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Hyperloop, the future of transport?

by Ethan Terris about a year ago in future

Technological advances have consistently improved the way we travel. Could we be on the cusp of the next major transport shift?

What is hyperloop?

Hyperloop is an exciting new form of transport and has amassed a large amount of interest and investment from companies such as Virgin and Hardt (Forsdick, 2019). This new mode of transport promises to carry passengers up to 760 mph and according to Elon Musk, Hyperloop "could be the future of high-speed travel for passengers and freight, given its relatively low energy use" (Amsterdam to Paris in 90 minutes? Dutch tout hyperloop as future of travel, 2020).

How does Hyperloop work?

There are two main components of the Hyperloop idea and they are the capsule that customers will use to travel inside and the tube that will house the capsule.

The Capsule: In Musks model, 28 air skis allow the capsule to float above the tube similar to a puck floating on an air hockey table. In other models, magnetic levitation is preferred. The capsule would initially be propelled by an external linear motor and then given periodic boosts during the journey. Current designs can carry between 28 to 40 passengers along with their luggage.

The Tube: One of the main problems with all modern forms of transport is air resistance and this is a problem that the tube aims to solve. By removing nearly all of the air from the inside of the tube using pumps, the capsule is able to travel much faster and with greater efficiency (Ranger, 2020). The tube can be above or under the ground providing good versatility.

Is it economically viable?

The technology sounds great and the promises are amazing but could this actually materialize? One of the biggest obstacles for the hyperloop is the cost. This could be research and development cost, construction cost, or the cost of permits and land. According to an article from Investopedia, "Musk estimates its costs will be between $6 billion and $7.5 billion". Despite the large initial cost, the article also explains that there is a good chance that the investment is a good one. "At $20 per ride and an estimated 15 million trips per year, the Hyperloop would have the potential to gross $300 million in annual revenue" (Hyperloop vs. High Speed Rail: Comparing the Differences, 2020). The opportunity for profit could entice more investment but the risk could prove too high for many.

What will it feel like?

Will the experience feel like a train, a plane, or something entirely different? According to a statement from Josh Giegel in an article titled "What It Will Actually Be Like To Ride The Hyperloop", each pod will be a living room type space where people can sit comfortably. Companies can also set up pods for meetings and other requirements (Peters, 2020). The pod will feel similar to a plane and the G-Forces are reasonably low. If these statements are correct, the Hyperloop could prove to be a comfortable ride.

When will it be a reality?

There is always a tendency to downplay the complications and challenges of tomorrow's technology so how long will Hyperloop really take to arrive? Most of the components of the Hyperloop have already been manufactured and the research papers have been published and according to one estimate by Hamish Geddes, from Hyped, a SpaceX competition finalist, "In those countries where regulation is a bit looser, we could see a hyperloop within the next decade" (Koch, 2020). Despite this, another prediction from an article from "Interesting Engineering" claims that "the answer remains uncertain" to weather the Hyperloop will ever exist and that it is absurdly dangerous. Furthermore, the article also states that "The idea needs significantly more refining before it reaches a level deemed to be safe for public transportation" (Engineering, 2020). There is no universally accepted estimate and many people are divided so we probably won't have a definitive answer for a long time.

Citations:

Forsdick, S., 2019. Hyperloop Companies: The Start-Ups Creating The 'Fifth Mode Of Transport'. [online] NS Business. Available at: <https://www.ns-businesshub.com/transport/hyperloop-companies/#:~:text=Headed%20up%20by%20CEO%20Jay,fully%20operational%20loop%20by%202021.> [Accessed 15 July 2020].

the Guardian. 2020. Amsterdam To Paris In 90 Minutes? Dutch Tout Hyperloop As Future Of Travel. [online] Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/10/amsterdam-to-paris-in-90-minutes-dutch-tout-hyperloop-as-future-of-travel> [Accessed 15 July 2020].

Ranger, S., 2020. What Is Hyperloop? Everything You Need To Know About The Race For Super-Fast Travel | Zdnet. [online] ZDNet. Available at: <https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-hyperloop-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-future-of-transport/#:~:text=The%20basic%20idea%20of%20Hyperloop,energy%20in%20high%20speed%20travel.> [Accessed 15 July 2020].

Investopedia. 2020. Hyperloop Vs. High Speed Rail: Comparing The Differences. [online] Available at: <https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/050815/elon-musks-hyperloop-economically-feasible.asp#:~:text=Undertaking%20a%20project%20like%20the,%246%20billion%20and%20%247.5%20billion.> [Accessed 15 July 2020].

Peters, A., 2020. What It Will Actually Be Like To Ride The Hyperloop. [online] Fast Company. Available at: <https://www.fastcompany.com/3065166/what-will-it-actually-be-like-to-ride-the-hyperloop> [Accessed 15 July 2020].

Engineering, I., 2020. The Biggest Challenges That Stand In The Way Of Hyperloop. [online] Interestingengineering.com. Available at: <https://interestingengineering.com/biggest-challenges-stand-in-the-way-of-hyperloop#:~:text=The%20Hyperloop%20is%20absurdly%20expensive,inside%20would%20perish%20almost%20instantaneously.> [Accessed 15 July 2020].

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Ethan Terris

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