Hyperloop runs into headwinds

Project faces delays, scaling back of original ambitious test plans

Tags: Hyperloop One (hyperloop-one.com/)TransportationUnited Arab Emirates
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Hyperloop runs into headwinds Hyperloop's scale-down test site in the Nevada desert.
By  David Ndichu Published  April 19, 2017

Hyperloop One, the company that sought to transform transportation in the region through the use of propulsion technology, seems to be scaling back its ambitious testing and development program, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Mid-last year, the company announced a timetable for a full test of its technology at a site in Nevada for December 2016. The date was pushed to March, a deadline that has since been missed. Last month, the company’s general counsel announced that the public test would be held by “May or June”.

The technology behind “hyperloop” is the use of magnets to levitate pods inside huge airless tubes at speeds up to 750 mph (1,100 Km/h) to transport people and cargo.

The idea was conceptualised by Elon Musk in a 2013 paper, who then invited companies to expand on his vision by actually bringing the idea to reality.   

In presentations in Dubai, where the company has signed cooperation agreements with the RTA, the Hyperloop One said its technology could reduce journey times for people and goods between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to just twelve minutes. The company indicated it could have a Hyperloop One system in place in the UAE in the next five years.

Last May, Hyperloop One conducted its initial test in Nevada, where its prototype propulsion system vehicle zoomed down a track for about two seconds before crashing into a pile of sand, as intended.  

The new test would showcase the progress Hyperloop One has made since then.

The tests were seen to be as much as a technical experiment as an attempt to whet the appetite of partners and financiers. The company has raised USD160m so far, including 50 million form UAE firms led by Dubai’s DP World. It however requires hundreds of millions of dollars more to proceed with its plans.     

At the beginning of March, Hyperloop One shared images of its test development site being developed in Nevada. The test site is 500 metres instead of the originally announced 3,000 metres. That is a reduction of about 80%, meaning the pods will not be able to reach the top speed of about 750 miles an hour as promised.  

However, Josh Giegel, president of engineering and co-founder of Hyperloop One, told the WSJ that the demonstration does not require the full length and speed to test the technology.  Giegel added that his company is on track and plans to extend the track’s size and speed at a later date.

Many in the transport industry were sceptical of the very idea Hyperloop One’s technology, with some questioning its very practical applications, or its highly ambitious timeline.

ITP.net has reached out to Hyperloop One for comment but the company had not responded at the time of going to press.      

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