Monday, November 9, 2020

Virgin Hyperloop successfully conducts their first passenger test

 The test took place on Sunday afternoon at the company’s DevLoop test track in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada. The first two passengers were Virgin Hyperloop’s chief technology officer and co-founder, Josh Giegel, and head of passenger experience, Sara Luchian. After strapping into their seats in the company’s gleaming white and red hyperloop pod, dubbed Pegasus, they were transferred into an airlock as the air inside the enclosed vacuum tube was removed. The pod then accelerated to a brisk 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) down the length of the track, before slowing down to a stop.

Virgin Hyperloop

It’s an important achievement for Virgin Hyperloop, which was founded in 2014 on the premise of making Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s vision of a futuristic transportation system of magnetically levitating pods traveling through nearly airless tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph (1,223 km/h) a reality.

The DevLoop test track is 500 meters long and 3.3 meters in diameter. The track is located about 30 minutes from Las Vegas, out in the kind of desert that hyperloop pods could one day traverse in minutes. The company says it has conducted over 400 tests on that track, but never before with human passengers — until today.

Prior to the test, Luchian said she was eager to experience the acceleration, as well as monitor the temperature inside the pod and the ventilation system. Giegel said he wanted to see the system’s safety procedures in action, and would be keeping track of whether they’re able to maintain communication with operators during the test. “If it’s not safe enough for me, it’s not safe enough for anyone,” he said.

Giegel said the acceleration will feel similar to a plane taking off. The pod is propelled by magnetic levitation — the same technology used for bullet trains. The top speed of the fastest commercial bullet train, the Shanghai Maglev, hovers around 300 mph.

To be sure, the pod didn’t reach the hyperloop’s theoretical maximum speed of 760 mph. Virgin Hyperloop projects that with enough track it can eventually get up to 670 mph — but the company’s record to date is 240 mph, which it hit in 2017.

Virgin Hyperloop was originally founded as Hyperloop Technologies before changing its name to Hyperloop One in 2016 and then again to Virgin Hyperloop One after being acquired by Richard Branson’s company

No government in the world has awarded a contract or approved the building of a hyperloop system yet. It’s unclear how much it would cost to build a hyperloop, but surely it would be in the billions of dollars. Leaked financial documents in 2016 suggested the hyperloop would cost between $9 billion and $13 billion, or between $84 million and $121 million per mile — significantly more than high-speed rail. Even with public funding, any company would need to raise millions of dollars in funding, acquire the enormous tracks of land, and certify that the hyperloop can be operated safely. Which is all to say, the hyperloop is still very far off.

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