Hyperloop brings airplane speeds to ground level, safely. Passengers and cargo capsules will hover through a network of low-pressure tubes between cities and transforming travel time from hours to minutes.
What is Hyper loop?
The Hyperloop concept as it is widely known was proposed by billionaire industrialist Elon Musk, CEO of the aerospace firm SpaceX and the guy behind Tesla (as well as, in the last year, a number of public gaffes). It’s a reaction to the California High-Speed Rail System currently under development, a bullet train Musk feels is lackluster (and which, it is alleged, will be one of the most expensive and slow-moving in the world).
A one way trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the Hyperloop could take about 35 minutes.
Musk’s Hyperloop consists of two massive tubes extending from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Pods carrying passengers would travel through the tubes at speeds topping out over 700 mph. Imagine the pneumatic tubes people in The Jetsons use to move around buildings, but on a much bigger scale. For propulsion, magnetic accelerators will be planted along the length of the tube, propelling the pods forward. The tubes would house a low pressure environment, surrounding the pod with a cushion of air that permits the pod to move safely at such high speeds, like a puck gliding over an air hockey table.
Given the tight quarters in the tube, pressure buildup in front of the pod could be a problem. The tube needs a system to keep air from building up in this way. Musk’s design recommends an air compressor on the front of the pod that will move air from the front to the tail, keeping it aloft and preventing pressure building up due to air displacement. A one way trip on the Hyperloop is projected to take about 35 minutes (for comparison, traveling the same distance by car takes roughly six hours).
The Hyperloop concept operates by sending specially designed “capsules” or “pods” through a steel tube maintained at a partial vacuum. In Musk’s original concept, each capsule floats on a 0.02–0.05 in (0.5–1.3 mm) layer of air provided under pressure to air-caster “skis”, similar to how pucks are levitated above an air hockey table, while still allowing faster speeds than wheels can sustain. Hyperloop One’s technology uses passive maglev for the same purpose. Linear induction motors located along the tube would accelerate and decelerate the capsule to the appropriate speed for each section of the tube route. With rolling resistance eliminated and air resistance greatly reduced, the capsules can glide for the bulk of the journey. In Musk’s original Hyperloop concept, an electrically driven inlet fan and axial compressor would be placed at the nose of the capsule to “actively transfer high-pressure air from the front to the rear of the vessel”, resolving the problem of air pressure building in front of the vehicle, slowing it down. A fraction of the air is shunted to the skis for additional pressure, augmenting that gain passively from lift due to their shape. Hyperloop One’s system does away with the compressor.
In the alpha-level concept, passenger-only pods are to be 7 ft 4 in (2.23 m) in diameter and projected to reach a top speed of 760 mph (1,220 km/h) to maintain aerodynamic efficiency. The design proposes passengers experience a maximum inertial acceleration of 0.5 g, about 2 or 3 times that of a commercial airliner on takeoff and landing.
The general idea of trains or other transportation traveling through evacuated tubes dates back more than a century, although the atmospheric railway was never a commercial success.
Musk first mentioned that he was thinking about a concept for a “fifth mode of transport”, calling it the Hyperloop, in July 2012 at a PandoDaily event in Santa Monica, California. This hypothetical high-speed mode of transportation would have the following characteristics: immunity to weather, collision free, twice the speed of a plane, low power consumption, and energy storage for 24-hour operations. The name Hyperloop was chosen because it would go in a loop. Musk envisions the more advanced versions will be able to go at hypersonic speed. In May 2013, Musk likened the Hyperloop to a “cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table”.
From late 2012 until August 2013, a group of engineers from both Tesla and SpaceX worked on the conceptual modeling of Hyperloop. An early system design was published in the Tesla and SpaceX blogs which describes one potential design, function, pathway, and cost of a hyperloop system. According to the alpha design, pods would accelerate to cruising speed gradually using a linear electric motor and glide above their track on air bearings through tubes above ground on columns or below ground in tunnels to avoid the dangers of grade crossings. An ideal hyperloop system will be more energy-efficient, quiet, and autonomous than existing modes of mass transit. Musk has also invited feedback to “see if the people can find ways to improve it”. The Hyperloop Alpha was released as an open source design. The word mark “HYPERLOOP“, applicable to “high-speed transportation of goods in tubes” was issued to SpaceX on April 4, 2017.
In June 2015, SpaceX announced that it would build a 1-mile-long (1.6 km) test track to be located next to SpaceX’s Hawthorne facility. The track would be used to test pod designs supplied by third parties in the competition.
By November 2015, with several commercial companies and dozens of student teams pursuing the development of Hyperloop technologies, the Wall Street Journal asserted that “The Hyperloop Movement”, as some of its unaffiliated members refer to themselves, is officially bigger than the man who started it.”
The MIT Hyperloop team developed the first Hyperloop pod prototype, which they unveiled at the MIT Museum on May 13, 2016. Their design uses electrodynamic suspension for levitating and eddy current braking.
On January 29, 2017, approximately one year after phase one of the Hyperloop pod competition, the MIT Hyperloop pod demonstrated the first ever low-pressure Hyperloop run in the world. Within this first competition the Delft University team from the Netherlands achieved the highest overall competition score. The awards for the “fastest pod” and the “best performance in flight” were won by the team TUM Hyperloop (formerly known as WARR Hyperloop) from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany. The team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) placed third overall in the competition, judged by SpaceX engineers.
The second Hyperloop pod competition took place from August 25–27, 2017. The only judging criteria being top speed provided it is followed by successful deceleration. TUM Hyperloop from the Technical University of Munich won the competition by reaching a top speed of 324 km/h (201 mph) and therefore breaking the previous record of 310 km/h for hyperloop prototypes set by Hyperloop One.
Hyper loop and India
The Indian State of Maharashtra announced their intent to build a hyperloop route between Mumbai and Pune, beginning with an operational demonstration track.
THE MUMBAI-PUNE PROJECT MOVES FORWARD
Working with our public and private partners, Virgin Hyperloop One is on track to complete the feasibility study for the Phase I demonstration track of the Mumbai-Pune project. The full project is proposing to link Central Pune, the Navi Mumbai International Airport and Central Mumbai – with a potential commute time of 25 minutes. Based on our ongoing analysis, the Mumbai-Pune route is proving to be the strongest economic case that we have seen to-date.
Building upon this progress, VHO welcomed the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Fadnavis, and representatives from the State Government including key members of the Chief Minister’s Office and Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) chief Kiran Gitte, project lead on the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop project, at our DevLoop test site to inspect our technology. The Chief Minister and other esteemed guests were able to witness a full-scale hyperloop in action for a live demonstration test. It was an honor to host the Chief Minister, demonstrating a vote of confidence as we advance into the second half of our ongoing feasibility study and progress in accordance with the Framework Agreement signed in February. Speaking with our Chairman Richard Branson, the Chief Minister confirmed, “This was a very fruitful discussion and we should be able to start moving on this project very fast.”
( Image source : Virgin hyper loop one )
HYPERLOOP TECHNOLOGY WITHIN INDIA’S TRANSPORT ECOSYSTEM
Progress on the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop project is indicative of a larger trend – a wave of visionary policy leadership when it comes to supporting new technologies and innovation in India’s transport ecosystem. NITI Aayog’s Tech Vision 2022 document, the work of the government technology think tank Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), and the Centres of Excellence at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have been very supportive of new technologies. In addition, the Railways Ministry ‘Mission 350 Plus’ plan as well as work on maglev technologies and the HSR Diamond Quadrilateral project are indicative of how the central government is embracing new rail technologies. At a state level, Maharashtra’s push for a Mumbai-Pune hyperloop system is a clear endorsement for innovation at a regional level, with accompanying interest from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as well.
India has multiple factors that make it an ideal country for a hyperloop system: infrastructure needs due to rising demand, superior engineering talent, low-cost manufacturing base, and strong political support and favourable regulatory environment. These factors ensure that the hyperloop, when built and tested commercially, will be affordable (for riders), scalable and low-cost (to build and operate).
The hyperloop system’s appeal for India comes from its complementarity with existing transport technologies. Hyperloop systems, with its point-to-point transport proposition, can be built to inter-connect with existing High-Speed Rail (HSR) or Metro projects. There is a conscious effort to build such adjacencies into the design of the first inter-city hyperloop system in India, and this is reflected in the location of the proposed stations and the track alignment. Come 2025, a student from Ahmedabad should be able to reach Pune, by taking the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train and then switch over to the 25-minute hyperloop ride to Pune, just as present metro commuters switch from one metro line to another in a city. Such a multi-modal transport system between India’s bustling cities will have significant productivity implications for the country. This system becomes yet more powerful when replicated across different regional clusters in other parts of India, or linked seamlessly with the Modi Government’s HSR Diamond Quadrilateral Project – and one can see the emergence of Indian mega-economic regions in a manner that rivals China’s super-city clusters plan.
Once proven for commercial viability, the hyperloop system can be scaled to different city-pairs in India. Earlier estimates of five viable routes between different Indian cities had evaluated a 55 minutes commute for a Delhi-Jaipur-Indore-Mumbai system, 50 minutes for a Mumbai-Bangalore-Chennai commute, 41 minutes for a Bangalore-Thiruvananthapuram commute and 20 minutes for a Bangalore-Chennai commute on the hyperloop system. View this from a multi-modal transport perspective and the real benefits of a system like this come through – hyperloop technology adoption is a real enabler for India to leap-frog to a higher trajectory of growth, akin to the role that mobile phones have played earlier in terms of technology adoption as well as economic growth.
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