“If you drive a car, a train, a plane, a bicycle, your main source of resistance is the air,” said Alexander Zisa, vice president of programs at Hyperloop Transport Technologies (HyperloopTT). Investment monitor.
“When you put your hand out, even at low speed, you can feel this resistance on the small surface of your hand. That’s why we move things in the pipe, “he says, pointing to the massive pipe structure hanging over us.
Headquartered in the United States, HyperloopTT has a research and development center in Toulouse, France, which Investment monitor visited during a press visit to the city. Upon arrival at the site, nestled in Francazal, a former military base, two striking features catch your eye: the futuristic-looking hyperloop capsule and the tubular structure that runs through the wide aisle.
Popularized by Elon Musk in 2012, the concept of hyperloop, a transport method based on a vacuum tube, first appeared in 1799 thanks to the English inventor George Medhurst and has since tried different types of pneumatic rail, atmospheric rail or vactrain without achieving commercial success.
This particular hyperloop concept has been developed by HyperloopTT since its inception in 2013. The capsule – designed to carry people or cargo – is carried inside a leaky tube and is capable of reaching speeds of up to 1200 km per hour (km / h).
Is Hyperloop Everything It’s Common About?
Currently, high-speed rail systems around the world reach an average speed of about 320 km / h. Currently, although the speed that HyperloopTT can reach is 1,200 km / h, the company is compromising 750 km / h so that it can be ready sooner rather than later, according to Zisa.
The idea is then to increase the speed gradually. “Later, as technology matures, we will be able to push the boundaries,” he said.
He adds that part of the reason for this trade-off in terms of speed comes from creating routes that have turns instead of being completely straight. An example of this different route option was initiated by HyperloopTT in 2018, when the company signed a public-private partnership agreement with the Northeast Ohio Coordinating Agency to explore the Great Lakes Hyperloop corridor.
The study assesses the technical, financial and regulatory viability of the Chicago-Cleveland-Pittsburgh corridor. Zisa explains that drawing a straight line between cities is, of course, the fastest route, but it is also expensive when crossing villages, rivers and other obstacles that require significant infrastructure investment.
To avoid this, curves can be introduced along the route, which reduces the average speed and increases the distance, but also affects the investment. This comes down to the investor, Zisa adds, and whether “they want to invest a little more money to reduce the duration, or they want to limit the investment and increase the duration.”
When it comes to what goes into the capsules, HyperloopTT has two configurations; one optimized for passengers, which is “the company’s main configuration so far,” and another for freight, according to Zisa. In February 2022, another large Hyperloop company, Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop, decided to end the development of its passenger transport solutions to focus solely on freight transport.
Hyperloop’s rich promise for the environment
When it comes to environmental factors, the potential of hyperloop is particularly exciting. The idea is for the HyperloopTT system to generate more energy than it uses by integrating solar panels and other renewable energy sources to create a net energy-positive system. “Calculations show that we are already lower in terms of carbon footprint than the railway line,” Zisa said.
Most of the carbon footprint of HyperloopTT systems comes from the creation of the infrastructure, as the energy required by the capsule to move through the tube is minimal, Zisa adds.
In fact, he says, the company would not exist if the hypercycle was not energy efficient, as this is one of the main goals of the technology.
The promises are great and the opportunities seem exciting to say the least, but the audience will have to wait a little longer before the hypercycle becomes a reality. Zisa says we hope this is a matter of “single digits” in terms of years of waiting ahead – but also says he is optimistic about life.