Virgin Hyperloop has announced that it has completed the world’s first passenger ride on a super-high-speed levitating pod system, a key safety test for technology it hopes will transform human and cargo transportation.
The test was conducted at Virgin Hyperloop’s 500-meter DevLoop test site in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the company has previously run over 400 un-occupied tests.
Josh Giegel (co-founder and CTO Virgin Hyperloop), and Sara Luchian (Director of Passenger Experience), were the first people in the world to ride on this new form of transportation. The Virgin employees journeyed 500 meters in 15 seconds in a two-person pod called ‘Pegasus’ or XP-2, which travelled at 160 km/hour.
What is Hyperloop?
Hyperloop is a proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation. It is a sealed tube or system of tubes with low air pressure through which a pod may travel substantially free of air resistance or friction. It could convey people or objects at airline or hypersonic speeds while being energy efficient.
About Virgin Hyperloop
Founded in 2014, Virgin Hyperloop was based off on a premise by Elon Musk in 2012 – founder of SpaceX and Tesla. He dubbed it the “fifth mode of transportation”.
Virgin Hyperloop is a company that has successfully tested hyperloop technology at scale, launching the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years.
The company successfully operated a full-scale hyperloop vehicle using electric propulsion and electromagnetic levitation under near-vacuum conditions, realising a fundamentally new form of transportation that is faster, safer, cheaper, and more sustainable than existing modes.
Besides, Virgin Hyperloop is also working with governments, partners, and investors around the globe to make hyperloop a reality in years, not decades.
DP World invests in hyperloop tech
Dubai-based DP World, a provider of smart logistics solutions, has invested multi-million dollars for the research and development of hyperloop technology.
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem (chairman of Virgin Hyperloop, and group chairman and CEO of DP World), watched this passenger testing first-hand in Las Vegas, Nevada. “I had the true pleasure of seeing history made before my very eyes – to witness the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years come to life. We are one step closer to ushering in a new era of ultra-fast, sustainable movement of people and goods.”
Will it be safe?
“When we started in a garage over 6 years ago, the goal was simple – to transform the way people move,” Josh Giegel, cofounder and Chief Technology Officer of Virgin Hyperloop. “Today, we took one giant leap toward that ultimate dream, not only for me but for all of us who are looking towards a moonshot right here on Earth.”
The 2-seater XP-2 or Pegasus, designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’ design firm, was custom-built to demonstrate that passengers can in fact safely travel in a hyperloop vehicle. For regular use the pods are likely to carry 28 passengers at a time, the company said, adding that they have plans for larger goods pods as well.
“I can’t tell you how often I get asked ‘is hyperloop safe?,’” says Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. “With today’s passenger testing, we have successfully answered this question, demonstrating that not only can Virgin Hyperloop safely put a person in a pod in a vacuum environment but that the company has a thoughtful approach to safety which has been validated by an independent third party.”
With various safety processes tested, the XP-2 vehicle demonstrates many of the safety-critical systems that will be found on a commercial hyperloop system and are equipped with a control system that can detect off-nominal states and rapidly trigger appropriate emergency responses.
The testing campaign was overseen by the industry-recognised Independent Safety Assessor (ISA) certifier.
Hyperloop in Europe
As the hyperloop industry continues to grow, a group of European countries have created a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) called JTC 20. The creation of the technical committee was a joint effort by the national standardisation organisations of Spain (UNE) and the Netherlands (NEN).
The aim of this technical committee is to define, establish, and standardise the methodology and framework to regulate hyperloop travel systems and ensure interoperability and high safety standards throughout Europe.
These European and Canadian hyperloop companies include Hardt Hyperloop (the Netherlands), Hyper Poland (Poland), TransPod (from Canada, with offices in Italy and France), and Zeleros Hyperloop (Spain).
Here are a few startups that have raised funding in this sector
In June this year, Spanish hyperloop company Zeleros Hyperloop raised €7M to develop a 3km test track, which would be the longest in Europe. The investment was supported by companies including Altran, Grupo Red Eléctrica, and strategic investors from the national and international levels, including among others Goldacre Ventures (United Kingdom), Road Ventures (Switzerland), Plug and Play (USA), and the Spanish Angels Capital and MBHA.
The company’s aim is to start cargo transport by 2025 and passenger vehicles by 2030. Zeleros was founded in 2016 by Daniel Orient Martí, David Pistoni, and Juan Vicen Balaguer.
Earlier in May, Warsaw-based startup Hyper Poland had raised €452,000 to continue testing and development, based on magnetic levitation, linear motor, and autonomous control systems.
Prior to that, in 2019, an international business consortium led by Dutch clean energy conglomerate Koolen Industries invested in Hardt Hyperloop, the company that created Europe’s first full-scale operational hyperloop test-facility for the high-speed zero-emissions transportation system. The company has raised more than €10M to date.
Founded in 2016 by Tim Houter, Marinus van der Meijs, Mars Geuze and Sascha Lamme, Hardt Hyperloop announced its first European facility to test hyperloop at high speeds will be built in the Dutch province of Groningen, in December 2019. According to the company, the new European Hyperloop Centre (EHC) will be open to hyperloop developers from all over the world. This will promote cooperation, in order to accelerate the development of a technology that could offer a clean alternative to air travel.
The company predicts that the centre will be operational in 2022.
Image credit: Virgin Hyperloop