About the hyperloop development program
The Hyperloop Development Program is a proposed public-private partnership, between the Dutch Ministries of Economics & Climate and Infrastructure & Water Management, the Dutch Province of Groningen and a group of industry parties and knowledge and research institutions, dedicated to develop hyperloop as a safe, sustainable and commercially viable mode of high-speed transportation.
The program aims to answer all the questions to make a well-founded decision on the implementation of a first hyperloop route for cargo and a test facility for passengers. These answers are gathered through the performance of studies and tests at the European Hyperloop Center Groningen.
The program originated from conversations between an initial group of industry partners involved in early hyperloop developments, and the Dutch ministries, on how to tackle the development of hyperloop fully integrally and create an open ecosystem that facilitates this. The development of hyperloop encompasses much more than the development of the technology. Aspects such as safety, standards, integration, public adoption, socio-economic costs/benefits and ecosystem need to be addressed. Input from specialisms on all those aspects is required from an early stage and many different parties, both public and private, recognize how they can make a valuable contribution.
Yes, the Hyperloop Development Program is an open ecosystem in which all parties that have something valuable to bring and are willing to invest are welcome to join and can participate collaboratively and in equal treatment.
As an integral part of the program, The European Hyperloop Center Groningen will serve as a research site for several of its activities, such as the testing and validation of hyperloop safety standards. The European Hyperloop Center foundation would receive funds from the Hyperloop Development Program foundation.
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.
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.
A hyperloop vehicle is comparable to the size of a train compartment, it can accommodate up to 60 passengers.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No, the air gap for the magnetic levitation is in the order of centimeters, which means that the magnetic levitation can filter out quite large imperfections in the track in comparison to high-speed rail, which is always in contact with the track and therefore needs to be extremely flat. The lasers that keep the hyperloop vehicles stabilized measure the distance to the top and sidetracks over 1000 times per second to keep the vehicle from being affected by any fluctuations. The performance of the levitation and guidance system under different track tolerances will be tested and fine-tuned in the European Hyperloop Center Groningen test tube.
This is one millibar according to current studies. The pressure is equal to 0.1% of the atmospheric pressure. This is the optimum between reducing the air resistance so the least amount of energy is required to gain and maintain high speeds, and the energy that is required for the pumps to maintain the low pressure.
Yes. For example, the turning radius for a speed of 400 km/h can be 2.5 km. This considers that the vehicle banks in corners, as is safely possible at a high angle in a hyperloop system where the vehicle levitates towards the top tracks.
Hyperloop vehicles are accelerated and decelerated by means of a linear electric engine. The motor accelerates the vehicle and the start of its journey and regenerates much of the energy as it slows down to stop. For most of the track, no high-power motor is needed as the vehicle coasts with very little energy losses due to the low-pressure environment. The cables of the motor are embedded in the electrical steel tracks that are also used for levitation and guidance. By letting electric current run through these cables, the magnets on top of the vehicle experience a propulsive force.
Hyperloop uses magnets on top of the vehicle to levitate towards the electrical-steel tracks. A laser measures and corrects the distance between the vehicle and the top and side tracks over a thousand times per second, keeping the vehicle perfectly stable. Because of this, travelers will not experience any discomfort due to height deviations. Where a train ride can feel bumpy, and a plane might experience turbulence, hyperloop offers a highly comfortable travel experience.
Safety and Travel Experience Hyperloop is being developed in a collaborative way, with safety as the highest priority. Specialized companies are involved on every aspect and component, and governments, research and knowledge institutions and standardization organizations are involved in aspects such as the establishment of hyperloop safety and interoperability standards.
Hyperloop vehicles will not be equipped with windows because the vehicles travel inside tubes, there would be nothing to see. To create a sense of openness and connection to the outside world, the ceiling of the hyperloop vehicle is equipped with curved screens over the entire length of the vehicle. These screens can display landscapes, night skies or adapt to any type of weather conditions at the destination. This combined with light colors, bright lights and open design gives people the feeling that they are in a spacious environment. The maximum accelerations to which the hyperloop is designed are in accordance with existing standards of other modalities. There are no indications that people would be more nauseous in a hyperloop than in an airplane or a metro from a seat from which you cannot look outside. Eventually, testing will determine if any other measures need to be taken.
Accelerations and deceleration will happen over large distances, making these a very smooth experience for the traveler, similar to those of a high-speed train. Once the vehicle is at full speed passengers will not notice the speed, same as when flying on an airplane. When allowing for passengers to freely move in a comfortable manner in the vehicle the accelerations are limited to 0.2 g this will result in a 10-kilometer distance required. Optional is to have passengers seated during acceleration in which case this could be reduced to 5 kilometers.
The hyperloop system, due to its tube environment, is not troubled by crossing or oncoming traffic or any other external influences. This creates the safest possible situation for autonomous operations. Also, the intervehicle communications system allows vehicles to act as one and immediately respond to any situation, leaving no room for human error. Airplanes and metro systems already have many time intervals during their operation that the vehicles are autonomously operated. Some metro vehicles are already autonomous on the vehicle level, but still arranged by a central operation room, thanks to their predictive and safe environment. For hyperloop, a similar method of operation is envisioned as is used for the metro.
In a pressurized network of tubes there will always be some form of leakage. This is a factor that for example has also been included in determining the energy consumption of the pumps. Small leaks that allow air to flow into the tubes are compensated for by the pumps without necessary intervention. Throughout Europe, there are many thousands of kilometers of pressurized pipeline networks, used for oil and gas. This demonstrates the years of experience there is in the construction and maintenance, and the limiting of leaks, of these types of structures.
Buckling of pipe infrastructure that could lead to local implosion is an extensively researched phenomenon, as underground pipelines are often under much more external pressure than a hyperloop pipe would be. Existing standards for these kinds of infrastructures that account for sufficient safety factors are used to ensure that such a situation is extremely unlikely to occur.
The only way in which a substantial breach in the tube would occur, as the tube construction is extremely strong, is in a case of major impact. This concerns risks to which every infrastructure is subject. As with any form of transport, in such a case it would be desirable to shut down the line in which the breach occurred until the calamity has been solved. The pipes are segmented, with air seals located every couple kilometers, so that in the event of a leak, this can be limited to a certain area. By means of sensors along the infrastructure that measure the pressure the vehicles will be notified. The intervehicle communications system allows vehicles to act as one and immediately and jointly brake, leaving no room for human error. The emergency braking system will know a deceleration that you can expect during any emergency stop of other modalities. As air would vastly flow into the tube creating an environment equivalent to that of the atmosphere around us, the increase in air resistance will help the vehicles to naturally slow down. Due to the pressure level in the tube this impact will be gradual.
The tubes in the hyperloop system can be compared to gas pipes currently running through Europe. The technical requirements for both are similar and solutions for these challenges can be solved with current technology.
- Thermal expansion is compensated by expansion joints that shrink and stretch accordingly and are incorporated at every tube connection. These expansion joints will be tested in the tube of the European Hyperloop Center Groningen.
- Expansion joints will also help limit and localize the impact on the infrastructure in event of an earthquake. More importantly, both the foundation of the infrastructure and pipe construction is being designed to withstand earthquakes.
- The hyperloop, as is for example done with high-speed trains in Japan, should be connected to all national emergency measurement systems detecting and predicting for example earthquakes. When these systems are triggered hyperloop vehicles will come to a standstill. After an event vehicles will safely proceed to the nearest station.
- The lasers that keep the hyperloop vehicles stabilized will remain active, measuring the distance to the top and sidetracks over 1000 times per second to limit the effect of any fluctuations on the vehicle.
No, the magnetic fields experienced by the passengers are incredibly small, a person holding a fridge magnet will experience multiple orders of magnitude stronger magnetic fields than in the hyperloop. Magnetic fields prefer to move through ferromagnetic materials like steel instead of air like electric current prefers to travel through a conducting material. The magnets on the vehicle are aimed away from the passengers towards steel tracks containing the magnetic fields.
Because the vehicle is protected from any external influences, the risk of a breach in the chassis is minimal. In the highly unlikely case, a breach in the vehicle chassis would lead to a situation similar to that in an airplane. The pressure in the vehicle will drop over time to the pressure in the pipe. Oxygen masks will fall to provide oxygen while the vehicle will come to a safe and quick standstill and pressure in the tube and vehicle is being restored through quick re-pressurization valves.
Air is circulated from on-board oxygen supplies and filtered through HEPA filter systems similar to those used in aviation.
In the unlikely event of an emergency, the hyperloop vehicles in the particular section of the network will come to a joint standstill via the intervehicle communications system. The particular tube segment(s) are closed off by air seals and repressurized, upon which passenger can safely deboard the vehicle and exit the tube at one of the emergency exits that will be located approximately every 500 meters, similar to conventional tunnel infrastructure.
The vehicle is powered by on-board batteries and is being charged through inductive charging from the infrastructure. These two systems are each other’s back-up. If the power on the infrastructure side would fail, the on-board batteries will deliver power for the remaining trip. In case the batteries fail (which are implemented redundantly), the infrastructure can still charge the vehicle.
Costs According to a proposal of the European Commission an estimated 1,500 billion needs to be invested in transport infrastructure in Europe over the next decennium. In selecting the projects for these investments, short-term congestion relief needs to be carefully weighed against the long-term as well as sustainable opportunities that new solutions such as hyperloop could bring, as the consequences of these investments last a lifetime.
Hyperloop is designed as a mass-transit system with competitive ticket pricing. It matches what people usually pay for their daily work commute for shorter distances and is similar to regular air and high-speed rail tickets for longer distances.
Several international specialized companies have looked closely at what the costs for the implementation of a hyperloop system will look like and how this relates to the costs for construction and maintenance of other modalities. The implementation of hyperloop is expected to be in the same order of magnitude of High-Speed Rail, which typically costs between €25M and €40M per kilometer, although several factors will likely make the costs of a hyperloop lower. Hyperloop has a substantially smaller infrastructure footprint, and the pipe is its own tunnel and its own overpass, which makes it relatively easier to implement the infrastructure alongside existing infrastructure.
- Underground integration Costs for tunneling increase exponentially as the diameter of the tunnel increases. Compared to tunnels that are used for trains (13m diameter for two-way traffic), a single hyperloop tunnel is only 3.5 meters in diameter and would be many times cheaper to build.
- Aboveground integration Hyperloop can be integrated up to 70% along with existing infrastructure and in existing hubs. High-Speed Rail needs to be built to tighter tolerances due to the constant steel-on-steel contact in comparison to the air gap of centimeters for hyperloop.
Several important advantages ensure low maintenance costs concerning rail transport that at the same time make the system highly reliable:
- No physical contact between vehicle and tracks Hyperloop rails are placed at the top of the tube and vehicles levitate below it through magnetic levitation. The vehicles never touch the rails, so there is no steel-to-steel contact as with trains on tracks, which further minimalizes wear.
- No moving components When a train has to change tracks, a section of track must be moved to connect to another section of track. The hyperloop lane switch does not involve any moving parts, so there is no friction and no wear. Similarly, the motor of the hyperloop has no moving components, contrasted to the high-speed rotations of a train motor.
- Immune to external influences In the tube environment, rails and vehicles are not exposed to external factors, further limiting required maintenance.
In busier urban or rural areas hyperloop would likely be implemented below ground, however, this is more costly than above ground implementation. In principle, hyperloop systems can just as easily be built on the ground level, elevated or underground because of the pipe that already acts as its own infrastructure. In open areas, it is imaginable that hyperloop would be implemented above ground. When elevated, the infrastructure will only require a 4-meter footprint (far less than high-speed rail which usually requires 25m).
In rail, noise is generated from mostly two sources, the contact between the rail and the train wheels, and the vehicle rushing through the air. The hyperloop eliminates both, because there is no mechanical contact because of the magnetic levitation system, and there is no air resistance because of the low-pressure environment. This reduces the noise by multiple orders of magnitude. Most noise will be emitted by the pumps used to maintain low pressure, however, these can be implemented below the surface, eliminating sound emission.
Even if aviation can switch fully to fuels that can be sourced sustainably, the total amount of energy a hyperloop system would require, would still be an order of magnitude lower than the energy consumption of flying. This means that regardless of how clean flying can become, it will never be as sustainable (from an energy efficiency point of view) as a Hyperloop system, and providing sufficient sustainable energy for the growing global demand is a challenge for which no solution is yet foreseen
How much energy does the hyperloop use?
The energy consumption of the hyperloop is estimated at 40 Watt hour per passenger per kilometer. This is about an order of magnitude lower than aviation, and similar to much slower High-Speed Rail. Overall the system is very efficient as the losses due to magnetic and aerodynamic drag are small. A large amount of the energy used is regenerated at braking. In the energy consumption of hyperloop two components can be distinguished: the energy used to move the vehicles and the energy used to keep the tube network at low pressure.
- Energy usage for propulsion Due to the combination of the low pressure in the tube and the non-contact magnetic levitation, there is almost no resistance. As a result, a hyperloop system requires very little energy to achieve high speeds and to maintain speed.
- Energy usage of vacuum pumps After the initial pump-down, the energy that is required to keep the system at low pressure is very minimal, as only the air that leaks in needs to be pumped out (save for depressurization for maintenance or emergency reasons). The highest amount of leak is expected around the air-docks, every time that a vehicle is unloaded and loaded. Even when assuming that a large volume of air leaks into the system at every loading cycle, the energy used for propulsion is much higher than the expected energy to keep the system at low pressure.
Because of this, energy consumption and energy costs are ultimately optimally low. `
The entire hyperloop system is electric. Because it is 100% electric it doesn’t emit any CO2 directly. Indirect CO2 emissions depend on the energy mix that is used in the different locations by and from the year a hyperloop system would be in operations. In light of current and future development, this is expected to be high, if not completely sustainable, especially with the lower energy usage of hyperloop in comparison to other modalities.