WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
- In 2013 the Hyperloop, a Mach 1.0 train in a tube, was nothing more than a drawing on a napkin, now Hyperloop One have completed the first full system test of one
While you might never have naturally thought as a child that one day you’d like to zoom around the country stuck in a windowless pod travelling at over 700 mph I’m betting that since Elon Musk floated the idea back in 2013 the thought’s been crossing your mind with increasingly regularity. I am, of course, talking about Musk’s Hyperloop, a futuristic train that was once nothing more than a pipe dream of travellers everywhere that’s quickly becoming a reality, and that one day could even run beneath the streets of Los Angeles.
Stuck on a hot cattle truck of a commuter train with just you and your three hundred closest sweaty friends for company for a couple of hours? Cut that journey down to ten minutes and swap cattle truck for air cushioned, air conditioned luxury. Bliss.
Anyway, I can but hope that one day that’s the experience I get when travelling around the UK rather than the former but it’s unlikely for the foreseeable future, in the UK at least. However, if you live in China, Dubai, India, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea or the US then you might be in luck, and last week Hyperloop One, one of the Hyperloop’s most famous start ups successfully tested a full Hyperloop system, which is ostensibly a world first.
The step into the future occurred in May at the company’s Nevada test track that was opened earlier this year, where the company’s engineers watched a magnetically levitating test sled fire through a tube in near-vacuum, reaching 70 mph in just over five seconds. And while that’s just a fraction of the final speed the test was an important step in establishing that the Hyperloop concept can work and that it’s more than vapourware.
“This is integrating all of the pieces,” says Josh Giegel, Hyperloop One’s engineering chief, “it’s the first phase of a test program that will get us to a production unit.”
Hyperloop One also revealed its design for the pod that will carry the people, or cargo, depending on the type of Hyperloop that countries buy, and the pod, which is made of aluminium and carbon fibre, is 28 feet long and resembles a communter bus.
The test comes just about a year after Hyperloop One publicly demonstrated their propulsion system on a tube free track in Nevada, and the addition of that full-scale tube, which was 11 feet in diameter and 1,600 feet long, and the engineers’ ability to suck nearly all the air out of it, is a big step forwards. That said though there’s plenty left to do.
For one, they need to master the airlock system that will allow pods to move into and out of the tube without compromising the vacuum, and they hope that that addition will come soon after they reach their next goal – to test the track at 250 mph.
In the meantime the team will be working hard to improve the reliability of the system and reduce its costs – two crucial elements that will help the Hyperloop move off the drawing board and into production, as well as helping them take another step along the road to creating a system that the public and regulators will certify as safe to use.
While the future of transportation might not be here yet, your dream of travelling in a windowless tube at Mach speeds is now so close you can touch it.
Wait, that’s someone’s sweaty armpit – your still stuck in the past, but the future will be here soon. And relax.