Virgin Hyperloop One Sets a New Speed Record
What is the limit?
Recently, a piece of news hitting the headlines collected widespread attention. It says that the Virgin Hyperloop One, a startup company based in Los Angeles announced the Hyperloop One, a sort of ultra fast-speed train reached a speed of 387 km/h (240mp/h). It outperformed Elon Musk’s hyperloop that reached 355 km/h in this August.
Now the company is working on the third phase of test at Development Lab (DevLoop). During this test, a new airlock is used to test pods transition between atmospheric and vacuum conditions.
Before this, the company has done quite a lot. Since its inception in 2014, Hyperloop One is dedicated to bringing commercialized hyperloop to the public. In May 2016, it built a 500-meter Development Loop in North Las Vegas, which laid ground for its full-scale Hyperloop test later in May 2017. The test was done on Hyperloop components, including vacuum, control systems, tubes, propulsion, and levitation.
Image Credit: HyperLoop One
The startup’s efforts paid off. Aside from breaking a new speed record, it stroke a strategic partnership with Virgin Group, a British conglomerate of billions value, bringing Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group on the directors’ board. The new round of funding helped the company raise $50 million, following an investment of $85 million in October last year.
It seems promising, given the generous support from investors with deep pockets and technology advancement. The Hyperloop One has developed to combine magnetic levitation, low aerodynamic drag together, and managed to ship people and cargo at airline speed through low-pressure tube. It translates to 30 minute journey from LA to San Francisco, which generally takes 5 hours by car and 1 hour 15 minutes by plane.
Like every story has a twist, Hyperloop One has several hurdles to cross to commercially legitimizing and realistically validating its value. In theory, for a transportation system that is running at such a high speed requires minimized friction and nearly zero air resistance. The Hyperloop One seems to deliver acceptable performance in terms of magnetic propulsion and air pressure in terms of experiment results. The level of reliability is still in question when the passenger pod is loaded. Not to mention the experience on a train with rocket speed may not be comfortable. How to achieve a lightening flash speed without compromising experience is still something to be seriously taken care of.
Another problem is building a massive infrastructure to support the system. Construction of tracks at such a large scale means billions of investment. Without government support, it is nearly a pipedream. But considering it’s a risky investment for now, will taxpayers money be in vain if the lump sum capital fails through? How much are they going to charge the passengers? If the price is meant for the common travelers how far will they be from breaking even? If it’s not, then how sustainable this transportation novelty can eventually last on balance sheets before it becomes a Concord on the land…
The vision of a hyperloop is sound, but there are still many questions to be answered before it becomes a reality.