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Hyperloop One debunks hyperloop myths

Hyperloop One phase 2 testing

As testing continues on Hyperloop One’s futuristic pod, the company has released information about how its ultra-high speed system works, debunking some of the myths around the new technology.

Earlier this month, the company carried out the second phase of tests on its new XP-1 vehicle in a 500m long Devloop tube in the Nevada Desert. The pod reached speeds of 310km/h, levitating above the tracks, propelled along by a linear motor.

The motor and propulsion system

Hyperloop One said its vehicles are propelled using a linear electric motor, with the rotor – the spinning part in a conventional electric motor – moving along in a straight line along the length of the stator. In the Hyperloop One system, it said the stators are mounted to the tube and the rotor is mounted to the pod. The pod then straddles the stators as it accelerates through the tube.

Tube pressure

Hyperloop One systems are designed to work in a low-pressure vacuum, not a perfect vacuum, the company said.

“You don’t need a perfect vacuum to get substantial benefits from reduced aerodynamic friction,” it said. “We’re aiming to function at or below 100Pa.”

If there were to be a breach in the pressure in the tube it said, the thick steel tubes would be difficult to puncture. However, it said it was “reasonable to expect leaks and even the occasional breach” in routes that stretched 160km or more and was designing the tubes and pods to cope with extremely low pressures and sudden changes in air pressure.

“If there was a leak or breach in an operational Hyperloop system, the incoming air pressure would slow vehicles down, and we might need a power boost to get them to the next station,” the company said.

“We will also have the ability to section off parts of the route and re-pressurize sections in the case of a significant emergency. Every pod will have emergency exits if needed, but mostly pods will glide safely to the next portal (station) or egress point in the event of an emergency.”

Additionally, sensors will be built into the pods, tubes, and system to notify of any leaks or breaches.

Despite running in a near vacuum, the pods are aerodynamically designed to further reduce energy consumption.

Controls inside the tube

Sensors on the pod and in the tube provide real-time positioning and location information, a set of conductive guidance rails provide electromagnetic stability during flight, it said.

Making the leap from test track to real track

The team said speed was a function of track length and with another 2km added, it could “easily” reach speeds of up to 1125km/h.

“We are actively engaged with customers who want to build the first proof of operation facilities at lengths of 10 to 20 miles and hope to have three operational systems by 2021,” it said. “We will also work in parallel to certify the control systems required to operate safely at these high speeds.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • In principle, the scheme has potential. However, I have nagging doubts about what could possibly go wrong. I realise the designers must have tried to envisage every feasible scenario which would cause problems, but sometimes a desire to build a dream can stunt the imagination.
    Something which concerns me is the vulnerability of the vehicle to fire and of the tube to deliberate damage. A fire on board will require an almost immediate evacuation, so how long would it take to reach an emergency exit in the tube and how would that be achieved if motive power has been lost?
    Then there is the question of maintaining services if tube integrity has been breached by vandalism or terrorism. A railway track can be damaged by an explosion, but decades of experience has shown repairs can be quickly and easily undertaken. How vulnerable would the tube be to explosions? How quickly could it be repaired?
    As I say, I daresay these (and similar) questions have been considered by the designers, but at this stage of development, getting results is their priority. Let's hope they don't lose sight of reality.

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