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Whatever happened to the Hyperloop Programme

Saroop KP

It has not been so long since we started hearing high speed transportation availed by bullet trains. But the Hyperloop technology which is at the concept-cum-experimental stage is expected to surpass the bullet train with its efficiency in speed and saving time. The Hyperloop program is a proposed mode of passenger and/or freight transportation designed and released by a joint team of Tesla and SpaceX. Today, a number of companies in the transportation sector are working on this fifth mode of transportation programme, as envisaged by Elon Musk, for its growing importance and market demand. The Hyperloop Genesis paper conceives it to be a system that would propel passengers at a speed of 760 mph, which is 1,200 kmph along a distance of 560 km, taking 35 minutes for the completion of the journey.

In 2015, SpaceX announced a Hyperloop Pod Competition in order to fortify the development of functional prototypes and encourage students and non-student teams to design and build the best high-speed pods. In the end of July 2019, Virgin Hyperloop One, an American transportation technology company has paved the way for setting up a hyperloop project in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The Maharashtra government nodded for the Pune-Mumbai hyperloop project to become one of the first implementations of hyperloop technology in the world. The company is developing its technologies in Los Angeles, and has planned to have three systems in service by 2020. The company’s partnership program with the Saudi Arabia’s Economic City Authority (ECA) has unveiled plans to build the world’s longest test and certification hyperloop track, as well as a R&D centre.

The hyperloop transportation technology has two main parts for the electric motor; a stator and rotor. The stator is mounted to a tube while the rotor is mounted to the pod. The pod will float above the track with the help of maglev (Magnetic levitation) and glides due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag, as per Virgin Hyperloop One’s website. Maglev, an electronic propulsion system helps to levitate, accelerate and brake using electromagnetic force. The system has a mechanical fail-safe system which utilizes non-contact braking using an array of 400+ magnets and decelerates the pod at the 2.4G maximum permitted under SpaceX rules.

The alpha proposal project that enables a ride in a narrow sealed tunnel is criticised for producing significant acceleration forces, vibration, and jostling. The Verge reports that at high speeds, even minor deviations from straight path can cause buffeting. Towards building a high level transportation program using top level technological resources can circumvent the issues associated with it and make a possible future where distance no longer matters.

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