Virgin Hyperloop plans to carry passengers and cargo at speeds close to those of air travel, without any polluting emissions.
After a successful first test with passengers last November, Virgin Hyperloop is back with a new video detailing how its subsonic train works. We discover that the company has opted for a design never seen before, which places the entire traction system not under but above the capsule. The latter is thus suspended in the tube instead of sliding on a propulsion frame.
Virgin Hyperloop claims that its magnetic levitation and propulsion system would be ten times more efficient than the fastest maglev trains currently in use. The shuttles, or “pods,” will travel in a near-vacuum tube to almost completely eliminate air friction. The company claims that its transport solution will be able to carry 50,000 passengers per hour at a speed of 1,078 km/h and with the lowest possible emissions. According to the simulator on the Virgin Hyperloop website, a trip from Paris to Marseille would take only 49 minutes.
Based on batteries, the 100% electric system could be powered by solar panels installed all along the upper part of the tube. Depending on the terrain, a Hyperloop line could alternate between overhead and underground sections, with a footprint of between 12 and 24 meters compared to 18 to 30 meters for conventional high-speed trains. Virgin Hyperloop’s shuttles will be able to carry up to 28 passengers. They will travel in convoy but will not be physically connected like a train, which is supposed to offer more flexibility for serving different destinations.
A lot of promises but still a lot of questions
The ease of deployment that the company is touting is for the moment all theoretical and nothing concretely demonstrates that the construction and operation of a Hyperloop line is really more economical and ecologically less impacting than a conventional rail line. Let’s remember that the idea of the Hyperloop is very old. It was born in the mind of the physicist and engineer Robert Goddard who theorized it in 1904. Elon Musk revived the concept in 2012 by initiating an open-source project that several companies and student groups have taken up.
Hyperloop TT and TransPod are the two main competitors of Virgin Hyperloop, which has been working on its subsonic train since 2014, with a test center installed near Las Vegas (USA) where more than 500 tests have been conducted. The company is aiming for a first commercial operation by 2027. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and India are among the countries that are positioning themselves to be the first to welcome Hyperloop lines.