The Fifth Mode
Hyperloop’s plans to cut your travel time by ten
Whether it be to a meeting, to work, or to an appointment, everyone’s been there. You’re racing down the street, dishevelled and flustered, and then, it hits you like a wall: traffic.
You run into the meeting late. You’re emotionally defeated. It probably doesn’t go as well as it would have otherwise.
For all of the people who need to hear it, it’s not completely your fault. As the global population rises, so does soul-destroying traffic. Every year, the average American spends 19 days in traffic. I repeat: 19 days.
Wouldn’t it be nice if traffic was a thing of the past?
Currently, we have four types of transportation: trains, using rail, cars, on the road, ships, at sea, and planes, in the sky. Each of these have been around for decades, but road and water are slow, air is expensive, and rail is slow and expensive.
So much innovation and hard work is being put into the transportation industry from so many different companies, and they might just have just come up with something new — with all of the benefits of current transportation, but without their flaws.
It’s called Hyperloop.
In 2012, Elon Musk and a group of engineers from both Tesla Motors and SpaceX proposed the concept of “hyperloop”. Hyperloop is an open-source design concept for a new, innovative form of transportation — vactrain, short for vacuum train.
Ever seen those old pneumatic tube systems in mailrooms in movies? Mailroom workers put messages in containers and stick these containers into a tube that sucks the container up to someone else.
They wanted to do the same, but for people.
When this idea makes it into the real world, a hyperloop ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco will take only 35 minutes, compared to a 5-hour drive by car. If you wanted, you could even live in a completely different city than where you work.
Imagine leaving your crowded office, getting in a pod, and relaxing at your home in the countryside. The speed of travel would open many possibilities like increased family time, vacation time, and being able to completely maximize your free time.
The reason it has not made its way into everyday life is that hyperloop isn’t able to compete with current transportation, yet. This is because hyperloop needs to be made safer, faster, and cheaper.
Luckily, Elon Musk’s concept makes it meet these criteria.
Many different methods are being used in developing hyperloop, but they are all based on the same futuristic concept. To put it in layman’s terms, a capsule or pod will travel at supersonic speeds through a tube.
The two main parts of a hyperloop system are the pod and the tube. First, all types of resistance must be eliminated for the pod to reach the desired 700+ mph. That means typical rail and air resistance must be removed.
The electric motor in the pods has a typical rotor and stator, but instead of the motor being circular like typical electric motors, this motor is linear. So, when an electric current passes through the electromagnetic stator, the rotor and stator attract. These super strong magnets continuously pull the pods along the track, at an insane 700 mph 🤯.
Using magnetic levitation to keep the pod from making contact with the tube and using magnets to propel the pods forward prevents friction caused by typical rail trains, but there’s still air resistance.
In Elon’s Musk’s concept of hyperloop, almost all of the air is removed (removing all of the air would be too costly, and simply unnecessary) using vacuum pumps, creating extremely low pressure (only about 100 pascals). In contrast, Earth’s atmospheric pressure is around 101,000 pascal.
When the pods are moving through the tubes, the little air that is found in the tube ends up being turned into a compressed air cushion in front of the pod, slowing them down. So, adding a compressor fan at the front of the pods will suck in air and redirect it to the back, removing the friction.
Lots of work is still needed to bring this concept to the world. Many experiments are being done with many different types of capsules. In 2018, Elon Musk’s hyperloop capsule competition, a competition for small groups of engineers and university students to try to create the best prototype, awarded WARR Hyperloop with first place.
In the end, WARR Hyperloop won the competition for reaching a top speed of 290mph. Their 154-pound, carbon fibre pod is powered by a 50kW electric motor. According to the team, it features pneumatic friction brakes that allow the pod to come to a standstill within five seconds. They accomplished this by using four pneumatic friction brakes which are able to execute a 2.4 g deceleration sequence. Prototypes of pods for passengers only and pods for passengers and their vehicles are both being explored. However, they mainly use the same methods.
Since the Hyperloop concept is open-source, many companies are being formed trying to be the first to commercialize the system.
One of these is the “Virgin Hyperloop One”. It was earlier called “Hyperloop One” and before that, it was “Hyperloop Technologies”. The company started in a garage in Los Angeles and by June 2015, it had raised 11 million dollars in investments. On May 11, 2016, they changed their name to Hyperloop One and announced that they had raised $80 million in investments. Since then, they made incredible advancements and achieved test speeds of 240 mph.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies was founded on August 29, 2003, on JumpStartFund. Their company has over 800 collaborators and has developed next-generation passive magnetic levitation technology and “Vibranium Shield Technology” for capsule safety. Now, they have raised over a hundred million dollars in investments and are constructing hyperloop systems for human trials in 2020.
And then comes TransPod, a Canadian start-up 🇨🇦 ! The TransPod Headquarters is in Toronto, Canada and they are revolutionizing transportation with Hyperloop. They were founded in 2015 and are trying to develop hyperloop systems throughout Canada. In November 2016, they raised $15 million dollars in investments and released a cost study in July 2017 showing the TransPod tube system would cost half the cost of a high-speed rail line, while being able to go 4x as fast. *Happy Canadian Noises*
When people first hear about travelling at supersonic speeds, inside a capsule, inside a tube with no air, they might be a little freaked out. Even my step-mom thinks it sounds unsafe. But the hyperloop concept is one of the safest forms of transportation.
The fully autonomous hyperloop system involves the vehicle, propulsion system, energy management, timing, and route, eliminating human error. The capsules travel through a controlled environment meaning bad weather conditions like wind, ice, fog, and rain won’t have any impact on the system. The tubes will even be supported by specially designed pillars that shift with the structure to keep it safe from earthquakes.
Since the hyperloop removes human error and is immune to hazardous weather conditions, there are very few safety concerns.
Cost, however, is a bigger concern when it comes to hyperloop but in Musk’s proposal, a round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to San Fransico would only cost $40, making it a viable option of transportation for everyone. Also, in his proposal, the construction and land acquisition only cost $16 million per mile, compared to the California High-Speed Rail development which costs $177 per mile. However, it should be noted that Musk’s cost doesn’t align with other proposals.
With Musk’s proposal, he claims that the system would be self-sufficient with solar panels across the length of the tube. Solar panels would drop the long-term costs and would make it extremely eco-friendly with low emissions.
Hyperloop is a concept that should soon become a reality. The world as we know it is growing — fast. With the expanding population, you’ll spend more time in the increasingly more dangerous roads because of traffic and sloppy human error. Advancing our transportation systems will make our lives so much easier, and you’ll never be ashamed of being late again.
“[You] could either watch it happen or be part of it,”
Source: This story was originally published on Medium on November 7, 2019.