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05.08.2019

When are we going to ride Hyperloop?

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What kind of transport should we use to save our planet? First, people dreamed of electric cars, then they realized such cars were not a cure-all. The world's population has already reached a record 7.7 billion people. And if every family has at least one electric car, we could live in traffic jams.

Inventors began to propose their ideas. For example, Anatoliy Yunitskiy has been involved in the development of the string transport since 2014 as part of the SkyWay project. And Elon Musk actualized the idea of vacuum trains in 2013. Men in the street had, as usual, a twofold reaction. Some saw quacks in them, others saw messiahs. We have already covered how the projects were developing. Let's see where they are today.

Vacuum transport in Europe

Elon Musk's idea to create vacuum trains was picked up by three companies: Hyperloop TT, Hyperloop One and TransPod. But Musk couldn't resist putting his hand in the developments either. He organized the Hyperloop Pod Competition, during which the teams had to come up with the design of the cabin and compete for the fastest way to speed it up. This competition helped Europe to found its own company, which began developing vacuum trains: Hyperloop Hardt. Their main innovation is the capsules' switch system, which allows to move through the turn-outs of branches without creating moving parts.

Hyperloop Hardt is based in the Netherlands and so far has a rather curtailed test track in Delft. But it was enough for such giants as railway operator Deutsche Bahn and steel corporation Tata Steel to pay attention to the students who won Musk's contest in 2014 and invest in their startup.

Was it vacuum there or not?

It was originally planned by Elon Musk to provide magnetic cushion and almost complete vacuum in the tunnel for the train to reach a speed of 1000 km/h. But, as it turned out later, implementation of these requirements made the project very expensive.

Musk proposed not to focus on the deep vacuum, but to maintain a forevacuum with a pressure of 100 Pa (about 1/1000 of atmospheric pressure). It was decided to redirect the air masses that resist the train in motion, under the bottom of the capsules to create an air cushion.

This concept is being implemented in this or that form by the companies that are engaged in creating Hyperloop.

Active testing grounds

All tests within the Hyperloop Pod Competition take place at SpaceX's test site in Hawthorne, on a 1.5-kilometre track under Elon Musk's supervision. In 2019, engineers from the University of Munich became the champions of the competition and accelerated the capsule to a record-breaking 465.3 km/h.

By 2020, the head of SpaceX promised to prepare a 10-kilometer section for the competition. The new track, unlike the current one, will have a curve.

Other tests are taking place on Virgin Hyperloop One's 500-metre track in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Hyperloop TT, in March 2019, completed its own 320-metre track in Toulouse.

Hyperloop TT has also recently introduced its full-size passenger capsule in Spain. It's 15 meters long, weighs 5 tons, has a capacity of 28-40 people.

By the way, the company has also signed agreements on the construction of 10-km long operational routes in Dubai and Tongren, but the timing of the projects is unknown.

What was Elon doing at the time?

In mid-October 2018, Musk received the first official permit for the construction of a complete Hyperloop motorway for electric cars, with the subsequent transformation of the tunnel for vacuum trains. The section with the approximate length of 16.58 km is to connect the outskirts of Baltimore with Hannover, Maryland. The road is expected to become part of the route Washington — New York with stops in Baltimore and Philadelphia. The track will be underground, and Elon Musk's Boring Company will take care of the tunnel construction.

In February 2018, Musk was granted permission to prepare the site for the construction of the station and for the initial excavation works on the wasteland in north-eastern Washington. Now, the project is at the stage of environmental impact assessment.

For the time being, Elon launches Tesla in a prototype of a high-speed tunnel somewhere in LA and shares a video on Twitter.

How's Hyperloop One doing?

At this time, Virgin Hyperloop One has completed the third phase of the tests, reaching a test speed of 387 km/h. The state of Maharashtra in India has announced the company's proposed Hyperloop system between Puna and Mumbai as an official infrastructure project. In February 2018, Hyperloop One in collaboration with RTA Virgin developed and introduced a new Hyperloop pod in the UAE during the Innovation Week. The company plans to come to Saudi Arabia by 2030.

In April 2018, Global trade enabler DP World and Virgin Hyperloop One introduced DP World Cargo speed – an international brand for cargo systems.

Briefly about TransPod

TransPod has made some minor changes so far: there has been established TransPod France division. The new office will develop a test track in Dru, as well as will be engaged in research and development for testing.

As part of the partnership between the Hyperloop Limoges Association and TransPod, permission was obtained to create a test track in November 2018. The construction of the test track was planned to be started in 2019, and high-speed tests – in 2020.

But so far, the company has not shared the results. On the other hand, you can find information on the pre-feasibility study for the TransPod Hyperloop line in Thailand from Bangkok to Chiang Mai with expansion to Phuket.

Other developments in modern transportation technology

The American company skyTran and its personal automatic transport cannot boast of significant successes for the period 2018-2019 either. The only images found on the web show a section of the test site in Mexico. Apparently, the section is very short.

In April 2019, skyTran signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Eilat to create the Jetsons above-ground railway system, but construction has not begun yet, as the company is waiting for the approval of the Ministry.

In June 2019, as part of the implementation of the Dubai Transport Mobility Strategy in the Emirate, aimed at transforming 25% of all rides into driverless ones by 2030, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with skyTran. A similar Memorandum has also been signed with Hyperloop One and Hyperloop TT. And in February 2019 – with SkyWay company.

This indicates that the Arab Emirates is seriously concerned about the modernization of the transport system. But we still can't go for a ride on a vacuum train or on the brainchild of the American startup skyTran, but that cannot be said about SkyWay. It is probably for this reason that the string transport has become a leader today, entering the number of the official Dubai infrastructure projects.

On 17 August at the EcoTechnoPark, there will be held the EcoFest 2019, where every visitor will be able to ride the string transport. So, seize an opportunity, buy a ticket to witness the transport of the future with your own eyes.

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