyperloop technology has been known for many years, it is still in development. At the moment, the earliest any Hyperloop is scheduled to be operational was 2020, but most services are expected to be delayed due to ongoing experiments with the technology.
Hyperloop: Where Can We Expect?
It’s unclear where Hyperloops will be built, although a number of companies have proposed routes in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Potential routes include New York-Washington DC, Pune-Mumbai, Kansas City-St. Louis, Bratislava-Brno, Vijaywada-Amaravati, and many others.
Is it really a novel idea? Let’s inspect.
Hyperloop: A Brief History
The use of low-pressure or vacuum tubes as part of a transportation system has a long history. Back in 1864, the Crystal Palace pneumatic railway used air pressure to propel a wagon uphill (and a vacuum to draw it back down) in Victorian south London.
Similar systems, which employ pneumatic tubes to transport mail and deliveries between buildings, have been in use since the late 1800s and may still be seen in supermarkets and banks today.
The ‘vactrain’ concept conceived by Robert Goddard early in the twentieth century is a direct forerunner of the Hyperloop; since then, several similar ideas have been offered without much success.
However, it was Elon Musk who rekindled interest in the notion in August 2013 with his ‘Hyperloop Alpha’ paper, which detailed how a modern system would work – and how much it would cost.
What exactly is Hyperloop Alpha?
The Billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX outlined the argument for a service running between Los Angeles and San Francisco that would be cheaper and faster than a proposed high-speed rail link in his Hyperloop Alpha paper. He was confident that his Hyperloop might be safer, faster, cheaper, weather-proof, self-powered and less disruptive to those along the path which is a major issue in megacities.
Musk stated that a Hyperloop service could be the answer for travel between cities less than 1500 km (900 miles) away; beyond that, supersonic air travel would be more efficient.
“Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would, of course, be awesome (someone please do this), the only option for super fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment,” Musk wrote. Nobody has gotten very far with the teleportation idea, alas, but a number of companies have seized on the potential of the Hyperloop.
Now, as we know a bit about the hyperloop let us look into the magic behind the Hyperloop.
Hyperloop: How Does It Work?
The core concept of Musk’s Hyperloop is that passenger pods or capsules travel through a tube, either above or below ground. Pumps remove most but not all of the air from the tubes to reduce air resistance and friction.
Overcoming air resistance is one of the most energy-intensive aspects of high-speed flight. To tackle this, airliners travel at high altitudes they can travel through the less dense air. Hyperloop encloses the capsules in a reduced-pressure tube, effectively allowing the trains to travel at aeroplane speeds while still on the ground.
According to Musk’s model, the pressure inside the Hyperloop tube is roughly one-sixth that of Mars’ atmosphere (an interesting contrast given Musk’s other hobbies). This corresponds to an operating pressure of 100 pascals, which reduces the drag force of the air by 1,000 times when compared to sea level circumstances and is similar to flying at altitudes exceeding 150,000 feet.
How Do Hyperloop Capsules Function?
Musk’s Hyperloop capsules float above the tube’s surface on a set of 28 air-bearing skis, similar to how an air hockey puck floats just above the table. One significant distinction is that the air cushion is generated by the pod rather than the track; this is to keep the tube as basic and inexpensive as feasible. Other Hyperloop models use magnetic levitation instead of air skis to maintain the passenger pods above the tracks.
The pod’s initial velocity would be provided by an external linear electric motor, which would accelerate it to ‘high subsonic velocity and then give it a boost every 70 miles or so; in between, the pod would coast in near vacuum. Each capsule could hold 28 passengers (other models aim for up to 40) plus luggage; another version of the pods could transport cargo and vehicles.
Hyperloop: How Is It Powered?
The pods will be propelled by an external linear electric motor, which is essentially a round induction motor (similar to the one seen in the Tesla Model S) rolled flat. According to Musk’s plan, the Hyperloop would be powered by solar panels mounted on the top of the tube, allowing the system to create more energy than it requires to operate.
What Distinguishes Hyperloop From High-speed Trains?
Hyperloop supporters say that Hyperloop is far superior to high-speed rail. It is less expensive and more energy efficient because, among other things, the track does not need to continuously supply electricity to the pods and, because the pods can depart every 30 seconds, it functions more like an on-demand service. It might possibly be two or three times faster than high-speed rail (and ten times the speed of regular rail services).
How Much Would It Cost to Create a Hyperloop?
Elon Musk estimated that the LA-San Francisco Hyperloop would cost less than $6 billion. Musk envisioned a half-hour flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with pods departing every 30 seconds and carrying 28 passengers. He arrived with the figure of $20 plus operating costs for a one-way ticket on the passenger Hyperloop after spreading the capital cost over 20 years.
The majority of the system’s cost is in the construction of the tube network: the total cost of the tube, pillars, vacuum pumps, and stations was predicted to be a little over $4 billion for the passenger version of Hyperloop ($7 billion for a slightly bigger version that could also carry freight). The capsules are estimated to cost roughly $1.35 million each with 40 required for the service. The total cost is around $54 million (or $70 million for a mix of passenger and freight capsules). That is less than 9% of the proposed passenger-only high-speed rail system’s cost.
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 and more significantly, passenger testing. Another problem will be finding commercial models that operate globally. Only after all of this will it be known whether Hyperloop will be a success.
In the next article, we will continue discussing the Hyperloop.