Could the hyperloop ever become reality or is it just a pipe dream? That remains to be seen but for now, it could become reality sooner than people think. Since Elon Musk first proposed the concept almost 10 years ago a lot of work has been done and today a number of companies around the world are pursuing the concept.
The first human trials were completed in 2020 and there are plans to make it operational by 2030. The hyperloop should now be included in experts' predictions of the future of travel. In other domains of transport, the future is already here. The high-end electric cars now have what it takes for an epic road trip (and even an off-road trip).
What The Hyperloop Is
The plan is to move passengers (and cargo) as fast as airline speeds at just a fraction of the cost of air travel. The idea is for the system to be entirely autonomous, quiet, and direct to the destination.
When Elon Musk first spoke about the concept in July 2012 at a PandoDaily event in Santa Monica, California he called it the "Hyperloop." It was conceptualized as a fifth mode of transport that could somehow be collision-free, twice the speed of a plane, low power consumption, immune to weather, and have energy storage for 24-hour operations.
Later on, Musk likened it to a "cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table". The idea of the hyperloop is to create a high-speed transportation system for both passengers and freight transport.
- Coined: The Name Was Coined by Elon Musk
"There's no denying the appeal of Hyperloop -- for one thing, it's pretty cool. The idea of whisking passengers across country at super high speed, in a levitating tube, is an impressive idea. All the pods we've seen so far are sleek, streamlined structures that wouldn't look out of place in a futuristic sci-fi movie."
The Hyperloop is compromised of three major parts - a long tunnel (sealed and with low-pressure), pressurized pods, and terminals.
- Current Record: 463 km/h or 288 mph By The Technical University of Munich in July 2019
- Three Essential Components: Tubes, Pods, and Terminals
Who's Working On It And What That Means
Some of the companies currently working on developing the hyperloop include Virgin Hyperloop, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Transpod, DGWHyperloop, Arrivo, Hardt Global Mobility, Zeleros, and Nemovo.
In theory, this will mean people can go from LA to San Franciso in just 45 minutes and the tickets may end up costing less than $100 one way. This is the futuristic technology that many entrepreneurial companies are seeking to make it reality. Today its development is continuing at a pace and it looks like it really will be a future of transport - a fifth mode of transport.
If it becomes reality, it could mean less congestion and pollution and maybe even make it viable to live and work in two separate cities.
But for now, it seems that it is at least a decade off into the future (or as little as 8 years if Virgin Hyperloop realizes their stated goal).
Virgin Hyperloop - A Hyperloop Leader
One of the leading companies investing in developing the Hyperloop is Virgin Hyperloop. In November 2020 they conducted the first human trial at a test site in Las Vegas. The test reached speeds of up to 172 km/h (107 mph). The company was first established in 2014 and reorganized and renamed in 2017.
Virgin Hyperloop says on its website:
- Virgin Hyperloop Planned Speed: 670 mph or over 1000 km/h
In the years working on the project, Virgin Hyperloop has made a number of substantive changes to Elon Musk's original proposal. They have also chosen not to pursue the Los Angeles to San Franciso route that Elon Musk suggested.
- Plan: To Begin Commerical Operations By 2030
The company has managed to raise significant capital and has built a number of test modules. Virgin Hyperloop has a stated goal to launch commercial operations by 2030.