Hyperloop is the trademarked name for a new high-speed transportation system project. It consists of capsules or wagons that will levitate through a network of steel tubes at low pressure. This network of tubes can be deployed above ground by raising them supported on pillars, but they can also go underground.
The capsules would have an air compressor installed in the nose in order to avoid the result of compression by currents (choked flow) on speed and so are made with measures of just 1.35 meters wide, 15 meters long, and 1.1 meters high. These would as well integrate in-line electrical motors that could make sure they are taking high speeds and would float on a level of air between 0.5 or 1.3 millimeters like this of the airbeds that we see in air hockey.
The idea is that these capsules are capable of traveling at speeds greater than 1,200 kilometers per hour, faster than the cruising speed of many commercial aircraft so that a trip from Madrid to Barcelona could be done in just half an hour.
In the beginning, this technology was also proposed to be able to move with solar energy, with a series of panels that would be mounted on the outer surface of the tubes, and that could store the excess energy to use on cloudy days. However, this technology is still being developed, so between now and when we have models that meet Hyperloop’s speed expectations there could be some substantial changes to how they do it.
It’s an Elon Musk idea
Elon Musk is one of the most prominent characters in the technological world of recent years. He is the man behind companies like SpaceX, which has revolutionized the space world with the savings provided by its reusable rockets and is promoting the electrification of cars with his company Tesla, which although it is not going through its best moments has made all the industry begins to consider electric cars.
The idea for Hyperloop was launched by Elon Musk in July 2013, defining his project as “a mix of a Concorde, a railgun and a table hockey game”. A month later he made an official presentation of the project, giving the first technical details on how it should work and showing us the first designs of his capsules.
An important trigger to move forward with it was the high-speed rail system currently under development that was proposed for California and is inspired in part by the shipment of objects by pneumatic tubes (such as money in supermarkets) he assured that the only way to achieve high speeds on land was with a system of tubes containing a special environment.
However, although the idea is from Elon Musk, he is not the only one who is developing it, since being aware of how much he needed to develop for it to become a reality, he decided that the project should be open for any other company could join him.
It is an open Hardware Project
One of the most important aspects of Hyperloop is that it is an open hardware project. This is something very similar to the concept of open-source software, but taken to the world of hardware: anyone can take the designs that other companies are making and improve them on their own to try to improve it in a way that benefits everyone since the rest of companies will also be able to use these enhancements.
In their initial presentation, they made it clear that Hyperloop was not going to be another work by SpaceX, but that the commercial initiative was open to whoever wanted to pick up the baton. However, Musk’s company has been promoting contests and competitions for companies and/or engineers and students to launch themselves to propose their capsule models and the systems that would have to move them.
Although many of these proposals have been used by Elon Musk companies to test them, the open hardware nature also allows other companies to see what they are doing and venture to try to improve it on their part. In this way, an ecosystem of initiatives is created that seeks to carry out the same idea, and whose different ways of dealing with it can help the whole.
This has created a kind of race to be the first to implement further improvements to the project, in which companies like Virgin are investing large amounts of money. This brings different ideas and points of view to a common goal, and helps spread costs, and helps technology develop faster.
Which companies are developing Hyperloop
As we have said, the open nature of this technology allows several companies to work on developing it. Here are the main ones that have been making headlines for some time with the progress they are making
1. Elon Musk’s Companies
Although Hyperloop was initially born under the SpaceX umbrella, Elon Musk is making several of his companies work continuously to take advantage of the technology. For one thing, Tesla is developing the capsules and set some speed records. and these capsules are being tested at the SpaceX facility.
A third Musk company, The Boring Company, is digging tunnels that will be used by the Hyperloop system to transport pedestrians and cyclists in an attempt to harness technology to reinvent public transportation. In fact, The Boring Company already has permission to excavate tunnels in several areas of the United States, some of which will go to Hyperloop.
2. Virgin Hyperloop One
Hyperloop One is a company founded by Josh Giegel and Shervin Pishevar to collect the glove launched by Elon Musk and develop a Hyperloop system on their own. In September 2017, they partnered with Virgin, so the company is now also known as Virgin Hyperloop One.
Hyperloop One is not only challenging Tesla for speed records, but it has also carried out full-scale tests and is considering the launch of several European routes, such as one between Spain and Morocco.
Its goal is to have three active Hyperloops in 2021, it has negotiated with Spanish entities to create a development center here, and they are also talking with the United Arab Emirates to create a Hyperloop network for merchandise.
3. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT)
It is a group of 800 professional engineers and professionals from 38 countries around the world, and that has established alliances with more than 40 companies around the world according to its website to develop Hyperloop and make technology a reality in 2020. The company is very committed to Europe and has already thought of routes like one to go from Bratislava to Brno (130 km) in 10 minutes.
Among the HTT partners, we find companies such as Talgo or nVidia, and at the beginning of 2018, it announced that it will begin to build its first two test tracks in France to try to have them finished in 2019. The first test capsule for the track will be It is being manufactured in Spain by the Carbures company. They have also announced their first trade route, which will be in the United Arab Emirates.
TransPod is a Canadian company that designs, manufactures, and develops high-speed technologies, and has also entered the race to develop something like Hyperloop. And we say similar because, unlike Hyperloop, the TransPod system uses moving electromagnetic fields to power vehicles. Come on, magnetic levitation instead of compressed air.
It is one of the companies that later entered the race and the only thing they have for now are designs, renders, and non-tangible material, no infrastructure or cabins. However, they already plan routes such as one between Toronto and Montreal, 550 kilometers that they want to be able to travel in 45 minutes.
5. Zeleros, the Valencian alternative
Zeleros was founded in Valencia, Spain, in November 2016 by Daniel Orient, David Pistoni, and Juan Vicén, forerunners of the Hyperloop UPV team at the Polytechnic University of Valencia. SpaceX gave them the awards for “Best Concept Design” and “Best Propulsion / Compression Subsystem” in 2016, and thereafter they were on their adventure.
According to what they have told the press, their objective is to “develop the project at a European level” and get their own infrastructure and test space in Spain. At the moment this company is focusing on concepts and designs, and next July it will go to another Hyperloop competition in California to show its new developments. Although they have nothing built, at least they have some designs to give us an idea of what they want their capsules to look like.
Arrivo is an architecture and engineering technology company founded in Los Angeles in 2016. It faces the Hyperloop with the idea of trying to make it as cheap and profitable as possible, and while doing so, in 2017 it revealed a project to build a 320 km link/hr for cars to Denver International Airport using magnetic levitation train technology by 2021. This magnetic levitation is what sets it apart from most other similar projects.
DGWHyperloop is another small company founded in 2015, and a subsidiary of Dinclix GroundWorks, an Indian engineering company. At the moment they have little more than a teaser and some initial proposals, among which is to create a corridor between Dehli and Mumbai called “Delhi Mumbai Hyperloop Corridor (DMHC)”. The company is partnering with various government agencies and private companies to carry out its investigations.
8. Hardt Global Mobility
Hardt Global Mobility is a Dutch company that was created in 2016 by members of the TU Delft Hyperloop team, which won the SpaceX Pod Competition, an award for the development of the best capsule for this technology. The company is currently developing a center to test Hyperloop at full-scale Delft, The Netherlands, and they dream of putting their country on the European technology map with this development.
There are still challenges ahead
However, despite having several companies working on it, we still do not know if Hyperloop will be possible. At the moment, the current speed records of its capsules have not yet reached 400 kilometers per hour, being very far from the more than 1,200 km / h that everyone says it would be possible to achieve with them.
Thus, there is still a long development for this technology, which faces other challenges such as security. Personalities such as Bill Gates have publicly expressed their doubts, assuring that they are not sure that the Hyperloop concept makes sense, since “it is difficult to make it safe.”
There are also other designs to be polished such as the interior of the capsules, their feeding system, or the infrastructures that will be necessary once you begin to want to deploy. And also the many other problems that will arise on the fly as the first tests are carried out on the first routes that begin to be implemented.
The years 2020 and 2021 are very close, and seeing what Hyperloop has advanced since its announcement in 2013 and everything that lies ahead, it seems very difficult that the technology is going to arrive in time to meet the planned deadlines. It will then be necessary to see if the interest in it declines or if its arrival is only delayed a few years.
In addition, there is also the possibility that other faster means of transport will be developed. Without going any further, a year ago China announced that it wants to build a flying train that, with speeds of 4,000 km / h, would leave in diapers in Hyperloop. It remains to be seen how both projects evolve.