Hyperloop One’s vision is still quite remote, but the company might have its first commercial customer, and we could soon see a functional system in Dubai.
Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop Technologies) has done a deal with DP World and the two will now carry out a faesibility study at Port Jebel Ali. They want to see whether the high-speed transport system could take cargo from the ships to a nearby depot for processing, storage and overland transport.
How does Hyperloop work?
Hyperloop is a pneumatic network of tubes that can carry passenger pods or substantial cargo pods that float inside the surface. The pods can travel at huge speeds, up to 750mph, like a fully-enclosed version of Japan’s Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) train.
Hyperloop is driven by a complex series of air compressors and linear induction motors. In the first test, the basic sled accelerated to 116mph in 1.1s, which Hyperloop One hailed as a great success. It is one thing to fire an unmanned sled along a track, though, and quite another to put people into the mix over hundreds of miles.
The Dubai authorities want to start with cargo, but if the experiment proves successful then the government is keen to extend the Hyperloop concept to a passenger service. A link between Port Jebel Ali and Fujairah could take people across the country in just 10 minutes.
Los Angeles-San Francisco in 35 minutes
Elon Musk’s original vision for the first Hyperloop was to create a passenger service linking Los Angeles to San Francisco, but this was just a concept. Still, it grabbed the headlines with a rough sketch and the promise to transport people between the two cities in 35 minutes at speeds of up to 600mph.
Hyperloop One is one of the companies that stepped up the plate to turn Musk’s dream into reality. But with limited testing on a 1-mile test track in Nevada, projected costs of billions and the potential risks, this was never going to happen first.
MagLev train is limited
The Japanese train has traveled at 366mph, although they are limited to 270mph with cargo on board and approximately 180mph with passengers. We still have to wait for tests to see how fast the Hyperloop can transport passengers. Hyperloop developers will have to work with regulators to define how fast it is allowed to go.
The sheer speed could bring its own physical and physiological impact. Removing the wind resistance and all physical contact with the track should prevent jerking motions that could cause nausea and other effects. At that speed, though, any type of deceleration or acceleration could cause problems.
Cargo is a safer start
This is one of the great unknowns with the Hyperloop system. Starting with a cargo system could give Hyperloop One the real world test bed it needs to iron out any glitches in the system and prove the concept before it moves to a passenger system.
Following the first tests, Hyperloop One raised a further $80 million in funding and investors included the French national rail service (SNCF). Other partners include Germany’s Deutsche Bahn Engineering & Consulting and British company Arup, which is working on London’s Crossrail. So the world is waiting for Hyperloop.
The CEO of Hyperloop One, Rob Lloyd, said: “We will work alongside these world-class partners to redefine the future of transportation, providing a more immediate, safe, efficient and sustainable high-speed backbone for the movement of people and things.”
Dubai could be the start of something great and we’ll keep a close eye on this high-speed cargo transport system that could turn out to be a new dawn in personal travel.