The hyperloop is a new form of high-speed transport for large volumes of passengers or cargo. The hyperloop network connects cities, countries and even entire continents within a short travel time - and in a safe and sustainable manner. From a technical perspective the hyperloop is a system where vehicles use magnetic levitation and propulsion to travel through tubes that are brought to low air pressure. This allows for low energy, zero-emission transport.
Hyperloop is being designed in such a way that it is accessible to anyone and so that ticket prices will be competitive to current modalities. Whether it’s travel for work, family visits or to explore, hyperloop should be available for anyone to do so.
Although the hyperloop would be able to achieve speeds of over 1,000 kilometers per hour, the actual speed on specific routes may differ anywhere between 500-700 km/h. It’s the shorter than ever travel times are what makes hyperloop so unique, due to the ability to get close to central hubs and integrate with other modalities. Achieving the highest possible speed is not a goal; achieving a competitive travel time at minimal energy usage is.
The demand for transportation of both passengers and cargo is expected to triple by 2050, driven by global urbanization, economic growth and population growth. In order to cope with this growth, tens of trillions of euros need to be invested into transport infrastructure globally over the next decennia. At the same time, this growth in demand for transportation is antithetical to transportation to become more sustainable. We need smarter, more environmentally friendly and more flexible transportation that meets the needs of modern travelers and transporters. Hyperloop, with its relatively low implementation and operation costs, zero emissions, ease of integration in the environment, short transport times and high transport capacity, ticks all the boxes for future-proof transportation infrastructure.
A first commercial hyperloop route for passengers could be operational by 2034. Connecting first routes into a pan-European network can be achieved before 2050. A hyperloop system for cargo, which is a smaller scale system, can be operating as early as 2029. This system will be tested and validated at high-speeds in the European Hyperloop Center, a cargo-scale test facility to be opened in the Dutch Province of Groningen in 2022.
A first route would only be a first step in creating a larger hyperloop network. Hyperloop is already competitive from distances as short as 50 km, but it’s the longer distance connections and network-effect where hyperloop thrives. An example would be connecting the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Eindhoven, a route that can be extended to the German Ruhr area.
Because of the low-pressure environment in the tube there is virtually no air resistance, allowing the vehicles to reach and maintain high-speeds while using minimal energy. In addition, the tracks and vehicles are fully protected from outside influences in the enclosed environment. External effects like the weather causes 70% of the disturbances on rail. Shielding from these external influences increases the level of reliability and safety. Additionally, the pipe is its own tunnel and its own overpass, making it relatively simple to implement the hyperloop alongside existing infrastructure to enrich it, rather than having to develop new rights of way.
A hyperloop vehicle is comparable to the size of a train compartment, it can accommodate up to 60 passengers.
Hyperloops capacity is comparable to or higher than High-Speed Rail with over 20 000 passengers per direction per hour. The autonomous vehicles combined with lane switching allow the hyperloop network to behave more like a highway instead of a railway network. Vehicles can merge in and exit autonomously depending on their destination. With the intervehicle communications systems, this allows vehicles to depart in short intervals. Vehicles can arrive and depart more frequently, and travelers have short waiting times. The hyperloop system is specifically being developed as a modality that can accommodate the enormous growth in passenger flows. In Elon Musk's initial proposal, only a few passengers could be seated behind each other, this is not the system that is being developed. The capacity can be increased even more by connecting several vehicles into a ‘train’. This would increase the number of passengers traveling the same time, and decrease the required amount of separate departures.
Hyperloop is an additional modality rather than an alternative one, however it is likely to change the use of current modalities. Hyperloop would connect cities that lie between 50-3000 km apart, making short-haul flight substitution possible and offering a faster, more energy efficient alternative to high speed trains, and simultaneously freeing up slots on congested airports. Hyperloop would be integrated up to 70% into existing hubs and stations, allowing seamless connection to intercontinental flights, trains and any first- or last mile modality.