Tue 24 Oct 2017 - Impact
Part of a four-part series related to creating more sustainable, resilient transport infrastructure. Other articles in the series include Full-Seats & Other Secrets to a More Sustainable Transport Future, and “Future-Proof” Technology Will Support Cities’ Sustainability and Resiliency Goals.
Nico Anten, is Managing Director at Connekt, an independent network working to improve mobility in the Netherlands in a sustainable manner. He comments on how the Dutch have approached building resilient and innovative infrastructure, the country's ‘can-do’ mindset, and how it can the lessons learned by the Dutch can be applied on a global scale.
The Dutch are resilient by nature - if only because our small size and geographical position require it. About one third of the Netherlands lies below sea level. A millennium ago, Dutch communities began organizing to manage water systems and build dikes to protect against flooding from the sea and rivers. By the 13th Century, the Dutch created local water boards, some of the oldest forms of democracy in the world, still in use today. We’ve learned five key lessons which other countries can embrace to build resilient, sustainable infrastructure to boost their economy and positively impact citizens.
If we hadn’t learnt to be resilient and find collective solutions to life-or-death matters, this small country would not be the seventeenth-largest economy in the world today. The Dutch people are known for their commercial spirit, open-mindedness towards people from different countries, international ambitions, and innovative ways of thinking. We can only propagate a ‘participation society’ because we trust that people feel the responsibility to connect and care for others, just as people joined local water boards to collectively protect the low countries from flooding centuries ago.
King Willem-Alexander summed up the Dutch ‘participation society’ in his 2013 speech noting, “In today's world, people want to be able to make their own choices, manage their own lives and take care of one another.” It is this coupling of independence and community efficacy that has made the Netherlands such a resilient country.
You could say that we are integral thinkers out of necessity, because the Netherlands owes much to its stakeholder-based approach towards economic development. In the early stage preparations for automated driving, we stimulated a public-private collaboration and invited the authorities, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the automotive industry, insurance companies, and planners to the table. The fact that Dutch people are open to innovation and innovative technologies implies that we’re also open to and curious about other people’s thoughts and ideas. The Dutch are an audience that is ready for innovation and thinks about the consequences of having a connected car and a connected home, and being a connected person. By analogy, we do not primarily approach Hyperloop as an infrastructural challenge, but a social challenge: how does Hyperloop fit in the lives of people?
Integral thinking incited the Netherlands to participate in the European Truck Platooning Challenge and, during the 2016 EU Presidency, make Smart Mobility the central theme of the Informal Transport Council. We believe that real progress demands far more intensive international cooperation between the European Commission, EU member states and the industry, including the consumer as both the starting point and the final goal of the process.
Throughout the world the Dutch are famous for having built a flourishing economy and a prosperous society in this vulnerable, low-lying, water land. After the North Sea flood of 1953, a Delta Works Commission was put in place to research the causes and develop measures to prevent such disasters in the future. They revised some of the old plans and came up with the "Deltaplan.” The Delta Works (Dutch: Deltawerken) is a series of construction projects in the southwest of the Netherlands to protect a large area of land around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta from the sea. The works consist of dams, sluices, locks, dikes, levees, and storm surge barriers whose aim was to shorten the Dutch coastline, thus reducing the number of dikes that had to be raised. The Delta Works helped solve the flooding problem and has a conceptual framework called “the Delta norm” that can be used to inform decision-making around investment in flood defense.
In recent years, cities around the world have been hit by flooding: Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, floods in Peru, Southern Thailand, São Paulo, the list goes on. The pictures testify to the fact that flooding is always disastrous, just as it was in the Netherlands in 1953. There are victims to mourn, the damage is immense. People lose their homes, their livelihoods, their everyday surroundings. It puts society in disarray. A decade on, the city of New Orleans is still recovering from the major flood that ravaged it. Good protection from flooding is a necessity, not a luxury. So too is tackling pluvial flooding and efforts to ensure a sufficient supply of clean freshwater for the sake of our health, nature and the economy. And this is what the Netherlands can offer: our Delta program approach has become a successful export product.
The Netherlands wants to be and remain a global leader in smart mobility. To do so, we’ve had to think about creating mobility solutions across borders. “The old dividing lines are disappearing, as vehicle, road and traffic merge into one integrated system, while the playing field is not regional, not national, but international,” according to Marije de Vreeze, ITS Manager at Connekt. It’s one of the reasons why we have the Dutch Smart Mobility Embassy to promote Dutch expertise worldwide, and Dutch companies like NXP and TomTom work on Smart Mobility on a global scale.
The Dutch commitment to investing in smart mobility solutions is demonstrated nationally in various investment programs and test projects but also internationally by, for instance, the Declaration of Amsterdam 2016 on connected and automated driving that came about under the Dutch EU presidency. In this Declaration, member states, the European Commission and private sector have agreed on joint goals and joint actions to facilitate the introduction of connected and automated driving on Europe’s roads. This should prevent a patchwork of rules and regulations arising within the EU, which would be an obstacle to both manufacturers and road users.
The Dutch are early adopters out of necessity. We have to be, because we are so small. In Dutch we have the expression, “If you’re not big, you have to be smart.” Our hunger for innovation explains our reputation as a trading nation. The early 16th century technology revolution in shipbuilding led to a competitive advantage in shipping. We are one of the world’s first modern economies, since merchant capital in the 17th century made the Dutch aware of the need to manage risk – leading to the first organized stock exchange, and later to the first liquidity providers.
Smart Mobility and new transportation technology are top-line priorities in the Netherlands. Due to our high population density and high-tech community, there is a demand for greater transportation choice that incorporates technology and keeps people connected. The Dutch government is making substantial investments in innovative traffic management and new forms of smart mobility, including new technology and services that give travellers real-time driving and travel advice during their journey. More than 20 companies are working on the rapid introduction of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) that could become one of the most valuable investment opportunities in public equity markets.
Our concept of resilience is all about integrating the best ideas. Perhaps that’s why we do not just believe in the promotion of Hyperloop, but we also strongly believe in finding out how the Hyperloop system can enhance our mobility system and play a role in greening transport and smart mobility.
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We're a privately-held company on a mission to create fast, effortless journeys that expand possibilities and eliminate the barriers of distance and time.
There are too many people caught bumper-to-bumper in traffic, who have to make a hard choice with their family on where to live and work, and who are limited in their access to experiences and opportunities. We're building a system that will give back time and deliver the travel experience of the future.
The number of cars is set to double worldwide by 2040, same with air and trucking. We are already dealing with the effects of pollution, lack of access, and congestion. If we only invest in the same technologies we’ve had for more than a century, tomorrow will look like today, only much worse. It’s been over a century since the Wright Brothers first showed us human flight was possible. It’s time for a new era in transportation capable of carrying us forward for the next 100 years.
To date, we have received over $400 million.
A major investor of ours is DP World, a leading enabler of global trade who sees the potential of sustainable hyperloop-enabled cargo systems. Additionally, we are backed by the Virgin Group, an industry leader across rail, aviation, ships, and even spacecrafts. For more on our investors, visit the company page.
Virgin Hyperloop One is the only hyperloop company that has a strategic partnership with a mass transportation company, the Virgin Group, an industry leader across rail, aviation, ships, and even spacecrafts. Another key partner of ours is DP World, a leading enabler of global trade who sees the potential of sustainable hyperloop-enabled cargo systems. Other industry-leading partners include KPMG, Foster + Partners, Systra, BIG, SNCF, GE, Deutsche Bahn, Black & Veatch, McKinsey, Deloitte, Jacobs, Turner & Townsend, ARUP, and Steer, among others.
No, there’s no connection with Elon Musk.
We aren't just building a hyperloop; we're building a network of public and private partners to scale an integrated supply chain ecosystem. Our business model is based on partnerships that create local jobs and opportunities for those who choose to invest in this technology. We are working at the highest level of governments around the globe to put in place commercial agreements to make hyperloop a reality.
Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation designed to eliminate the barriers of distance and time for both people and freight. It can travel at speeds approaching 700mph, connecting cities like metro stops - and it has zero direct emissions. The journeys can be booked on demand so there’s no wait time or delays.
With hyperloop, vehicles, called pods, accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The pod floats along the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
On May 12th, 2017, we made history two minutes after midnight when we successfully launched our vehicle using electromagnetic propulsion and levitation under near-vacuum conditions at our full-scale test site in the Nevada Desert. We've since run hundreds of tests, acquiring validated knowledge that only comes from real-world testing. For more info on DevLoop, our 500 m test track, visit our progress page.
We estimate that the top speed for a passenger vehicle or light cargo will be 670 miles per hour or 1080 kilometers per hour. That is about 3 times faster than high-speed rail and 10-15 times faster than traditional rail. The average speed vehicles travel will vary based on the route and customer requirements.
A perfect vacuum would decrease the drag on the vehicle even more, but not significantly. We have already gotten rid of 99.9% of the air in the tube. Lower levels of vacuum than this are important if you are performing scientific experiments, but the cost would not be worthwhile.
Hyperloop is an entirely new mode - think the best of trains, planes, and the metro. Hyperloop is on-demand, offering flexible travel schedules with no stops, no transfers, and no weather delays – all at speeds about 3 times faster than high-speed-rail and less cost. Hyperloop is highly efficient, with a smaller environmental impact than high-speed rail because the closed system can be tunneled below or elevated above ground, avoiding dangerous at-grade crossings. The VHO system is 100% electric and can reach higher speeds than high-speed rail for less energy due to our proprietary electric motor and low-drag environment.
Fast, effortless journeys go hand-in-hand with journeys where everything works reliably without interference, and where all passengers feel comfortable and safe. The Virgin Hyperloop is designed to be inherently safer than other modes, with multiple redundancies in place. Our system operates autonomously in an enclosed tube and is not susceptible to weather delays, accidents from at-grade crossings, human error, or power outages. Our proprietary high-speed switching architecture eliminates unsafe track configurations and moving trackside parts, a failure point of traditional rail with mechanical switches.
As new mode, we have to prove our safety case to regulators and work with them to develop a regulatory framework, so passengers can ride the hyperloop in years not decades. We are encouraged by the support we are seeing at the local and federal level around the world to support hyperloop certification based on the fundamentals of safe operating that are already standard practice. In March 2019, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, created the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council to explore the regulation and permitting of hyperloop technology to bring this new form of mass transportation to the United States. This Council is an important step forward in recognizing hyperloop is a new transportation mode and that we need to shift our mindset and acknowledge that this technology does not fit into a regulatory structure that is over 100 years old. The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DGMOVE) has also been leading discussions with hyperloop companies to advance regulatory standards and, in India, the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA), Prof. Vijayraghavan, has set up an independent committee called the Consultative Group on Future of Transportation (CGFT) to explore the regulatory path for hyperloop. For more, visit our regulatory progress pages.
While flying through a tube at more than 1000km/h might seem like a thrill ride, the truth is we are able to mitigate any uncomfortable acceleration forces within our controlled environment. The journey will be so smooth, you could sip a coffee the whole time without spilling a single drop. Normal acceleration and deceleration of 0.20 Gs will feel similar to a train. As a comparison, flooring a typical sedan gives between 0.4-0.5 Gs and commercial airplanes see 0.3-0.5Gs depending on the plane and load.
Pods will continue to travel safely to the next portal even with a large breach. Our response to a breach would be to intentionally repressurize the tube with small valves places along the route length while engaging pod brakes to safely bringing all pods to rest before it is deemed safe to continue to the next portal. A sustained leak could impact performance (speed) but would not pose a safety issue due to vehicle and system architectural design choices. This assessment is based in solid understanding and analysis of the complex vehicle load behaviors during such an event.
Without a massive leap forward, pollution from the transportation industry is expected to almost double by 2050 - well above the carbon budget. By combining an ultra-efficient electric motor, magnetic levitation, and a low-drag environment, the VHO system can reach airline speeds for 5-10x less energy (depends on route length) and can go faster than high-speed rail using less energy. In regions like the Middle East, we could power the system completely by solar panels which cover the tube. As fighting against climate change becomes an existential issue for cities across the globe, hyperloop will create a new, shared, electric mobility model for helping to permanently reform an industry with some of the world’s highest carbon emissions.
We are designing Virgin Hyperloop to be more efficient than other modes of transportation. Modern jetliners use up to 10 times the energy we use per passenger-mile over the entire journey. We can cruise at 500 miles per hour for less energy (per passenger) than an electric car doing 60 miles per hour. At peak speed, the VHO system consumes approximately 75 watt hours per passenger kilometer (Wh/pax-km). To put this in perspective, the fastest conventional maglev train travels at about half our speed and consumes 33% more energy.
Our system is 100% electric with zero direct emissions. We're energy-agnostic. Our system can draw power from whichever energy sources are available along the route and support a transition to a renewable energy-powered future. In regions like the Middle East, we can completely power the system with solar panels which cover the tube.
It’s similar those new electric vehicles that are so quiet they need to create noise to indicate movement. With hyperloop, we eliminate sources of mechanical noise, like wheels on track, and we actually have a sound barrier inherent in our tube design
DP World Cargospeed is a global brand for hyperloop-enabled cargo systems operated by DP World and enabled by Virgin Hyperloop technology. These systems will deliver freight at the speed of flight and closer to the cost of trucking for fast, sustainable, and efficient delivery of palletized cargo.
The focus would be on high-priority, on-demand goods – fresh food, medical supplies, electronics, and more.
With DP World Cargospeed, deliveries can be completed in hours versus days with greater reliability and fewer delays. It will expand freight transportation capacity by connecting with existing modes of road, rail, ports, and air transport, and will provide greater connectivity with manufacturing parks, economic zones, distribution centers, and regional urban centers. This can shrink inventory lead times, help reduce finished goods inventory, and cut required warehouse space and cost by 25%. DP World Cargospeed networks can also enable just-in-time, agile manufacturing practices.
The Virgin Hyperloop is unique in that it doesn’t need to be passenger-only or cargo-only. We are designing a mixed-use system that fully utilizes system capacity while maximizing economic and social benefits. However, it is possible to run cargo commercial operations while certification and regulation are still ongoing for passenger use.
We are working with the most visionary governments around the world to make sure you can ride the hyperloop in years, not decades. Our goal is to have operational systems in the late 2020s. Our ability to meet that goal will depend on how fast the regulatory and statutory processes move.
We are working with visionary governments and partners around the world to make hyperloop a reality today. To learn more about our projects around the world, visit our progress page.
Capital and operating costs will range widely based on the route. We recently released a study that showed our linear costs are 60-70% that of high-speed rail projects. In addition, we expect the operational costs to be significantly lower than existing forms of transportation.
It’s simple – if it’s not affordable, people won't use it. We are looking to build something that will expand opportunities for the masses, so they can live in one city with their family and work in another. Currently, that kind of high-speed transport is not feasible for most people. The exact ticket price will vary for each route, but a recent study showed that riding a hyperloop in Missouri could cost less than the gas needed to drive.
We are in the business of serving local needs, not the other way around. Public and private support is key. In some cases, we will respond to solicited bids with partners when we feel the technology matches the project’s objectives. In other cases, we will make an unsolicited bid for a project when we see that hyperloop could offer a unique solution to market needs.
While the technology is different, the process for building a hyperloop is similar to that of building a highway, railway, or any other type of linear infrastructure. The first stage is project development. This phase includes feasibility studies, and then more detailed engineering reports and environmental impact studies. Once a project is approved to move forward, a consortium is formed to finance and deliver on the project.
Many infrastructure projects succeed or fail based on right-of-way issues. We are designing a system that requires only about half the right-of-way as high-speed rail and can more easily adapt to existing right-of-ways. At high speeds, the VHO system has a 4.5 times tighter turn radius compared to high-speed rail and can climb grades that are 6 times steeper, reducing the disturbance at crossings. Portals will be purposely integrated into and support existing communities and landscapes. Low noise levels will expand opportunities to build hyperloops closer to the city center.
Hyperloop also holds enormous promise for rural communities. Virgin Hyperloop systems can be built below or above ground, which means no one’s farm needs to be cut in half. Our system enables rural areas to retain residents, who can now have more access to urban job centers, educational opportunities, and health care facilities. Additionally, hyperloop could enable freight distribution centers to be placed in rural areas, leading to job growth and industrial clusters. After a system is built, there is the opportunity to add additional on and off-ramps, supporting a greater number of people along the route.
Transportation infrastructure has traditionally relied on extensive government funding. This is because the benefits of clean, safe, and efficient transportation are enjoyed by the entire community, not just the user buying a ticket. However, most existing mass transportation modes are unprofitable and hindered by existing infrastructure built in the past century or by legacy systems. We want to change that and are focused on public-private partnerships. By developing a new mode of transportation from scratch, we're able to leverage technological developments that have occurred in the last century, especially the IT revolution. We're able to keep maintenance costs low, energy efficiency high, and transport tens of thousands of passengers per hour. This keeps margins and accessibility high, contributing to more financially attractive returns than if the corridor was served by existing modes. These benefits aren’t just hypothetical. While this is an exceptional case due to high demand, a third-party evaluation found that our Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop Project could be funded 100% by private capital. In the U.S. we see enormous potential to attract investment from the private sector, leveraging public investments. Involving government stakeholders as well as potential private investors early in the project development process is critical.
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