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First Passenger Hyperloop Tests Conducted

Monday, November 16, 2020

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Last week, American transportation technology company Virgin Hyperloop announced that it had successfully completed its first trial involving human passengers in its levitating hyperloop capsules.

Josh Giegel, CTO and co-founder of Virgin Hyperloop, and Sara Luchian, Virgin Hyperloop's Director of Passenger Experience, were the two passengers to ride the new form of transportation.

About Virgin Hyperloop

Since the reveal of the hyperloop concept was presented by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, Paypal and SpaceX, the race for creating the high-speed transit was on. The transportation system makes use of a depressurized cylinder made up of a series of steel tubes through which levitating cylindrical passenger (or freight) pods travel at high speeds on a cushion of air.

In 2016, Bjarke Ingels Group unveiled a sneak-peak of what would be the Hyperloop One (now known as Virgin Hyperloop One) system, connecting Dubai to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. This project was slated to be complete in 2020.

While hyperloop competitor Hyperloop Transportation Technologies would announce its own endeavors throughout the years, in the summer of 2018 Virgin Hyperloop announced that it had entered into a partnership with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission to study the options of building a hyperloop connecting Pittsburgh, Columbus and Chicago.

In 2019, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission approved a $2 million contract with Los Angeles-based engineering and construction firm AECOM for a hyperloop study on the potential project.

Completed in May of this year, the study revealed that in 30-years-time the hyperloop connecting the three cities would create $300 billion in overall economic benefits and would reduce CO2 emissions by 2.4 million tons.

According to a press release by Virgin Hyperloop One at the time, the feasibility study covering technical and commercial issues was confirmed through analyzing route alignments, comparative costs, engineering complexity, public right of ways, environmental constraints, ridership volumes and travel behavior.

In looking at the project from a third-party analysis, AECOM found that the hyperloop would connect Chicago and Columbus in under 45 minutes with an estimated ticket cost of $60 and Columbus to Pittsburgh in under 30 minutes with an estimated ticket cost of $33.

Additionally, in 2019, Virgin Hyperloop was named as one of the original project proponents for the development of another hyperloop public infrastructure project in western India. Virgin, working in collaboration with global ports owner DP World, was chosen to spearhead the project. Both Mumbai and Pune, which are roughly 100 miles apart and would be connected by the project.

Currently, Virgin Hyperloop is the only company in the world that has successfully tested hyperloop technology at scale, launching the first new mode of mass transportation in over 100 years.

Last month, Virgin Hyperloop announced that it would be opening a Hyperloop Certification Center in West Virginia. The HCC project builds off of the current progress being made on the regulatory front in the U.S. In July, the Secretary of the U.S. Department or Transportation, Elaine Chao and the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council unveiled a guidance document, outlining a regulatory framework for hyperloop in America.

The historic announcement not only provides a pathway for hyperloop regulation and deployment in the U.S., but also establishes hyperloop’s eligibility for federal funding for projects. According to Virgin, the federal momentum, paired with the advancements of the HCC, will pave the way for the certification of hyperloop systems and are the first steps towards commercial projects.

Slated to be built on an 800-acre site spanning Tucker and Grant counties, the $500 million certification center will include a welcome center, testing facilities, a training center on operations, maintenance and safety, a manufacturing facility, and six-mile-long certification track. Danish architectural firm, Bjarke Ingels Group has been selected to design the HCC.

Construction of the center, which is partnered with WVU, Marshall University and others, is expected to begin in 2021. Virgin Hyperloop aims to achieve safety certification by 2025, with commercial operations beginning in 2030. The nascent technology is expected to run at 600 miles per hour or faster.

WVU's Bureau of Business and Economic Research predicts the center will have an economic impact of $48 million annually.

Trial Ride

On Nov. 8, Virgin Hyperloop sent two of their own on a human trail run at its DevLoop site in the barren desert, located about 35 miles north of Las Vegas. The track is comprised of a 500-meter-long (roughly 1,640-foot-long) concrete tube.

According to reports, the test was conducted using a new two-seated XP-2 vehicle—nicknamed Pegasus—built specifically for testing safe passenger travel within the hyperloop pod. The new design was created in a collaboration involving Bjarke Ingels Group and Danish studio Kilo Design and features several wheels that retract as the magnetic levitation comes into force to avoid any drag.

"When designing the future of transportation and the slate is sort of blank, the opportunities are endless," said BIG's Jakob Lange. "We've needed to adjust our way of thinking away from the classic modes of transporting like trains, planes and metros, and towards a new vehicle typology, closest to that of a spaceship.

"Hyperloop allows passengers to get from A to B in a split second, and Pegasus provides the feeling of safety, convenience and a smooth journey.”

Once Giegel and Luchian were strapped in, an airlock system was used to move the vehicle in and out of the semi-vacuum environment. In launching the duo, the XP-2 vehicle was propelled electromagnetically through the tunnel at speeds reaching up to 107 miles per hour. In total, the maiden voyage was reported to have lasted only 15 seconds.

"When we started in a garage over six years ago, the goal was simple – to transform the way people move," said Giegel. "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."

After the system has been full realized, the singular capsule used for the journey will be redesigned to seat up to 28 passengers and is expected to reach speeds of up to 760 mph with a longer track.

   

Tagged categories: Design build; Hyperloop; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Public Transit; Research and development; Transportation; Virgin Hyperloop

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