There are many companies working on Hyperloop technology and there is a race among them to create the fastest transportation system, expanding on Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s idea of a sealed pod that can travel free of air resistance and friction.
For the uninitiated, a Hyperloop is basically a tube travelling in a vacuum, which gives it great advantage over traditional modes of transportation.
A group of engineering students from the Indian technical institute BITS Pilani, called Team Hyperloop, which was formed in 2015 in response to a SpaceX design contest, have created a prototype pod that will run at 750 miles per hour. For comparison, the U.S. based Hyperloop One is testing a prototype in the Nevada desert that will run at 300 miles per hour with an eventual goal of reaching 750 miles per hour.
The difference between both the models according to the Indian publication, Hindustan times, is that the Hyperloop India model is going for a “scalability first” model, which will make the design more flexible for carrying both cargo and passengers. It will also be cheaper than a bullet train proposed by the Indian government.
“Hyperloop is tube travel wherein you have a vehicle that is magnetically levitated and propelled inside a vacuum tube. The technology that is used for the propulsion and braking systems can vary. If Hyperloop were to replace the high-speed rail that is currently being proposed... the entire infrastructure cost will be 40% less, plus the maintenance costs will be much less. It will also require very little land acquisition,” Prithvi Shankar, a BE final year student at BITS Pilani and a member of what is being called Team Hyperloop, told Indian news agency IANS last week.
Instead of a carbon-fibre material that is being currently used for building Hyperloop capsules, the Indian team will use aircraft-grade aluminium, which will lower the cost. The team is also betting on the fact that its model will use an aerodynamic structure.
But, what’s the need for an aerodynamic structure in a vacuum? Even though there is little air to be displaced inside a Hyperloop, an aerodynamic structure will take care of the little air drag that is there.
A completed Hyperloop Project might not see the light of day before 2021, but of the models being tested, the Indian one developed by Team Hyperloop might be the cheapest one on offer so far.
Elon Musk himself is working on a Boring tunnel project connecting New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. The New York to Washington D.C. track for example, will reduce travel time to 29 minutes between the cities. The Musk-owned Boring company has already started tunnelling under Los Angeles.
Currently the technology is in nascent stage, but once it comes to the fore and starts crossing state lines, states will need to catch up in terms of laws and approval will need to be sought.