Hyperloop: When, Where and How

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Technology is progressing at an unprecedented pace. To expand the transportation sector, the futuristic move here would be the new concept known as Hyperloop. It can revolutionise mass transit for people. This way travel time would get reduced on land and it would also have a positive impact on the environment.

What is Hyperloop?

The new type of on-ground transport, besides trains and cars, would be Hyperloop. It was proposed by Elon Musk and it is currently in development by different companies.There is a possibility of it moving at over 700 miles an hour. Hyperloop would be made of two massive tubes and the pods that carry the passengers would travel through these giant, low pressure tubes. They could be placed either above or underground. The low pressure would surround the pods with a cushion of air which will enable them to move safely at high speeds. 

The main idea behind building the Hyperloop was to make it easier to travel when compared to alternative modes of transportation. It should also be safer, faster, cheaper and more convenient than a train, plane or car. It should be resistant to all types of weather. Hyperloop should also ideally be self-powered to make it sustainable in the long run. Since it has to travel long distances and it will be expensive to build, it should also be earthquake resistant to improve longevity. It should also be convenient in the sense that it does not disrupt the environment and other people and places along the route.

How is Hyperloop Different from Traditional Rail?

Most of the air in the tunnels through which the Hyperloop pods travel has been removed to remove friction and increase the speed at which the pods can travel. This is one main difference between traditional rail and Hyperloop. The other is, instead of wheels, the pods will move by floating on air skis. The concept is the same as air hockey. Either that, or they will use magnetic levitation to reduce friction.

The main argument to support Hyperloop is that it will be cheaper and faster than train or car travel. It will also be more environmentally friendly when compared to air travel. Supporters claim that it will be faster to build than high-speed rail, making travel between cities easier and more economically viable. 

How Does Hyperloop Work?

By duplicating high altitudes in a low pressure environment inside the tunnels, it will drastically reduce all the friction in the tubes. Hyperloop will be automated using high-end technology which won’t require more than monitoring from people, thereby improving efficiency and reliability. This will happen because all the elements in the system will be in constant communication with each other and operation control centers as well. This results in having near real-time response plans for all scenarios.

Hyperloop will be made of large tubes, primarily built on elevated pylons, resulting in reduced costs in land acquisition, immunity to all weather conditions, and eliminating the possibility of colliding with other road traffic. Using a combination of the current and new technologies being made, the Hyperloop system will be high in speed and efficient when it comes to resources. The experience of traveling in a Hyperloop system will be safe and comfortable for passengers as well as cargo.

How Would the Hyperloop Capsules Work?

The Hyperloop capsules in the model that Elon Musk spoke about would float above the tube’s surface. They would be placed on a set of 28 air-bearing skis, just like how the pucks float above the table on the air hockey game. The big difference between the two it is the pod that would generate the air cushion and not the pod. This will keep the tube as simple as possible and as cheap as possible too. There are other versions of the Hyperloop as well. These would use magnetic levitation and not air skis that would keep the passenger pods above their tracks.

The initial velocity for the pod would be generated from an external linear electric motor. This would accelerate the pod to ‘high subsonic velocity’. After this, the pod would get a boost after crossing every seventy miles, and in the middle, it would coast around in an almost vacuum.

The History of Hyperloop

The first time Hyperloop was mentioned was in 2012, when Elon Musk suggested it as a means of transportation. He claimed it to be twice as fast as a plane. It is also supposed to be powered through a renewable form of energy, like solar. There were no engineering specifics given then, but in 2013, Elon Musk released a white paper online, outlining his technical thinking behind the Hyperloop and how the system would work.

Later, Musk claimed that he did not have the time to build it himself, so he decentralized it and said that anybody was free to build it because he was running both Tesla as well as SpaceX. 

This led to the creation of the Hyperloop industry. Soon after, a handful of companies took this on by bringing in engineers and VCs to combat this realistically. LA-based Virgin Hyperloop One started working on it. The company has VC backing as well as hundreds of employees dedicated to making Hyperloop travel a reality as well as funding and a test track. Another contendor is Hyperloop Transportation Technologies with engineers working in their free time to solve problems that stand between humanity and hyperloop. Elon Musk joined again later with the help of his new venture, The Boring Company.

Where Will Hyperloop Transport Run?

We still are not fully aware of where Hyperloops will actually be functional and established. There are a lot of companies that have thought out routes in the United States or Europe and in other places, with various potential routes such as from New York to Washington DC and Kansas City to St. Louis in US, Pune to Mumbai and Vijaywada to Amaravati in India, Bratislava to Brno, and many more places.

Hyperloop Alpha: What is it?

Elon Musk published Hyperloop Alpha talking about how the total Hyperloop system would work and how much it would cost to build and run it successfully. It was based on the service running from Los Angeles to San Francisco, at the same time the high speed rail was in talks of getting built. 

His argument was that his Hyperloop would prove to be a safer, faster and a way more affordable option than the high speed rail. It would also be weather-proof and self-powering. The Hyperloop would be less disruptive and more considerate toward the people who live on the route. According to him, a Hyperloop service could also make the travel between cities that are about 1500 km or 900 miles apart easier. He claimed it would be the next best thing to actual teleportation. He said that the only option to make super fast travel a reality would be to build a tube either over or under the ground. 

When he was comparing it to the high speed rail, he said the Hyperloop would cover the distance existing between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a 350 mile distance, within thirty five minutes at the estimated cost of $20 per ride per person each way. The total cost would range from $6 billion and $7.5 billion, the first estimate without including cargo, and the second, with cargo included. 

Ideally, the tubes would leave every thirty seconds. They would carry twenty eight passengers per tube. By these calculations, a single tube could transport nearly seven and a half million people in a year. His two tube structure could take fifteen million people in a year and at $20 a ticket, the Hyperloop could generate three hundred million in annual revenue. 

What Would It Be Like to Travel in a Hyperloop System?

There are various opinions on how it would be like travelling in a Hyperloop tube. The critics say that the travel would be an uncomfortable experience. This would be caused due to the high speed of acceleration that may cause nausea to its passengers, along with the lateral G-force on bends that will come in the route. 

One of the companies building the Hyperloop, Virgin Hyperloop One claims that travelling via Hyperloop would feel almost the same as going in an elevator or a passenger plane. The team at Virgin Hyperloop One says, “Although Hyperloop will be fast, the systems we are building will accelerate with the same tolerable G-forces as that of taking off in a Boeing 747”. The speed of acceleration and deceleration will all be gradual, without any turbulence caused to the passengers seated.

According to Elon Musk’s original plan, there would be beautiful landscapes displayed in each cabin because the travel in a concrete pipe with a windowless pod would not have much of a view. He also claimed that each passenger would have access to their very own personal entertainment system.

What is the Boring Company?

Elon Musk started a new venture, the Boring Company. The aim of the company is to make the process of digging tunnels an easier and faster process. They can dig the tunnels under, and between cities. This would make the Hyperloop projects a viable mode of transport. Tunnels are an expensive endeavor to take on, costing up to nearly $1 billion a mile to dig. The Boring Company Tunnels wants to dig tunnels at a tenth of the total price by digging tunnels that are smaller so that the process becomes more efficient with newer machinery and replacing the current diesel-powered machines with new, electric ones.

Will Hyperloop Be a Success?

This is the biggest question being asked about the multibillion dollar industry. The concept of Hyperloop has existed for a long time, but up until now, the technology for it has been missing. But, as the current state of affairs go, it is a possibility to harness our existing technology to catch up and make the concept a reality.

There are a few companies which are funded well to find a way to deliver a working Hyperloop service, but they are still in the experimental stage. They have only run short test routes as of now, and moving from that to hundreds of miles and kilometers is a big jump that no one has done yet.

The business models to support this technology are also in the developmental stage. The Hyperloop’s success depends upon various factors such as the destination, the local economy, and geography.  

Another issue with the Hyperloop is the capacity because from the looks of it, the tube cannot move a good job of moving a large number of people. A lot of pods will have to be made to make it carry as many passengers as traditional rail using bigger carriages. There are a few snags to overcome with the engineering as well such as building tubes that can carry the stress of carrying the pods going at high speeds and finding energy and cost-efficient means to maintain low pressure. 

There have been no passenger trials yet, and people need to be comfortable traveling at such high speeds. The price for the tickets need to be finalized as well. It has a lot of potential which still needs to be observed and discussed.

Conclusion: What is Next for Hyperloop?

Hyperloop could have a huge impact on people by reducing air travel between big cities and boost the local economies as well as trade. This will also lower the pressure on housing in big cities by giving the commuters a feasible option to live further away. These benefits have not been proven yet.

What would be the next stage for Hyperloop? The answer is to move beyond initial testing and feasibility. Then, trials for long distance travels of the Hyperloop and also passenger testing. Then companies would have to work with the governments, sort out legal issues and other investors to create commercial models that would be viable around the world. After all this is completed, we will truly find out whether or not Hyperloop can really become a success.

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