Hyperloop One pod in Nevada testing facility

Hyperloop One completes first full test run in a vacuum

Image credit: Hyperloop One

The company, which aims to deliver a fully operational hyperloop by 2020, succeeded in accelerating a pod through a vacuum tube and achieving magnetic levitation, before it reached the end of the test track.

The concept of hyperloops spun out from a white paper written by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Frustrated by the inefficiency of road-based transport, Mr Musk suggested that ultra-high speed travel could zip people across countries – using the example of a San Francisco to Los Angeles route – in a matter of minutes.

A hyperloop system is composed of airtight, low-friction tubes, through which pods containing passengers or cargo are accelerated to extreme high speeds. While no hyperloop systems yet exist, it has been touted as potentially the fastest and most environmentally friendly form of transport.

While Musk declined to work on developing a hyperloop system himself, he encouraged other companies to attempt to make the idea a reality.

Hyperloop One, a California-based company, appears to have made the most practical progress so far. The company has raised more than $160m from investors including General Electric, and is in talks to develop cargo and passenger routes in the Middle East, Northern Europe, Russia, India and the US. It aims to complete a fully functional hyperloop system by 2020, and has suggested that the technology could entirely reshape society.

The company carried out an initial open air test in the Nevada desert in 2016 and, in the same facility, have carried out its first test in a vacuum. During the short test run in the 500m-long, 3.3m-wide vacuum tube, the pod was accelerated to 70mph with a linear motor and levitated for 5.3 seconds before braking.

In a statement, Shervin Pishevar, co-founder of Hyperloop One, commented that Hyperloop One had accomplished “what no one has done before”.

“By achieving full vacuum, we essentially invented our own sky in a tube, as if you’re flying at 200,000ft in the air,” he said.

The run tested the system’s motor, vehicle suspension, magnetic levitation, electromagnetic braking, vacuum pumping system and other components.

Although the test was completed in May this year, Hyperloop One have only announced the test and released footage and details recently. According to a company spokesperson, this is because the company is now entering Phase 2 of testing, in which the test vehicle will be accelerated to 250mph.

Musk envisioned a fully operational hyperloop system to exceed speeds of 600mph, faster than that of standard aircraft.

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