The Hyperloop | Sunday Observer

The Hyperloop

Imagine a world where we don’t have to worry about gridlock. The fear of missing the last train home. What if we could travel long distances over a shorter period of time. Soon this will all be possible, a way to get to the destination you want in a matter of minutes. Introducing the Hyperloop. A mode of passenger and freight transportation that travels using a sealed tube or a network of tubes.

The idea behind the hyperloop is a pod that travels at high speeds, free of friction and air resistance due to the introduction of a vacuum in the tube that the pod travels in. The method of transporting people or objects at very high speeds using a vacuum sealed tube is extremely efficient as there is no energy loss due to friction. As a result, this reduces the travel time over average to long distances. For example, the average travel time from Los Angeles to Las Vegas by car is approximately 4 hours and 17 minutes. With the hyperloop you can make this trip in roughly 30 minutes. As mentioned before, the principle behind the hyperloop concept is the use of a vacuum sealed tube. This technology is integrated with magnetic levitation. The tracks that the pod will run on use a similar working principle to the maglev bullet trains in China and Japan. The pod will hover over the tracks using magnets, one set attached to the pod and the other on the tracks. This technology increases the speed of the pod while reducing friction and drag. When successful the hyperloop will be the fastest mode of transportation consuming the lowest amount of energy taken to move the pods.

The initial idea for the hyperloop came from a joint team from Tesla and SpaceX lead by Elon Musk himself. The idea was first made public in 2012, Musk explained that his design of the then known vactrain would work using tubes with low pressure, the pod itself would contain high pressure and ride on air bearings that would be driven by linear induction motors and axial compressors. Later dubbed Hyperloop Alpha, the concept was first proposed by Musk to cover a route running from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The initial plan was to create a hyperloop that would allow passengers to travel 560 kilometres at speeds of up to but not limited to 1,200 kilometres an hour, the travel time being just 35 minutes.

Soon after publicly announcing the hyperloop design, Musk open sourced the design to the public. This was done to encourage other companies to develop on the already existing designs or reverse engineer the designs for better outcomes. To this day there are about nine companies working to create a fully functioning hyperloop. The US and India were the initial planned locations for the hyperloop with Dubai as the next. Richard Branson’s company Virgin formed a partnership with Hyperloop One now known as Virgin Hyperloop One. They are one of the companies to finalise deals with the US, India as well as Dubai with the promise of having a fully functioning hyperloop by the year 2030.

Full scale testing of the hyperloop and its pods has been done and continue to be tested extensively. Their recent tests achieving speeds of 386 kilometres an hour. Since the partnership between Virgin and Hyperloop One, the total budget has been $295 million dollars and is predicted to rise. Musk’s SpaceX Hyperloop has progressed similarly, having produced scaled models and about a kilometre of tubing for testing purposes. SpaceX has also gone to announce a Hyperloop pod competitions open to anyone including university teams. The current competition being the one held in 2019, the teams were judged based on design, innovation and top speed. Whether the Hyperloop is as exhilarating as advertised is yet to be decided, only time will tell.