The hype is building up, but is Hyperloop the near Future of High Speed Travel? Yes, it is! Hyperloop is a proposed system of passenger and freight-carrying tubes for levitating pods to accelerate through using passive magnetic fields. It is a high-speed alternative to air travel. The Hyperloop system will move people and goods between major cities at speeds exceeding 700 miles per hour.
A system of ground transportation called hyperloop is being developed by various companies. Passengers will travel at over 700 mph in floating pods that are sped through low-pressure tubes at either an above-ground or underground speed.
What makes Hyperloop different?
In comparison to traditional rail, Hyperloop has two distinct advantages. Firstly, most of the air has been removed from the tubes or tunnels where the pods carry passengers to reduce friction. This should allow pods to travel at speeds of up to 750 mph.
Additionally, rather than using wheels like a train or automobile, pods are designed to glide with air skis, resembling an air hockey table, or to be levitated with magnetic fields to reduce friction.
Co Founder & CTO of Virgin Hyperloop
Virgin Hyperloop One’s CTO, Josh Giegel, heads a team of world-class engineers building the hyperloop.
A hyperloop idea Josh drew on a whiteboard in the garage in 2014 led to the founding of Hyperloop. In less than two years, VHO developed a full-scale prototype that attracted governments around the world. His work today involves developing electromagnetic, high-power, autonomous technology, applying engineering expertise with unparalleled passenger experience, and developing the regulatory framework for mega-projects such as hyperloops.
Prior to his time at SpaceX, Josh led the successful testing of six rocket engines and developed the world’s first reusable rocket. In his role as research director at Echogen Power Systems, Josh switched from space to the ground to revolutionize waste heat-to-power technology.
Having grown up in a family of engineers, Josh enjoys using engineering to develop solutions that help people live their lives the way they want in a way that is sustainable. In order to create the world’s first autonomous, high-performance, electric mode of mass transportation, he combined his expertise in high-performance rocket engines with his understanding of clean energy generation.
Josh was a Graduate Engineering Fellow at Stanford University when he earned his MS in Mechanical Engineering. With honors and first place in his class, he graduated from Penn State University with a BSME.
Is Hyperloop the future of high speed travel?
It appeared that the high speed travel industry had taken a backseat after Concorde retired in 2003. Despite the many good reasons for its demise, it presented an anomaly in an era of technological advancement and rapid development. Besides being expensive and in violation of noise regulations, why fly for a business meeting if you can just use Skype?
A major effort has been made to reduce traveling time since then.
Among the proposals are hyperloop trains, which would allow people to travel between London and Scotland in 45 minutes. In the Hyperloop, a pod, or vehicle, would travel at extremely high speeds in a sealed tube with reduced resistance to air. Aerodynamic drag slows down travel, so the amount of air in the Hyperloop tubes needs to be reduced in order to achieve faster travel. Tesla and SpaceX’s engineers have been developing prototypes over the last few years.
Mark Quinn, a lecturer at the University of Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, isn’t optimistic about the project.
It has been attempted several times before, but the infrastructure limitations prevented them from succeeding. If you want to scale it up, the pressure needs to be reduced in an enormously long tube. To do so, you will simply be transmitting the cost of energy to somewhere else.”
Location is also a problem. Tectonic plate movements could have serious implications for feasibility if the area is geologically active. The flow of air around the vehicle can also reach a speed exceeding the speed of sound as the vehicle accelerates. Loud noises, pressure and vibration increases, as well as difficulty controlling can result.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk proposed having a large compressor on his Hyperloop train to take the air from the front and push it out the back, but as Quinn explained, that would be like strapping yourself to a jet whose flight is taking place underground.
At present, there is no solution to the challenges, which may not change anytime soon.
The next possibility is supersonic flight. A small company named Boom Supersonic has recently secured Richard Branson’s support to attempt supersonic flight. It is thought that the planes will have three engines instead of four, reducing fuel costs since technology has improved since the Concorde’s day.
It is noisy to fly over land at supersonic speeds. It is extremely loud when a sonic boom occurs. QUESST (Quiet SuperSonic Technology) was an attempt by NASA to develop a quieter technology.
A quieter supersonic passenger jet is currently being developed by the company. In 2016, Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission, said, “Building and flying a quiet supersonic X-plane is the next logical step in enabling the industry to open supersonic travel to the flying public.”
X-Plane’s experimental build, design and testing contract has been awarded to Lockheed Martin, a California-based company specializing in aeronautics.
In the missile industry, hypervelocity travel (traveling at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound) is an area of research interest as well. Currently, German engineers are developing a concept for a hypersonic passenger spaceplane, but their project lacks funding. Nevertheless, even if they did, the sound factor still had to be solved and it would take decades for the technology to develop.
There seems to be a long way to go before high speed travel becomes a reality. Yet scramjet and ramjet technology might be essential to high-speed transportation in the future.
The ramjet’s forward motion compresses air without the need for a compressor, which reaches extreme temperatures during supersonic flight.
Theoretically, Quinn thinks this is great. In a hurry, shockwaves generate more heat as they go faster. In a situation where you have reached 2000 Kelvin, you start to break apart the oxygen and nitrogen in the air instead of adding any energy or temperature to the flow.”
Scramjet (combusting ramjet) is a proposed solution. To maintain supersonic flow and limit temperature increase, fewer, weaker shockwaves are used instead of strong shockwaves to reduce air speed to subsonic levels.
Additionally, high-speed travel has a considerable carbon footprint. Fueling vehicles with hydrogen, which doesn’t produce CO2, has been suggested as a possible solution, though its production is very energy intensive.
It can be electrolysed from water to generate fuel if there is a plentiful and clean source of electricity (renewable energy or fusion, for example), but this is far from being accomplished.
What are the advantages of Hyperloop?
Those who support Hyperloop argue that it could be faster and cheaper than trains and cars, and cheaper and cleaner than air travel. Furthermore, it’s claimed to cost less and build faster than traditional high-speed rail. Hyperloops could alleviate gridlock on city streets, spreading economic benefits between cities, and reducing traffic congestion.
A white paper published in 2013 by Elon Musk, entitled Hyperloop Alpha, introduced the concept of Hyperloop and sought to inspire a revolution in transportation. With a top speed of 760 mph and construction and operating costs orders of magnitude lower than the California High Speed Rail, Hyperloop Alpha is both faster and cheaper than conventional methods of transportation.
In addition to station times of five minutes, top speeds of 760 mph, and an internal tube environment that is isolated from the outside world, the Hyperloop is also the fastest, safest, and most efficient mass transportation system ever designed.
Sustainable at 100%
On top of the hyperloop tubes, a solar roof covers approximately 594 acres, ensuring that the system is self-sufficient during peak solar activity.
The LA-SF Hyperloop project is expected to have the fastest ground transportation in the world at a cost of just $6 billion, while the California High Speed Rail project is expected to cost $68 billion and offer a top speed of 220 mph.
The Hyperloop is a hypothetical method of propelling a levitating pod through a near-vacuum tube using electromagnets that draw in air to create low pressure. It is a concept for high-speed ground transport that would be safer, faster, and more energy-efficient than other modes of transport. On October 31st, 2016, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the concept had been refined into a “workable design”. The potential of this transportation seems exciting ready for public transit in less than 12 years. What do you think about this future mode of transportation? Let us know down in the comments below!