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Hyperloop full scale test matter of months away

A full scale test of the Hyperloop One’s high speed transport technology is only a matter of months away, the company has said.

Hyperloop One tested its custom electric motor in May 2016, and is establishing a full scale test site in the desert north of Las Vegas.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Hyperloop One co-founder and president of engineering Josh Giegel said that the development of the test site was progressing well and that the technology testing programme would start within a few months.

“It’s going pretty well,” said Giegel. “We’ve got a couple hundred metres of tube up at this point. The propulsion systems will be coming in a couple of weeks and then the check out and vacuum systems will be in.

“Within a couple of months, you’re going to see some pretty interesting action.”

Hyperloop technology resurfaced in 2013 when US-based entrepreneur Elon Musk suggested it as a super-fast alternative to high speed rail. The Hyperloop One system uses an electric motor to accelerate and decelerate a levitated pod through a low pressure tube with speeds up to 1,200km/h mooted. The company said that its goal was to be moving cargo by 2020 and passengers by 2021.

Giegal said that one of the main technical challenges has been the designing the electrical components to deal with the vacuum powered system.

“There are some interesting things which happen when you take high voltage electronics and put them inside low pressure environments,” he said. “So we have been making sure our system will be able to robustly work even in that scenario.”

Giegel said that large variations in weather and temperature between the summer and winter had posed challenges for the team.

“Fighting the environment has actually been a challenge, especially since it’s a little windy up north,” he said.

The company has expanded rapidly going from four employees two years ago to more than 200 hundred today. Giegel said that his company had had to acquire the test site, do the design, and create the technology which has gone into the design in an incredibly short space of time.

“The manufacturing facility that we’ve had has only been around for about seven months at this point,” he said. “It was completely bare space that we’ve had to fill and populate with people and equipment.

“On the surface it seems really easy until you actually go do it, but that’s what sets us apart from everyone else is that we can go to our test site and see it.”

Plans for potential new corridors through which the hyperloop could travel have just been announced by the company as part of its global challenge. Thirty five routes out of 500 have been chosen to go forward to develop comprehensive proposals for using the company’s transport technology.

Four of the teams are UK based and London to Edinburgh and Glasgow to Cardiff are possible routes. Hyperloop One said that the eventual winners would work closely with its engineering and business development teams to explore project development and financing later this year.

Giegel said that reaching the maximum speed achievable would depend on which routes are taken.

“The biggest things with the speed is the routes we’re going to get. The first routes we’re looking at are anywhere between 20 and 50 miles [32km to 80km] long,” he said. “Speed is a big factor in that, but the important thing about those is that it’s just the beginning of a bigger route.

“We’re doing our proof of concept, proof of technology in the desert right now, that will eventually translate to a proof of operations a certification lab working in Dubai. Certification is essentially the next step for us as that means that you’re allowed to ride it and the government says it’s safe.

“As we move out, depending on where the route is and we’ll start to grow that speed. The straighter we get the better we are.”

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