13 July 2017

Potentially Revolutionary Hyperloop Freight Transportation System Conducts First Test Run  

New Electro-Magnetic Powered Vacuum Carried Test Vehicle Also Revealed

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Shipping News Feature US – Hyperloop One, the potentially revolutionary (and somewhat controversial) new transportation system has taken an important step in it's development. Yesterday a test sled ran for the first time on the company's Nevada test track for a total of 5.3 seconds and reached speeds of 70 mph (110kph). Hyperloop One utilises an electro-magnetic propulsion system that runs a capsule within a tube that has the air pumped out of it to reduce/remove air resistance, thus improving maximum speed potential whilst minimising energy expenditure. The capsule levitates above magnetic rails and a theoretical speed of between 700 and 800 hundred miles per hour is possible.

Though test sleds had run to trial the systems propulsion system, this was the first time that a ‘full’ trial had been conducted of the system in that the Hyperloop test tube had been depressurised. Hyperloop have described it as their ‘Kitty Hawk’ moment and now plan to run a longer test to reach a speed of 250mph. In a statement on their blog the company said:

“Hyperloop One is now on the verge of the complete systems test at our DevLoop site in the desert north of Las Vegas. We’ve installed almost 1,000 feet of the linear motor in a 1,640-foot-long tube capable of reducing the air pressure down to the equivalent of 200,000 feet above sea level. Top speed will be around 250 mph. Today we’re also unveiling XP-1, the pod we’ll be using for those full systems tests over the next several months at DevLoop. XP-1 is comprised of a carbon fibre and aluminium aeroshell atop our levitating chassis, which is the business end of the vehicle, where all the performance comes from: suspension, lift, guidance and propulsion.

“History is made by people, not events, by hard work and persistence, and not by chance. Close to 200 Hyperloop One engineers, machinists, welders and fabricators collaborate to accomplish our Kitty Hawk moment. It was their determination that made the previously impossible possible. Getting here wasn’t easy. The road ahead won’t be any easier. But soon we will all be going farther and faster together.”

Though a lot of attention paid to Hyperloop is on the prospect it has for commuting, the system’s original concept envisaged being primarily for freight use and that potential means that Hyperloop has gained a lot of interest and support from parts of the international logistics industry. One of their major investors is UAE-based freight trade facilitator DP World, and the UAE is planning on building a working Hyperloop by 2020, with a heavy emphasis on the carriage of cargo and with plans for continued expansion for the system in the region.

In the GCC, the freight transportation market was worth approximately US$35 billion in 2016. Of this, the Hyperloop One management believes it will have an addressable share of around US$12 billion. Hyperloop One hopes to compete for 100% of air freight within the GCC, a $7 billion market; 22% of the surface freight – which is approximately $3 billion in road and rail freight; and 13% of the maritime freight, equating to roughly $2 billion.

With these sort of figures it is hardly surprising that Hyperloop is getting serious consideration as a possible competitor to existing transportation modes. With increasing emphasis on faster and low-energy expenditure freight transportation, as well as investment in land-based modal methods such as the Chinese-sponsored ‘Belt-and-Road’ initiative – one of many projects aiming to open considerable new markets in Eurasia – the potential for a system that could potentially match the speed of air freight with the costs and quantities of rail transport is considerable.

A video of the test can be seen HERE.

Photo – The XP-1 unveiled.

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