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Delft Hyperloop test track

Hyperloop test track to begin trials in the Netherlands

Image credit: Reuters/Michael Kooren

The Dutch team, which won the SpaceX hyperloop pod competition this year, is due to begin low-speed tests in a 30m test track. They hope to build a hyperloop transport link between Amsterdam and Paris by 2021.

A hyperloop is a futuristic mode of transport, whereby pods are catapulted through near-vacuums along magnetic rails in airtight tunnels. Hyperloops could, in theory, allow travel of up to 700mph, allowing international journeys to be completed in minutes.

“People were dreaming already of transporting humans and cargo [in hyperloops] from the 1860s, so the concept is not that new,” said Tom Houter, co-founder and CEO of Hardt Global Mobility.

“But when Elon Musk proposed it as a transportation system between San Francisco and Los Angeles it got a huge boost.”

Elon Musk, the SpaceX and Tesla founder, wrote a white paper in 2013 proposing hyperloops as a means of travelling across huge distances without being caught in traffic, and suggested how they may work. Since then, many companies have been attempting to make this ambitious technology a reality, and one company, Hyperloop One, is in the process of building a full-system test track in the Nevada desert.

The annual SpaceX hyperloop pod competition brings together teams from all other the world to race on a test track with scaled-down pods.

A team from the Technical University of Delft won the all-around design and construction award at the last competition in January. After their success, they founded the company Hardt Global Mobility to commercialise the technology. They have received €600,000 funding for their first rounds of testing.

Their 149kg pod would have a fail-safe braking system which halts the vehicle if there is a power outage. Passenger pods would also have virtual windows and personal information screens.

Delft hyperloop pod interior

Hardt Global Mobility

Image credit: Hardt Global Mobility

Hardt has built a full-scale airtight steel tube 30m long and more than 3m wide, and next will add rails and their specialised shuttle. The test track will be used for checking all systems which do not require high speeds: the propulsion, levitation and safety systems.

The company hopes to build a high-speed line by 2019 for testing lane switching, turning corners and top-speed travel. By 2021, they hope to have completed a commercial Delft Hyperloop to whisk passengers between Amsterdam and Paris in 30 minutes.

“It’s our goal to let it be available for the daily commuter,” said Houter, who described the hyperloop as an “on-demand, high-speed transportation system for everyone”.

“So there will be a vehicle inside this tube going back and forth with the levitation system we’re using, the stabilisation system we’re using and the safety systems.”

According to Dutch infrastructure and environment minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen, a hyperloop system could help cement the Netherlands’ position as a gateway to Europe, by transporting freight arriving at the port in Rotterdam.

“If you then can move the goods in a fast way to the rest of Europe, this is very important for competition.”

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