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It’s a rainy Friday afternoon, you get to the train station to make that big journey from where you are to where you need to be. There’s only one problem….. it’s going to take 3 hours! Now, what if I told you that it could be reduced to about half an hour? Sound good?
This scenario has taken another step closer to reality this week with the announcement that Elon Musk has been given permission to begin digging the foundations of his Hyperloop Project from New York to Washington DC which is just over 200 miles.
But he’s not the only one. Richard Branson has announced plans for an Hyperloop from Mumbai to Pune in India. Again, this project would cut a 3hr journey into less than 30 minutes and is purported to be able to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 86,000 tons over 30 years.
I’m sorry, a hyper what?
An Hyperloop is a proposed concept of passenger and/or freight transport that travels through a sealed tube, or network of tubes, without any friction or air resistance due to the near vacuum created in the tubes. This highly efficient method of transport would subsequently reduce travel times over large distances as the pods would be able to reach speeds in excess of 600mph, which is considerably faster than our current system of trains.
The pods would begin their journey using an electric motor before they switched to either magnetic levitation technology or air caster "skis". The levitation technology would be similar to that seen on the magnetic levitation trains of Japan and China or the air caster technology would be similar to that seen on an air hockey table, where the puck flows freely over the table due to the layer of air beneath it.
The fundamental concept of the Hyperloop isn’t exactly a new one, in fact the idea of travelling through a vacuum tube and been around for more than 100 years, even some of the first underground railways in Britain ran on an air pressure system. But it’s latest incarnation was put forward by the entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2012. He proposed a system of transport that would be immune to weather, twice the speed of a plane and have a lower power consumption. He later went on to describe his technology as a cross between a railgun, Concorde and an air hockey table.
However, Elon hasn’t kept this idea to himself, he has actually made it an open source project enabling private investors and entrepreneurs to make the first Hyperloops. However, Musk’s Space X company would have input in researching and funding the ideas, they just wouldn’t make the first ones. But based on the recent permissions given by the US, his Boring Company may actually be the first company to bring this idea into fruition.
I don’t know… This all sounds expensive.
Cost projections have been mixed but the general argument is that as an overall cost, it would be cheaper than building rail infrastructure. Musk’s original proposed LA route was predicted to cost $6bn compared to $68bn for a high-speed rail link. However, leaked documents from Hyperloop One suggested even a shorter 107-mile loop in California would still cost up to $13bn so leaves us with little to go on in terms of price comparison. But one thing is certain, Hyperloops potentially need far less ground space to construct their tunnels and far less energy to transport the pods than conventional trains.
As mentioned previously, other benefits of the Hyperloop include the reduction in journey times by a significant factor. Turning a 3hr commute into a 30-minute ride will be of enormous benefit not only to businesses, but people as well.
Another benefit is the reduction in carbon emissions. Branson has predicted a saving of up to 86,000 tons over 30 years from his Mumbai venture. In a world where climate change is real and we need to find ways to reduce emissions, this seems like a no brainer.
So, when do we get to see it in action.
Current projections estimate the first Hyperloops to be up and running by 2020/2021.
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