How Close Hyperloop Trains Are Really?

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Hyperloop trains are considered the future of global transportation, aiming to replace air traveling with something that is a lot safer and quite faster in most cases. What they are is basically magnetically levitated trains like those that operate in several places around the world for many years already, with the difference being that they traverse through the controlled environment of a low air pressure tube that significantly reduces the only force that works against them, and that is air resistance. The result is the reaching of impressive speeds by using relatively little energy and almost no adverse effects on the environment. While all this sounds awesome admittedly, the truth about when we should be expecting to ride one of those super-fast trains is blurry to say the least. Let’s take a look at the state of the most important players in this field in an attempt to draw our own conclusions.

Hyperloop One

Supported by Elon Musk and SpaceX engineers, this venture has received the widest publicity in the field and this wasn’t only a stunt. During the previous year, Hyperloop One did a real world test reaching 2.5G of acceleration inside the tube, released a detailed study explaining the feasibility of a Hyperloop connection between Helsinki and Stockholm, and also partnered with the Bjarke Ingels Group and the Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority to start working on the development of a 93-mile loop where people will travel in speeds that reach 1100 km/h! The expected date of the project delivery is some¬†point in 2020.

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Korean Railroad Research Institute

KRRI (Korean Railroad Research Institute) has started cooperation with the Hanyang University to build a hyperloop connecting Seoul and Busan. The particular trip distance is currently covered in 50 minutes by plane and five hours by bus, but the new train will only take 30 minutes traveling at a speed of 1000 km/h. KRRI are confident that they are in a position to solve the problems that Hyperloop One currently faces by implementing innovative ideas from their national scientific community, and the time that they approximate for the hyperloop delivery is around three years.

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Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

HTT is something like “the Linux” of Hyperloop trains. Consisting of a group of 500-part time US engineers who collaborate through teleconference software, they estimate that they are only 10 years away from realizing their first commercial hyperloop. They already started building their test tracks back in 2015 which will be ready soon, and they too have partnered with the government of Abu Dhabi (just two months ago) to build a hyperloop link between them and Al-Ain.

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TransPod

TransPod is a startup that was introduced to the public only very recently. They too have a target date of around 2020 for their commercial vehicle delivery which is expected to be able to reach a max speed of 1220 km/h. Based in Toronto, Canada, they focus they efforts on building a hyperloop to connect Montreal and Toronto. In their development efforts, they enjoy the help of engineers working in aerospace companies, passionate university researchers, and even an acknowledged architecture firm.

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Conclusion

Everyone is targeting 2020 so it looks like we are having an investors race, more than sincere estimations. Right now, we can’t tell if any of the above will actually reach commercialisation stage as we have yet to see even a tentative realization of the hyperloop system. Moreover, transportation economists aren’t yet convinced that the development of these systems will be as cheap as these companies claim it to be. That said, the feasibility studies published by these companies are disputed. Only time will tell, but right now, the three years time sounds too promising to be good. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

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I'm an engineer with a passion for writing about new technologies and the ways they shape our world and amplify our very existence.