If Hyperloop Catches On, It May Happen Here

Dutch test center opens
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 26, 2024 4:26 PM CDT
If Hyperloop Catches On, It May Happen Here
One of the tubes allowing vehicles to travel on magnetic fields is seen at the new European test center for hyperloop transportation technology in Veendam, northern Netherlands.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

A quarter-mile white steel tube running alongside a railway line in the windswept northern Netherlands could usher in a new era in the transportation of people and freight. The tube is the heart of the new European Hyperloop Center that opened Tuesday and will be a proving ground in coming years for developers of the evolving technology, per the AP.

  • What it is: Hyperloop, once trumpeted by Elon Musk, involves capsules floating on magnetic fields zipping at speeds of around 435 mph through low-pressure tubes. Its advocates tout it as far more efficient than short-haul flights, high-speed rail, and freight trucks. However, since Musk unveiled the concept that he said could shuttle passengers the nearly 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes, it has progressed at a much slower pace from the drawing board toward the real world.
  • What's next: A test capsule built by Dutch hyperloop pioneer Hardt Hyperloop will take part next month in the first tests at the center, which is funded by private investment as well as government contributions. "I expect by 2030 you will have the first hyperloop route, maybe five kilometers (three miles) in which people will actually be transporting passengers," said the center's director, Sascha Lamme. "Actually there's already preparations being done for such routes in, for example, Italy or India."

  • A critic: "This is just another example of policy makers chasing a shiny object when basic investment in infrastructure is needed," said Robert Noland, distinguished professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. "It costs too much to build."
  • Details: The test center's tube is made up of 34 separate sections about 8 feet in diameter. A vacuum pump in a steel container next to the tube sucks out the air to reduce the internal pressure. That reduces drag and allows capsules to travel at such high speeds. A unique feature of the Veendam tube is that it has a switch—where it splits into two separate tubes, a piece of infrastructure that will be critical to real-life applications. "Lane switching is very important for hyperloop, because it allows vehicles to travel from any origin to any destination," said Marinus van der Meijs, Hardt's technology and engineering director.
(More Hyperloop stories.)

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