Virgin Hyperloop has announced that it is testing its ultra-fast transport system with human passengers for the first time.
The test took place Sunday afternoon at the company’s development test track in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada. The first two passengers were Josh Gigel, chief technology officer and co – founder of Virgin Hyperloop, and Sarah Lucian, head of passenger experience. After entering their seats in the glowing white and red hyperloop pod of a company called Pegasus, they were converted into airlock by removing the air inside the enclosed vacuum tube. The pod then accelerates to 100 miles (160 km / h) from the length of the track before slowing to a stop.
This is a significant achievement for the Virgin Hyperloop, a reality of about 760 mph (1,223 km / h) about the future transportation system of Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
The Devloop test track is 500 meters long and 3.3 meters in diameter. The track is 30 minutes from Las Vegas, in the desert where hyper loop pods can travel in minutes a day. The company said it had 400 tests were performed On that track, but never before with human travelers – to this day.
“No one has done anything close to what we’m talking about right now,” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. To the edge. “It’s a full-fledged, working hyper హైloop that not only drives in a vacuum environment, it has one person in it. No one came close to doing this. ”
The Pegasus pod, also known as the XP-2, was first used for passenger testing and was designed with the help of renowned Danish architect Jorke Ingels. This represents a scale-down version of what the Virgin Hyperloop hopes to eventually become a full – size pod that can carry up to 23 passengers. It weighs 2.5 tons and is 15-18 feet long, Jigel said. Inside, its green interior is familiar to passengers, which means it may not be immediately comfortable with the idea of doing a slingshot through a vacuum-sealed tube at commercial jet speeds.
“It’s not like some silly, new weird science fiction discovery,” Louisian said in an interview several days before the test. “It’s something that reminds me of where I am and I use it so many times. I feel comfortable keeping Grandma and sending her on a visit somewhere.”
Prior to the test, Lucian said she was interested in experiencing acceleration, as well as monitoring the temperature and ventilation system inside the pod. Jigel said he wants to see the system’s security policies in action, and keep an eye on whether they can continue to communicate with operators during testing. “If it’s not safe enough for me, it’s not good enough for anyone,” he said.
Jigel said the acceleration felt like the plane was taking off. The pod is advanced by magnetic levitation – the same technology used for bullet trains. The fastest commercial bullet train, the top speed of the Shanghai Maglev revolves around 300 mph.
Strictly speaking, the theoretical maximum speed of the pod hyperloop did not reach 760 mph. Virgin Hyperloop projects can eventually get up to 670 mph with enough track – but so far the company record 240 mph, which hit in 2017.
“It’s a little short,” Gigel said before the test. “We reach 100 miles per hour, a little higher and we accelerate, slow down and it’s smoother. We’re not astronauts, we’re just there – we’re just sitting there.”
In 2013, Musk published his “Alpha Paper” It is theorized that aerodynamic aluminum capsules loaded with passengers or cargo can be driven through an almost airless tube at air-speed up to 760 mph. These pipes, raised on pylons or submerged underground, can be built inside or between cities. He called it the “fifth mode of transport” and argued that it would help change our way of life, work, trade and travel. The most fascinating sight he proposed was a trip from LA to San Francisco in just 30 minutes. Idea Engineers seized the gin hala And investors around the world.
Virgin Hyperloop was originally established as Hyperloop Technologies before being renamed Hyperloop One in 2016 And then again to Virgin Hyperloop One Richard Branson took over the company. The company came out of the gate with tens of millions of dollars in funding and a bold vision of hyper loop systems around the world.
But for the Virgin Hyperloop it has not always traveled smoothly. In 2017, the company settled a lawsuit with one of its co-founders over competing claims of harassment and vandalism. A year later, another co-founder was fired amid allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
The company was bound for cash for a noticeable time. Branson helped secure a new $ 50 million investment from two existing investors, which helped pay off parole obligations. Recently, the Virgin raised the hyperloop Fund 172 million new funds In 2019, $ 90 million came from Dubai port operator DP World, which had previously invested $ 25 million in the company and already has two seats on the Startup Board of Directors.
After that, things settled down as Ziegel and his team worked diligently to verify the technology with a series of tests. Before the regulatory, things look bright. The company recently announced its plan Build a 500 million certification center To bring forward its vision of the future of high-speed transportation in West Virginia. And there is the federal government Recently designed framework In order to streamline the hyperloop, it hopes for companies like the Virgin Hyperloop to finally break down the full-size functional hyperloop system.
Critics say the Hyper Loop is technically feasible, but still only Steamware. This is a “Idealistic vision” It is financially impossible to achieve. It is also one of those technologies “Near the corner” According to its boosters – externally it looks like it is still years away from completion. In 2017, the bosses of the Virgin Hyperloop Said To the edge They hope to see “hyperloopies operating worldwide by 2020”. After that deadline is pushed to 2021, they believe the hyper loop will be ready for human travelers.
Constantine Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, said many security questions still needed to be answered. “The Hyperloop vehicle travels much faster than a high-speed train, possibly even reaching 760 mph,” Samaras said in an email. “Maintaining safety at high speeds is very important, and all unforeseen disasters require engineering in the system. Earthquake? Will the vacuum tube break? Will the train somehow pass through the tube? At such high speeds, these events increase the risk, so safety is very important.”
No government in the world has ever given a contract or given permission to build a hyperloop system. It is unclear how much it will cost to build the hyperloop, but it will definitely be in the billions of dollars. Financial documents leaked in 2016 indicated that the Hyperloop would cost between $ 9 billion and $ 13 billion, or between $ 84 million and $ 121 million per mile – much higher than a high-speed train. Even with public funding, any company needs to fund millions of dollars, acquire enormous amounts of land and ensure that the hyperloop can be safely maintained. All in all, the hyperloop is still a long way off.
The ability to maintain a vacuum in a tube, especially hundreds of miles long, is another enormous challenge. Every time you come to a pod station, it slows down and stops. The airlock must then be closed, pressed and reopened. The pod airlock must be cleared before the next pod arrives. The speed at which this occurs determines the distance between the pods. Turning can also be very difficult. The Hyperloop needs about six miles for a Virgin Hyperloop engineer to execute a 90-degree turn at 600 mph. Said New York Times.
Another potential obstacle is the highways. Over long distances, these pods have a lower capacity, which determines how useful the hyperloop mass transit system is. Operators can try to replace them by building larger pods, but then their pipes need stronger steel to correct the extra weight, and that explains the higher costs.
Walder, who runs public transportation systems in China and the US, recently became the head of City Bike in New York City, saying the highways would be “just a few seconds away” in a full-fledged, commercially operating hyperloop compared to 2. Minutes or more for most trains.
Lucian said she was excited to be a little scared. “A little nervous,” she said, “because I appreciate the gravity of this moment.”
She said it was important to feel comfortable and familiar with the experience of traveling in the Hyperloop, such as traveling by train, which other ordinary people reject as a possible and safe mode of transportation. She noted that neither Jigel nor she had been specially trained before or wore protective clothing such as astronauts.
“For such an important occasion, for the technology that was literally a pipe dream six, seven years ago, we don’t have to do all these repetitions with professionals,” she says. “We’re entering correctly.”
For Gigel, this test is the culmination of years of hard work. This comes almost six years after he quit his job as Systems Propulsion Lead at Virgin Galactic to start a hyperloop company in his garage.
“I think a long time from now, this moment, this thing in the desert would not exist if we did not put it here, it’s a place where people can see and say, ‘This is a really big idea, it’s a really dangerous idea,’ ‘he said,” but they came, They did, and they succeeded. “