This week Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc. unveiled the first prototype passenger cabin for what it is thought might be the next major breakthrough in high-speed public transport. And the high-speed that hyperloop lines will hopefully one day soon hurtle us across and between cities at for a lower cost than today’s transport mix provides are planned to exceed even the fastest bullet trains.
The icing on the cake is that the companies pioneering the technology, which include Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One believe that building the infrastructure will come in at a much cheaper price than it costs to build and maintain roads and railway lines.
When we envision the future it is usually a place where the latest technology in the world has improved living standards. And what better way to improve living standards than by slashing the drudgery of commutes. Autonomous, self-driving cars, and even flying drone-esque taxis are where the media ‘buzz’ is at when it comes to future, better, transport systems that will cut down the time we spend in transit every day, or at least mean we can get in a good Candy Crush session without having our face in a stranger’s armpit while doing so. But ‘hyperloop’ lines are another potentially major transport technology breakthrough to get excited about.
The first deals to build hyperloop test systems have already been inked. In July, Hyperloop TT confirmed a joint venture with China that will see one constructed in mountainous southwest China. Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One has also signed a preliminary agreement in Mumbai, India, for a ‘broad hyperloop framework’, with a Mumbai to Pune ‘tube’ mooted. If the new technology lives up to its promise, it will reduce the time needed to move between the two cities from around three and a half hours to just 25 minutes. Capsules will hurtle through low pressure tubes at speeds of up to 750 mph.
However, peer/competitor Hyperloop TT’s China project is the most advanced so far, with the unveiling of the first prototype cabin an indication that things are starting to get serious and hyperloop is not just a wacky figment of Elon Musk’s imagination. It was Musk who first drew attention to the potential he saw in the concept new transport system, publishing a white paper in response to California’s plan for a high speed railway line between LA and San Francisco. His paper outlined a hyperloop alternative that claimed the journey, almost 400 miles, could be made in half an hour and that building it would cost a fraction of the proposed high speed rail infrastructure. Since, a handful of L.A.-based hyperloop start-ups have been established, including Musk’s Boring Company, and are working towards making that vision a reality.
The Hyperloop TT cabin, named the ‘Quintero One’, is 32 metres long, weighs 5 tons and is made of lightweight, durable composite materials. The company plans to use it during testing of its first commercial track in China.