Virgin Hyperloop One: The Future of Commuting?

What Is a Hyperloop?

A Hyperloop is a vacuum tube in which a pod slides along a single track that is magnetized so that there is very little resistance. The lack of resistance allows the pod to move at extremely high speeds using minimal electricity. Making the Hyperloop fairly low-cost to build and operate in addition to being much less expensive for passengers to buy tickets. The concept of Hyperloop transportation was first introduced by Elon Musk in August 2013.

Today's bullet trains travel at 200 miles per hour and commercial airplanes cruise at 500-600 mph, a Hyperloop has the projected speed of 700-800 mph. And since the Hyperloop can avoid the takeoff and landing associated with flying, it can shave additional time off the journey and create a more efficient trip.

The initial Hyperloop designs are for elevated tracks enclosed in tubes on top of the pylons. Eventually, Hyperloop routes will feature tunnels through hills and mountains and possibly even undersea routes. 

What Is the Virgin Hyperloop One?

Virgin Hyperloop One formerly known as Hyperloop One, is an American transportation technology company formed in 2014 and reorganized and renamed in 2017. Their primary goal is to commercialize the high-speed technology of the Hyperloop. The original Hyperloop concept uses a linear electric motor to accelerate and decelerate an electromagnetically levitated pod through a low-pressure tube. Their system is designed to be entirely autonomous, quiet, direct-to-destination, and on-demand. Virgin Hyperloop One has made significant technological changes to Musk's initial proposal and continues to advance the technology to make hyperloop a reality.

History of Virgin Hyperloop One

The idea for Hyperloop One emerged from a conversation between Elon Musk and the Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar when they were flying together to Cuba on a humanitarian mission in January 2012. Pishevar asked Musk to elaborate on his Hyperloop idea, later Pishevar suggested using it for cargo, an idea Musk had not yet considered. Although, Musk did say he was considering open-sourcing the concept because he was too busy running SpaceX and Tesla.

2013: 
  • Musk releases the Hyperloop Alpha white paper, generating widespread attention and enthusiasm. 
  • Pishevar incorporates Hyperloop Technologies, which later is renamed Hyperloop One.
  • Hyperloop Technologies sets up shop in Bambrogan’s garage in Los Angeles.
2015: 
  • Hyperloop Tech raises $9 million in funding.
  • Hyperloop Tech is renamed Hyperloop One.
2016:
  • The propulsion open-air test, or POAT, was successfully held in Nevada.
  • The POAT sled accelerates to 134 mph in 2.3 seconds, representing a crucial proof of concept.
  • Hyperloop One opens a 100,000 sq ft tooling and machine shop called Metalworks in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
2017:
  • Hyperloop One tests a full-scale Hyperloop, calling it DevLoop.
  • Successfully tests an XP-1 passenger pod, reaching speeds of up to 192 mph.
  • Hyperloop One forms new partners and is renamed Virgin Hyperloop One.

Why Create the Virgin Hyperloop One?

As humanity continues to grow and expand there will be an ever-growing demand for quick and inexpensive transportation between major metropolitan areas and outlying suburbs into big cities. The following are a few of the ways how Virgin Hyperloop One will impact individuals and the economy.

Where employees can live:

Longer distance commutes will give employees more options when it comes to housing, as well as which jobs they can consider.

Where companies can hire:

Enabling longer commutes will also widen the pool of job candidates for employers and will make it easier to fill niche job roles. It will also make it easier for companies to open smaller, remote offices where employees can work most of the time, while still allowing quick transportation to headquarters for in-person meetings.

Real estate prices:

By drawing a larger circle around metropolitan areas due to longer and quicker commutes, the runaway inflation of real estate prices in large cities would be eased.

Tourism:

Despite the fact that the Hyperloop might lead to decreased restate prices in large cities, the cities will see increased tourism due to cheaper and faster transportation. 

Safety of the Virgin Hyperloop One

Virgin Hyperloop One has a goal of 100% safety, with aspirations of accomplishing this using significantly new and advanced technologies. One of the advantages that Virgin Hyperloop One has is that it is a new mode of transport. Being a new mode of transportation allows for the complete removal of attachment to legacy systems. This lack of attachment allows designers to shape and design safety systems that are more effective and easier to use. As a new transportation mode, the engineers of Virgin Hyperloop One have the ability to model and control the entire environment as it is a fully enclosed system. A Hyperloop is not affected by adverse weather conditions or traffic congestion. Additionally, it does not have a negative impact on the environment as it is a completely closed system. Also, the completely autonomous nature of operations means that human error is considerably reduced. 

By making safety intrinsic in the design, building and operational phases of the overall system and infrastructure make the system safer and easier. This mindset avoids the step in the development of earlier modes such as rail and air. With both rail and air safety has been reactive in the early stages when speed and comfort took priority over safety. Also, by learning from other industry sectors they can apply continual innovation and deliver a dynamic safety roadmap.

Development of a New Safety System

In the absence of safety standards for a new mode of transport, a Proof of Operations Facility was developed. Their existence creates an excellent opportunity for regulators to work collaboratively with the technology developers, systems integrators and safety case experts. All of these efforts are to more fully define the regulatory regime for an entirely new mode of transport. Ultimately, this will avoid the lengthy processes of legacy safety certification. These new processes can also pave the way for rapid, efficient and effective safety case delivery. 

Impact of the Virgin Hyperloop One on the Environment

Elon Musk claims that Hyperloop pods will be faster than trains, safer than cars and much less damaging to the environment than aircraft. A feasibility study by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates Hyperloop routes could be up to six times more energy efficient than air travel on short routes while delivering speeds three times faster than the world’s fastest high-speed rail system. Examining the potential for Hyperloop pods to be more eco-friendly than traditional transport, the researchers at the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg estimate that the Hyperloop could avoid emitting up to 140,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year while delivering up to $1.07 billion of value.

The current design of the Hyperloop includes a completely closed track that is solely powered by solar energy. The track is enclosed in a metal tube with solar panels running across the top of the entire length of the tube track. This design fundamentally decreases the system's reliance on carbon-heavy energy sources.

The Blazing Speeds and Cost of the Virgin Hyperloop One

Speed:

Virgin Hyperloop One has released a prototype levitating pod that is designed to travel at speeds as high as 760 mph. The 87-mile journey from Dubai to Abu Dhabi usually takes 90 minutes by car, but the Hyperloop will take a mere 12 minutes. Here are a few examples of estimated travel time:

Salt Lake City-New York City:
  • Hyperloop: 3 hours 37 minutes
  • Air Travel: 6 hours 48 minutes
  • Driving: 38 hours 16 minutes
Las Vegas-San Fransisco:
  • Hyperloop: 50 minutes
  • Air Travel: 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Driving: 7 hours 51 minutes
Miami-Chicago:
  • Hyperloop: 2 hours 13 minutes
  • Air Travel: 5 hours 18 minutes
  • Driving: 23 hours 10 minutes
Washington D.C.-New York City:
  • Hyperloop: 27 minutes
  • Air Travel: 3 hours 25 minutes
  • Driving: 3 hours 51 minutes 
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Ticket Cost:

Currently, we are unable to get actual fair prices as the system is not yet built or in place. Although ticket prices are projected to be roughly 30-40 dollars, keep in mind that the actual price will be highly variable in relation to total distance traveled. 

Future of the Virgin Hyperloop One

In February of this year, Virgin Hyperloop One presented their current prototype at Dubai's Road Transport Authority. Where Virgin Hyperloop One announced that they are currently planning to have three working Hyperloop systems in service by 2021.

Currently, each pod is designed to carry up to 10 passengers. The passengers will have to stay buckled the entire trip due to the incredible speed of the Hyperloop. The pods will have no windows, an attempt to decreases overall drag on the pod. However, it has been stated that there will be interactive entertainment screens in every armrest.

Will the future of mass transportation be Virgin Hyperloop One’s Hyperloop? The company has positioned themselves to become the future leaders in both shipping and public transportation. If they are successful, it will result in a global shift in the way the world travels, ships, and vacations. As long as Virgin Hyperloop One continues to meet their goals and deadlines they might just change the world.

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Tyler Farr
 

Tyler is an energetic nature enthusiast who is currently considering moving into a tiny house. Tyler and his wife enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, and doing anything in the great outdoors. He hopes that the articles he writes will help others learn how important it is to take care of the environment.

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