Hyperloop One test bodes well for transit's fast future (Update)

May 11, 2016

A recovery vehicle and a test sled sit on rails after the first test of the propulsion system at the Hyperloop One Test and Safety site on May 11, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada
The possible future of transit zipped along a short track in the desert outside Las Vegas on Wednesday before sliding to a stop in a bed of sand, sending up a tan wave.

Hyperloop One, a start-up hoping to revolutionize transport systems, held its first public test of engine components being designed to rocket pods carrying people or cargo through tubes at speeds of 700 miles per hour (1,125 kilometers) or more.

The company hopes to realize a futuristic vision laid out three years ago by billionaire Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind electric car company Tesla and private space exploration endeavor Space X.

Its research and testing in the desert is not simply aimed at making a Hyperloop system possible—its goal is to do it in a low-cost way that makes it possible to spread the technology around the world.

"This is a significant moment for us as a team," Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar said to an invitation-only crowd seated in grandstand seats set up opposite the length of electrified track.

"We are standing on hallowed ground for us; the team has worked incredibly hard to get to what we call our Kitty Hawk preview."

The US town of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina went down in history as the locale where the Wright brothers made the first successful flight of a powered plane in 1903.

Magnet power

The test under the Nevada desert sun was a step in developing a propulsion system that would give super high-speed motion to passenger or cargo pods gliding above magnetically charged rails enclosed in tubes.

A sled bracketed to the rail was slung into motion using magnetic force generated by motors referred to as "stators" set in a line at the start of the track.

Eventually the sled, which will evolve into a chassis of sorts for a pod, will accelerate to more than 400 miles an hour in a few seconds, according to Hyperloop One co-founder Brogan BamBrogan.

The long-term vision for Hyperloop One—which is vying to be the first startup to bring the system to life—is to create something that moves at near-supersonic speeds.

"When you think about passengers traveling on this, you will feel no more acceleration than you would on an airplane taking off," BamBrogan said after the successful test.

After accelerating, the pods will essentially glide for long distances, making for smooth rides and low power consumption, according to BamBrogan.

"The goal of this test isn't just to move this sled," he said. "It is to engineer an acceleration system that is scalable for passengers and freight and to bring the cost down."

Full-speed test coming

Hyperloop One promised a full-scale, full-speed test involving two kilometers of tube-enclosed track at the desert site by the end of this year.

"Today, we are one step closer to making Hyperloop real," said the start-up's chief executive Rob Lloyd.

"We will be moving cargo in 2019, and we think we will have passengers safely transported by Hyperloop in 2021."

On the eve of the test, Hyperloop One announced that it had raised $80 million in fresh funding from an array of investors, including GE Ventures and France's SNCF rail company.

Pishevar and BamBrogan founded Hyperloop One, originally named Hyperloop Technologies, in 2013.

That same year, Musk outlined his futuristic idea for the system, challenging innovators to bring the dream to life.

Hyperloop One is one of the startups that picked up the gauntlet.

The company is so confident in the speed at which the project is moving that it announced a global challenge in which businesses, governments, citizens, academics and others can submit proposals for where the systems should be built.

"The competition is a call out to the brightest people in the world to bring your ideas to us," Lloyd said at the test site.

"When we pick the winners, that is where we are going to build this."

Hyperloop One has a network of collaborators interested in seeing the technology succeed. Among them is Paris-based international engineering and consulting group Systra, which specializes in rail and public transport.

"When you build a new transportation system in a city that doesn't have anything, you change the lives of people," Systra's senior vice president for Northern Europe, Mathieu Dunant, said at a Hyperloop One event on the eve of the test.

"We see huge potential for not only inter but intra city transportation."

Lloyd envisioned a day when factories could crank out goods on demand to have them quickly transported to far-off locations, and then perhaps even delivered in autonomous vehicles.

He was also looking forward to a time when painfully congested commuter traffic would be little more than a story from a time gone by.

"I believe it will do to the physical world what the Internet did to the digital world," said Andrew Liu, a vice president at multi-national engineering firm AECOM, another of Hyperloop One's collaborators.

Explore further: French national rail backs futuristic Hyperloop

More information: hyperloop-one.com/

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jonnyrox
1.6 / 5 (20) May 11, 2016
and the rape of the taxpayer continues......................
Uncle Ira
4.5 / 5 (16) May 11, 2016
and the rape of the taxpayer continues......................


Cher, could you explain that a little bit? I know you think you really said something with that, but you did not really say anything.
Da Schneib
4.7 / 5 (13) May 11, 2016
and the rape of the taxpayer continues...
Another one who wants to drive on the roads but not pay to keep them up.

Good luck with that.
aksdad
1.7 / 5 (11) May 12, 2016
What jonnyrox is saying in a crude way is that high speed rapid transit systems are not economical. Every one of them relies on taxpayer subsidies. Even many low-speed transit systems don't pay for themselves.

Being profitable is a good measure of the practicality of an enterprise. If it doesn't pay for itself and relies on taxpayer subsidies--from people who never use the system--it's not practical. It may be amazing, inspiring, convenient and attractive for all kinds of reasons, but if it doesn't pay for itself, it's not practical. So the taxpayers get stuck with the bill for something they may not use or want.
antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (13) May 12, 2016
What jonnyrox is saying in a crude way is that high speed rapid transit systems are not economical.

You have any idea what the roda conditions (and pollution levels) in some countries would be like if high speed rail didn't exist?

Being profitable is a good measure of the practicality of an enterprise.

No. Being SENSIBLE is a good measure of whether to go ahead with an enterprise.

It's highly profitable to produce weapons and drugs and lead paint and ... . But it isn't sensible.
Guy_Underbridge
3.2 / 5 (9) May 12, 2016
aksdad - but if it doesn't pay for itself, it's not practical. So the taxpayers get stuck with the bill for something they may not use or want...
I bet there were folks with that very same idea when they first discussed building roads and carried supplies by mule (if they were lucky enough to have one) on dirt tracks.
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2016
I bet there were folks with that very same idea when they first discussed building roads and carried supplies by mule (if they were lucky enough to have one) on dirt tracks.


There were, which is why in many places they built canals instead of roads, or used rivers.
Roads were an issue for armies. Ordinary people didn't use them for much because even a good road would be dangerous due to robbers.

Back in the day they didn't have the luxury of reliable tax income to spend on large public projects, so if some lord wanted to transport goods across the country, they had to cough the money up by themselves or get investors, and to get investors to a project you need to show that it's profitable.

So they reasoned, "If we build a road, it's still going to be the same guy on a mule pulling a cart. That's just a waste of time. If we build a canal, we can put a boat behind the mule and carry a hundred times the load."

Roads only became an issue after the automobile.
marcush
4 / 5 (12) May 12, 2016
Being profitable is a good measure of the practicality of an enterprise. If it doesn't pay for itself and relies on taxpayer subsidies--from people who never use the system--it's not practical. It may be amazing, inspiring, convenient and attractive for all kinds of reasons, but if it doesn't pay for itself, it's not practical. So the taxpayers get stuck with the bill for something they may not use or want.


There are many things in our economy that are not profitable in a direct way and yet confer higher profitability to the economy as a whole. Take basic research for instance. By itself it is not profitable and yet it is essential for all the downstream highly profitable technology we utilise.

Public transportation may not be profitable on its own but for the efficient functioning of a city it may be absolutely essential.
Eikka
1 / 5 (3) May 12, 2016
No. Being SENSIBLE is a good measure of whether to go ahead with an enterprise.


"Sensible" is when you're getting the same, or more value back than you spent on it. In other words, profit.

When you try to measure the sensibility of some public project, you have to consider the public as a single buyer - does the public get more value out of the project than they're spending on it? If the project is going to forever be running on subsidies to make up for its shortfalls, that is unlikely.

ou have any idea what the roda conditions (and pollution levels) in some countries would be like if high speed rail didn't exist?


You haven't either, because that history didn't happen. If high speed rail wasn't available and subsidized to be competitive, they could simply use low speed rail and have more trains running.

Much of the cutting edge stuff is just dickwaving, "Because the Japanese have one", so you can funnel funds to your buddy's construction company.
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) May 12, 2016
Take basic research for instance. By itself it is not profitable and yet it is essential for all the downstream highly profitable technology we utilise


The profitability of basic research can be estimated by observing the probability of it turning up something interesting relative to the money you spend. That also helps you guide the research effort rather than spend money indiscriminately to some beatnik social studies.

In other words, basic research IS profitable. There's the Mondragon producer co-op for example, which is a for-profit organization and hosts colleges and research centers for its worker-owners' benefit.
Eikka
not rated yet May 12, 2016
The basic point of subsidies still stands - subsidies are just shuffling money from one pocket to another.

If the direct cost of the service is unpalatable to the public, hiding the cost doesn't change the situation.

Take a bus service that is forced to run around a long route to pick up passengers from sub-urbs, which lowers the quality of service and increases the cost just to serve these remote neighborhoods. The subsidy is applied to offset this cost by making the ticket cheaper, and for what? So the people would use less private cars?

But the problem is not that private cars are less efficient, but that the sub-urbs themselves are less efficient, and the subsidy is just keeping that mode of society on life support. Hiding the cost hides the fundamental inefficiency and the need to do something about it.

Take off the subsidy, people drive more cars, gas prices go up, people go "Hmm... maybe I should live closer to work." and the problem solves itself.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2016
The whole subsidy thinking is kinda ass-backwards because it tries to please people the way they are, rather than trying to fix the problems they're facing. It's bailing wire on a broken system to keep it together.

Why do people need fast rail service? Because they live far away from the services they want to access. Why then don't they move closer to the services they want to access, or move the services closer to where they live? Because the government is subsidizing the fast rail service.

You don't need to try to solve the issue, because it's already "solved".

There's always more than one way to skin a cat. If a city center is congested by cars, you can build an elaborate public funded transportation system to cram more people in the center at a great cost, or you could let the services sprawl out from the center so people wouldn't have to cram themselves down the narrow streets.
humy
3.5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2016
What is supposed to be the advantage of this hyperloop over fast moving electric trains that already exist?
Is hyperloop supposed to be;
1, more energy efficient?
2, faster?
3, safer?
...or what exactly?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) May 12, 2016
What is supposed to be the advantage of this hyperloop over fast moving electric trains that already exist?

- faster (because in a near evacuated tube)
- less noisy (because in a near evacuated tube)
- less energy intensive (because in a near evacuated tube)
- less maintenance (because no contact to rails)
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2016
What is supposed to be the advantage of this hyperloop over fast moving electric trains that already exist?


Faster. The attempt is to strike a middle point between the efficiency and low cost of a train, and the speed of an airplane, with an emphasis for speed.

It's basically a double-fast cross-country train that can't carry standard shipping containers because they would be too big for the tube.
Eikka
2.6 / 5 (5) May 12, 2016
less energy intensive (because in an near evacuated tube)


It's unlikely to be less energy intensive than a train because there's energy loss all along the tube to friction and turbulence, and because the magnetic levitation system has an inductive drag to it that gets 4-5 times more drag per load than the rolling resistance of ordinary steel rails.

The proposed indutrack levitation system that keeps the pod from touching the rail works by passive induction from a series of permanent magnets to metal coils embedded in the track. The motion of the pod provides the current to levitate the train. Ideally there would be no energy loss, but because the coils in the track are not superconductive and there are stray eddy currents, the system has similiar properties to a magnetic brake.

Eikka
3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2016
Public transportation may not be profitable on its own but for the efficient functioning of a city it may be absolutely essential.


A better question would be, who profits and who doesn't.

Public transportation benefits the inner-city business owners by easing the congestion and number of people pushing to live downtown, which lowers property values and cost to rent business space etc. In other words, they get the benefit of increased density of consumers, while paying only a small portion of the cost which is socialized to everybody who pay tax to the city. Meanwhile, services availability elsewhere goes down because the people are going downtown instead.

So the subsidy money doesn't exactly return evenly to the public. The beneficaries are often small special interest groups that rake in the profits, while the public gets thrown a small bone like a cheaper bus ticket, or a bit of free electricity, or sometimes just placebo feelgood.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) May 12, 2016
It's unlikely to be less energy intensive than a train because there's energy loss all along the tube to friction and turbulence

Less than in full pressure air. Turbulence in near evacuated tube is negligible. The envisioned system works at 1 millibar (0.1% of atmospheric pressure at sea level).

Turbulent friction increases with the square of the speed. So to get back to the same friction value you can increase speed by a factor of 30. Easy to see that the energy loss due to friction massively less in a hyperloop system because it will 'only' go at double the speed of current high speed trains.

The effect of electromagnetic drag is much lower than atmospheric drag (just like drag on rails is completely negligible compared to atmospheric drag at anything but a crawl)
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) May 12, 2016
Easy to see that the energy loss due to friction massively less in a hyperloop system because it will 'only' go at double the speed of current high speed trains.


Yes, but the turbulent friction in a modern high-speed train only applies to the lenght of the train, or more specifically it's aerodynamic profile, whereas in the hyperloop it applies to the length of the tube. All along the tube you got turbulent boundary flows that turn the cycling airflow into heat.

And the tube is longer than the train by a factor of more than 30, and it's constantly on whether there's a pod going through or not.

The point of the system is that an airplane has a lift-to-drag ratio of about 20:1 whereas the indutrack has 200:1 and the railway train has an equivalent drag of 1000:1 so it's more like an ultra-efficient airplane.
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) May 12, 2016
You have to remember that the Hyperloop concept is not a maglev electric train in a vacuum tube, but actually a pneumatic train - the continuous airflow through the tube is what pushes the pod along the rail, and the linear electric motor is simply there at the start to inject the pod into the airstream.

The idea is to build up an 800 mph wind that goes through the tube continuously and loops back the other way. The inertia of the air inside the tube over hundreds of miles acts as an energy reservoir, so it can be intermittently powered and catch renewable energy like sunshine. That's what makes it clean.

Otherwise there would be no point because it is much less efficient than a regular high speed train.
adam_russell_9615
2.3 / 5 (4) May 12, 2016
The limited information they have given doesnt sound like it would work imo. I dont think Id want it to be publicly funded until it has an actual test (the nevada test didnt prove concept)
kochevnik
1 / 5 (3) May 12, 2016
The first powered flight belongs not to the Wrights but to Gustave Whitehead, a German immigrant who is believed by some historians to have made the momentous first flight in Bridgeport, Connecticut, more than two years earlier.
antigoracle
2 / 5 (6) May 12, 2016
Hmm... I would say this is 70% Hype(r), 30% Loop(y). But, it will still be interesting to see where it goes.
marcush
2.6 / 5 (5) May 13, 2016
Public transportation benefits the inner-city business owners by easing the congestion and number of people pushing to live downtown, which lowers property values and cost to rent business space etc. In other words, they get the benefit of increased density of consumers, while paying only a small portion of the cost which is socialized to everybody who pay tax to the city. Meanwhile, services availability elsewhere goes down because the people are going downtown instead.


The benefits don't just go to the business owners, they go to the consumers and residents as well since a higher density of shops increases the efficiency of shopping. There is a good correlation between population density or concentration and regional income, wages, economic output, the creative class, high tech industry and even happiness. Thus public transport to service this type of arrangement results in benefits for many.
david_king
2.8 / 5 (4) May 13, 2016
So far, this thing is basically a magnetic rail gun, no?
Eikka
not rated yet May 14, 2016
The benefits don't just go to the business owners, they go to the consumers and residents as well


The point was that the subsidized transport system benefits inner-city residents/workers/shoppers who are already richer than the outer city residents, while the cost is shared by all residents.

The effect is called deadweight loss:
https://en.wikipe...ght_loss

Basically, the cost to concentrate more consumers to the inner city to do their business is greater than the economic benefit of their activity there, which means the activity is a net loss to the city overall, but since the activity is subsidized that still enables the inner-citizens to profit at the expense of the outer city areas.

It's a truism that greater concentration of people results in higher economic activity and output. That in itself doesn't prove that cramming people in the city is benefical for the many.
Eikka
not rated yet May 14, 2016
You can see the effect of cramming people in the cities from the number of people who are forced to make their living serving coffee or waiting tables at minimum wage for a lack of anything better to do.

If they had the services elsewhere, they could operate in places with lower property prices and start businesses of their own in manufacturing, construction, maybe even small time farming, but since the public transportation system is constructed for getting everyone in and out of the city center to feed the city with consumers for the businesses downtown, that's not happening.

The problem is that the city itself doesn't produce much anything. It depends on the surrounding areas for all its energy and resources. You don't have factories on the main street of a modern city - it's full of bars and clothing stores. Today's cities are just big malls.
Eikka
not rated yet May 14, 2016
The point of the deadweight loss is that in the ideal case you have a product or service - some widget - which costs X amount of money to make, and is sold at X price. Any deviations from the ideal price one way or the other cause the deadweight loss.

When the price is ideal, those people who derive more than X value out of the widget will buy it, and those who derive less value out of it won't. That means the production of the widget is always benefical - doing it is more valuable than not.

When the price is subsidized, people are still effectively paying the full price, but the apparent price drop makes some people buy the product despite the fact that they aren't making X or greater value back with it.

That means the overall utility of having the widgets gets reduced. More people have access to them, but the absolute benefit to the whole society is less.
Uncle Ira
4.2 / 5 (5) May 14, 2016
@ Eikka-Skippy, what the heck does all that mean? Choot, I can't even tell if you like the hyperloop idea or you don't like the hyperloop idea.
Eikka
not rated yet May 14, 2016
There is of course the case where subsidies are used to offset non-ideal pricing to bring the apparent cost down to the real cost.

But those cases are invariably due to uncompetetive markets which enable the producers to pull extraordinary profits - a monopoly or a cartel - and the subsidy in that case is rightly recognized as a corruption and an inside deal between the state and the monopoly.

@ Eikka-Skippy, what the heck does all that mean? Choot, I can't even tell if you like the hyperloop idea or you don't like the hyperloop idea.


That depends on whether it runs on its own, or gets subsidized by the state like every other high speed rail systems. Point being that if it can't run without subsidies, we're probably better off without.

It's technically interesting though.

The real world isn't facebook where you either like it or dislike it.
Uncle Ira
4.5 / 5 (8) May 14, 2016
Point being that if it can't run without subsidies, we're probably better off without.
Are you saying that we are better off without anything that does not turn the profit?

It's technically interesting though.
Like science, doing interesting things in engineering is good in it's own right. You never can predict the lessons or ultimate worth of it with any kind of certainty.

The real world isn't facebook where you either like it or dislike it.
What do that have to do with anything? I don't even go to the facebook place, at all.
daqddyo
5 / 5 (1) May 15, 2016
Along with hyper-speed and its concomitant infrastructure will go hyper-security. Even a minor act of sabotage would cause major damage and lawsuits.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) May 15, 2016
@ Eikka-Skippy, what the heck does all that mean? Choot, I can't even tell if you like the hyperloop idea or you don't like the hyperloop idea.
I suspect he is referring to his libertarian utopia consisting of toll roads and pay toilets and padlocked dumpsters where garbage and sewage are dumped on the sealed gutters
gkam
1 / 5 (5) May 15, 2016
"If more engineers and scientists were christians who went to bible study, we could have angels and magic clouds for all transport through both time and space.."
---------------------------------

Or become Scientologists, who are promised "cause over space and time", meaning they can travel the Universe at will. Ask one to visit you sometime by materializing.

By the time you spend about $350,000 you can reach OT whatever, which lets you be a god.

Let's hear it for Xenu!!
ChangBroot
1 / 5 (1) May 15, 2016
The problem is that people talk about billions of dollars very lightly and they foolishly give it to the so called "research" or "science." I bet if they physically saw that amount of money, they would think twice about giving hard earned tax payer money to any kind of "research."

Here is my theory:
If something is invented, discovered, and/or built by the tax payers' money, then it MUST be provided to the general public at near zero cost. If, however, the rich invents, discovers, and/or builds something with their own money, then they should sell at any price they wish. Until we have this kind of system, I say no subsidy to the rich.
Estevan57
5 / 5 (3) May 17, 2016
As of May 5, 2016, there is NO public money spent on this research. Going forward, that may change.

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