Hyperloop, the new revolition for passenger transport
Passenger transport is constantly evolving. Airline companies, specifically airline alliances, compete for long-distance routes. Then there is ground transport, in which high-speed trains and shared vehicles are revolutionizing travel, especially in terms of mid-distance transit. In the near future, these modes of ground transport are going to face a serious competitor—a hypothetical high-speed transport known as Hyperloop, which aside from being fast, is also economical and sustainable. The person behind the so-called “fifth mode of transport,” which acts as an alternative to boats, planes, cars, and trains, is Elon Musk. The South African physicist and entrepreneur is also one of the co-founders of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX. With a resume like this, it is no surprise that he is at the head of this project which is set to be the next passenger transport revolution. In 2013, Musk’s team created JumpStartFund, a crowd collaboration platform from which Hyperloop Transportation Technologies emerged. Dirk Ahlborn, a German-born American entrepreneur, is the CEO of the project.
Los Angeles – San Francisco in less than 35 minutes
Let’s imagine that it is possible to travel more than 600 kilometers in just over half an hour. Something that seems impossible has already become an active project. The mode of transport is a capsule-turbine that will travel in a tube at a speed of 1,220 km/h, and the tube will be mounted on prefabricated piles. The pressure inside the tube will be extremely low and similar to what planes withstand at high altitudes. The capsule, which will be propelled by compressed air inside a wind tunnel, will offer minimal resistance and reach very high speeds. Little energy will be needed to propel it, and renewable energy alternatives will be used, including kinetic, solar, and aeolian energy. This mode of transport will also be safe because it will be automated in order to prevent human error and it will be immune to wind, ice, and fog. The piles supporting the tube will be able to withstand earth tremors in order to compensate for any movements resulting from seismic activities.
The future of passenger transport is not that far away
There are plans to build an eight-kilometer stretch in Quay Valley (California) in 2016. This short stretch will act as the testing grounds to prepare the first line, which is Los Angeles – San Francisco. The hope is that it will be ready for use by the general public by around 2018. There are two types of capsules: a simple one for passengers (with a capacity of up to 28 riders), and a larger one for vehicle transport. A total of 40 capsules will be needed for the expected demand. The total estimated cost for the simple version (including capsules, production costs, and assembly costs) is US$6 billion. The total estimated cost for the large capsule is US$7.5 billion. With everything included, the simple version requires 9% of what a high-speed train would cost, while the large version requires 11%. Paying off this capital in 20 years, and adding operating costs, each ticket would have a price of about US$20. Professionals from major technological companies are currently investing their time in Hyperloop in exchange for shares. Although the project could become a reality in the United States in less than ten years, it may take longer in other continents. We hope to discover the benefits of Hyperloop as soon as possible because, according to Alborn, being able to travel 600 kilometers in a short amount of time and for a very low cost “could change our lives.”