Pipe mail for passenger transport. Sounds a bit like „Darling, I’ve shrunk the kids“? The idea of a magnetic pull in a vacuum tube system – the principle of hyperloop – is not new, but due to the technological hurdles, it was, of course, a utopia for more than a century. A few years ago, arguably the most prominent billionaire and technology guru, Elon Musk, turned the crazy-looking ideas into a blueprint, true to the motto „everyone said it wasn’t possible. Then came someone who didn’t know it and just made it easy.“ Instead of registering a patent, Musk blamed the plan on the Internet for wanting to take care of his other projects at the time.
It wasn’t long before some visionary engineers set out to test the plan for feasibility – and to consider business models that would help them find investors. It all happened very quickly and suddenly two competing and at the same time very different companies emerged: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) and Hyperloop One (now Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO), after Richard Branson, the other crazy billionaires, joined in). I had the great pleasure of talking to Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HTT at the 2b AHEAD Future Congress 2016; We gave him an Innovators Award for his project and learned many interesting things.
2020-25: Freight transport in phase 1
Back to the Hyperloop itself. The pipe mail system promises to move at near-sound speed in both variants. The first use case, of course, is the transport of cargo before living creatures with the pods will travel faster and easier than ever between the world’s metropolises. First routes are planned, even the Port of Hamburg toying with the Hyperloop.
If the spread of the automobile supplanted coachmen, established several new industries (in addition to the production of cars and the required parts also modern road construction, traffic control systems, the Federal Motor Transport Authority and much more) – what effect will then be the Hyperloop? It is obvious that the world is growing together another piece. But who are the coaches who scurry with their hooves and fear the introduction of the first Hyperloop routes? A small tip (already in the headline): It is not the railway companies, because on short and medium-speed routes a high-speed train does not of course develop its full potential.
Air transport providers invest in HTT and VHO projects
Instead, it is the aircraft manufacturers and airlines that fear the consequences of the Hyperloop and are stuck in initial projects with HTT and VHO. A powerful, cash-rich constellation, which will undoubtedly lead to nothing going unturned, to overcome political and legislative hurdles and to put the first routes into operation. On almost all continents, the first treaties (often with governments) are now in the works or signed, clearing the way for the first groundbreaking ceremony. In the most innovative research centers as well as in the two Hyperloopers, scientists, engineers and economists are working hard to develop the tube systems, pods, energy management and interior design of the systems.
And by the way: Of course, a Hyperloop is much more environmentally friendly than kerosene-powered aircraft. Provided that the electricity comes from renewable energy sources. In this way, the Hyperloop projects could rather unconsciously put pressure on politicians and the energy sector to switch energy production to „renewable“ faster than originally planned. My assessment is that other states will also be faster than Germany – even if we currently have a share of renewable energy in the energy mix that can be seen internationally.
The ride in the Hyperloop is free for passengers
Dirk Ahlborn announced at the Economic Forum in Davos 2018 that he will be able to open the first route for passengers in just under three years. Incidentally, he has also announced that no passenger will ever pay for a ticket, which brings us back to the subject of free transport. The first Hyperloop route is not expected to be far from the federal borders: France wants to be the first European country with a Hyperloop. Then I want to be among the first to have tickets for the maiden voyage. I will report!