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As electric vehicles are set to take over the automotive world, the Virgin Hyperloop takes the technology a step further, as the next big thing that could redefine the future of transportation.
The technology could see passengers traveling up to 670 miles per hour in floating, battery-powered passenger pods, racing along inside long above-ground vacuum tunnels that look like large city pipes.
What would it be like to ride the Hyperloop and could this concept be a feasible transportation alternative to traditional means? Jerry has all the details.
How does the Virgin Hyperloop work?
As the name implies, the Virgin Hyperloop partners include Richard Branson's Virgin Group, though the technology is inspired by Tesla founder Elon Musk’s ideas published in a white paper back in 2013.
According to CNET, Musk likened the hyperloop experience to Disneyland’s Space Mountain, a futuristic, high-speed indoor rollercoaster.
While Musk envisioned a hyperloop called the Alpha whose pods would travel on air pockets, Virgin’s technology suspends pods with magnetic levitation that improves efficiency miles beyond the fastest trains currently using maglev technology, according to Virgin.
The vacuum-like nature of the tube encasing the pods reduces aerodynamic drag and cuts battery power consumption, while enabling super high speeds.
The project has been in the works since 2014, according to Virgin. Co-founder and Chief Executive of the Virgin Hyperloop project Josh Giegel told Reuters: "It will feel like an aircraft at take-off and once you're at speed. You won't even have turbulence …. Think noise-canceling but bump-canceling, if you will."
Unlike modern airplanes, the Hyperloop won’t create any direct emissions, or be subject to weather conditions according to Virgin. And, different destinations are possible for each pod, as they won’t be connected. They will be able to depart and rejoin a pod convoy easily, like cars would using exits on a highway.
Reuters explained that inside, the autonomous pods will seat 28 and feel more spacious and comfortable thanks to back mirrors and off-white materials. More than 50,000 people could be shuttled per direction per hour, according to the Virgin Hyperloop official site. The Hyperloop could be adaptable to various distances and used to transport freight.
The technology is still at its early stages, but the projection is that Virgin Hyperloop could start commercial operations by 2027.
There is a Hyperloop prototype in the Nevada desert
Anything associated with “transport pods” certainly sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. However, Virgin is making fantasy a reality with their Hyperloop prototype known as the “DevLoop” in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
According to CNET, the prototype stretches 1,640 feet, a very scaled down representation of the distance that a complete hyperloop could span.
In futuristic style, the Devloop is adorned with neon lights and outfitted with pumps that create the vacuum effect inside. While underway, smooth metal tracks buffer noise so you don’t hear the characteristic screeching that you might get from a train. Boarding is easy through an airlock with a gate valve, and a massive door seals it all off.
CNET notes that the Devloop managed to reach 107 mph during its first test runs with real passengers in late 2020, which is a promising start to a high-speed future.
What could the technology mean for the future of transportation?
Virgin’s hyperloop technology has received multi-national support, with partnerships in Dubai and India. Virgin is also looking to develop infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. Here in the U.S., hyperloop technology moved a step closer to functional operation as it was part of infrastructural legislation passed by the Senate.
Other companies are getting in on the action and with approval by the House, hyperloop projects could be federally funded, according to The Hill’s 'Changing America,' legitimizing the method as a key means of travel in the decades to come. This could reinvent how we and where we work and live, pushing the boundaries of modern travel.