Hyperloop Routes Planned in Europe, Korea, and the United States

The maglev system aims to cut travel time from hours to minutes

25 July 2017

If you live in Bangalore, London, Seattle, or Seoul, a hyperloop is being planned for your city. Two companies working on turning IEEE Honorary Member Elon Musk’s vision of speedy travel through tubes into reality have unveiled potential routes for their transportation systems, according to an article in The Telegraph. The companies claim travel time between major cities could take minutes, not hours.

Passengers traveling in pods built by Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) would be propelled through an underground tube kept at a near-vacuum. The sealed pods theoretically could travel at close to the speed of sound (about 1,200 kilometers per hour), using a fairly low-energy propulsion system that employs passive magnetic levitation. (Read about the award-winning passenger-carrying pod built by a team of MIT students that included IEEE Graduate Student Member Yiou He.)

Both companies, based in Los Angeles, are making headway.

HYPERLOOP ONE

When Hyperloop One’s Global Challenge last year invited cities from around the world to submit viable hyperloop plans, it received 2,600 entries from 90 countries. The cities are competing for the chance to have Hyperloop One help them build their transportation system.

The 35 semifinalists, announced last month, include routes between Bangalore and Chennai, India; Liverpool and Glasgow; London and Edinburgh; Kansas City, Mo., and St. Louis; Los Angeles and San Diego; Miami and Orlando, Fla.; and Seattle and Portland, Ore. Hyperloop One estimates the 660-km London to Edinburgh route, for example, would take 50 minutes instead of more than seven hours by car.

Three finalists are to be chosen next year to work with Hyperloop One’s engineering and business development teams to explore project development and financing.

The company in March announced it had signed a deal with Dubai’s transportation agency to pursue a passenger and cargo hyperloop network that would connect the city with Abu Dhabi and other locations in the United Arab Emirates. The system could get passengers from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in about 12 minutes; it takes about 80 minutes by car.

The company this month completed the first successful run on its new 500-meter test track in the Nevada desert, according to The Telegraph.

“Hyperloop is real, and it’s here now,” Shervin Pishevar, Hyperloop One’s cofounder and executive chairman, said in The Telegraph article. “By achieving full vacuum, we essentially invented our own sky in a tube—as if you’re flying.”

HYPERLOOP TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGIES

HTT is licensing its innovations including levitation and propulsion systems and battery and energy-management technology. The company last month signed its first such agreement with South Korea’s technological innovation and infrastructure department, the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT), and Hanyang University, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal. The agreement includes licensing and R&D of a nationwide tube infrastructure, and the development of safety standards and regulations.

The country has completed its initial research and is now working on implementing the transportation system, the Hyper Tube Express (HTX), to connect several cities. HTX would travel at around 998 km/h, meaning the roughly 390-km journey from Seoul to Busan would take 20 minutes instead of more than four hours by car.

“Tube travel changes the way people live and move; it has the opportunity to unite people,” KICT’s president, Tai Sik Lee, said in a news release. “The Republic of Korea continues its tradition of technological advancement and innovation by bringing this technology to life. The government has allocated the necessary resources, we finalized our preliminary research, and now we are getting ready to implement.”

HTT also signed a deal in March to bring its technology to Slovakia to link the capital, Bratislava, with Vienna and Budapest.

OUTSTANDING ISSUES

Despite the enthusiasm for hyperloop systems, a number of issues still need to be addressed. For example, rapidly compressing air to provide the cushion for the maglev system would generate tremendous heat inside the pod and the tube. Other concerns include the costs of acquiring the land on which to build the tubes as well as their construction. And because test pods have yet to hold human passengers, it’s not clear how safe travel would be. Moreover, the public hasn’t been asked whether it would travel in a pod at such high speeds.

What’s more, regulations for the transportation systems don’t exist.

“When you’re building a completely new mode of transportation, the most difficult part is getting regulations approved,” said Dirk Ahlborn, HTT’s chief executive. “If you don’t have the government actively supporting you, it could take decades to move something commercially.”

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