Magnetic Thrust: Why all the hype about the Hyperloop train?
The futuristic transport aims to reach top speeds of up to 760 miles per hour. No wonder, then, that the world is going loopy for this technology of the future.
The concept is the brainchild of billionaire Elon Musk and on May 11 this year the company Hyperloop One opened a new chapter in the propulsion story. On a test track near Las Vegas, a carriage was placed on rails and accelerated to 116 mph in just 1.1 seconds, not only shaking up the hot desert sand, but also the high-speed transport industry.
It’s fast, really fast
As a little reference: In 2015 two University of Stuttgart students set a new world speed record with a lightweight electric vehicle. Their entry in the Guinness Book of Records looks almost sedate in comparison: taking a whole 1.779 seconds to reach 100 km per hour (0-62mph). The Hyperloop’s planned cruising speed of up to 760 miles per hour is more than impressive.
In order to overcome air resistance, this futuristic train will be disguised as a kind of capsule travelling on magnetic air cushions floating through giant tubes with lowered air pressure. Meanwhile a large propeller at the front shovels additional air aside to optimise propulsion.
To realise this vision, Hyperloop One is already planning the next steps. They are currently working on an extension of the test track, where they will attempt to measure maximum terminal velocity. Simultaneously, the hover and vacuum technologies will be put through their paces using a three kilometres long tube. If the projects run to schedule, there could be testing within the tubes early next year.
Different uses of the Hyperloop
Given the quick acceleration and high cruising speed, the Hyperloop could inspire a range of uses. In theory, a trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles could take just 30 minutes. Think of the possibilities for fast transport between UK cities, or even to continental Europe.
A Hyperloop connection between Finland and Sweden is already being considered. The route that leads through the Åland Islands could bring the time required to travel from Stockholm and Helsinki to just half an hour. By comparison, a ferry ride across the Baltic Sea can take almost 16 hours swallowing a whole day.
Alternatively, the Hyperloop could offer a fast connection between airports and cities. Take Shanghai for example, where a Maglev train connects the Pudong airport with the suburbs in just seven minutes. It would give a whole new meaning to the names Gatwick and Heathrow Express when you could reach central London in a fraction of the time.
The technology not only has benefits for passenger services, but also for the transport of goods as well, with German and French railway companies already in discussions to climb on board the Hyperloop hype train.