Student team breaks hyperloop speed record
Image credit: Warr Hyperloop
A team of engineering students from Munich have smashed the previous speed record for the futuristic mode of transport; their small levitating pod reached 457km/h on a test track
The concept of the hyperloop was proposed by technologist Elon Musk, who came up with the idea while frustrated by traffic jams and watching aeroplanes flying above. He went on to distribute a White Paper describing a form of transport in which sealed pods containing cars, people or cargo are autonomously whisked through vacuum tubes at aircraft speed (Musk suggested speeds beyond 1000km/h). These tubes could span hundreds of thousands of miles and could be below, above or on the ground.
In theory, such a system could allow a person to commute from Edinburgh to London in the time it takes to watch a sitcom episode.
Since the release of the White Paper in 2013, a number of companies – such as Virgin Hyperloop One – have been working to make the technology a reality. However, there has been considerable scepticism about the likely cost and practical complications associated with rolling out this technology, which has not yet been demonstrated at full scale and speed.
Every year, Musk’s SpaceX runs a high-profile competition (the Hyperloop Pod competition) which invites teams from around the world to run a pod on a 1.2km test track near its headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Once the pods have passed a series of key tests and safety inspections, they were able to go on the test track. This year, all pods had to be entirely self-propelled.
Speaking at the event, Musk said: “This is really the first opportunity to create a new mode of transport. That’s really what this competition is about, things that could radically transform cities and the way people get around.”
The competition was won for the third time by Warr Hyperloop: a team from the Technical University of Munich. Their small, levitating, carbon-fibre pod reached a top speed of 457km/h on the track. The speed is a considerable improvement on last year’s record of 323km/h. Warr Hyperloop’s highest scoring rival reached speeds just 144km/h.
Regardless of the technology still being in its infancy, there are already plans to build one hyperloop in the Middle East, with conversations about possible hyperloops being built in Northwest Europe (including the UK), in India, and a smaller-scale “Loop” system beneath Los Angeles.