Tue 11 Jul 2017 - Tech
"A posse ad esse. Aut viam inveniam aut faciam."
In the early morning hours of May 12, a few dozen Hyperloop One engineers and execs squeezed into a makeshift control room in a trailer under the stars in the Nevada desert to watch transportation history in the making. Ever since we started the company three years ago, we've been aimed at this moment, the instant when we achieve controlled propulsion and levitation of a Hyperloop One vehicle in a vacuum environment.
Two minutes after midnight we finally hit that milestone, the debut of the first new mode of transportation since the Wright Brothers flew over the dunes near Kitty Hawk, N.C., on a chilly morning in December 1903. Back then, only a few locals bore witness to the moment. It would be five more years before the public got to see a Wright flyer. We’re not about to wait that long. We're sharing our Kitty Hawk moment today.
Everybody there (with a group watching live from the LA office) knew how big a deal this was. Josh, twisting a champagne bottle in his hands, emotion catching every word, spoke first to the group in that control room: "I quit my job in December 2014 to come here. My wife told me that if I could find a team of people just as committed to this as I was, we would do something nobody thought possible. This is to all of you, for the time you spent away from your families, your friends, your spouses, and kids. Thank you all for the sacrifices.”
“Josh,” said Shervin, “you made me cry. So did all of you. It was a crazy idea to try to do this when we started the company. We’ve been through hard times, and we’ve been through good times. The world won’t know for a little while what happened here in the deserts of Nevada tonight but we’ve all made history, and it will be recorded and we will change the world, and we will not give up."
Hyperloop One is now on the verge of the complete systems test at our DevLoop site in the desert north of Las Vegas. We’ve installed almost 1,000 feet of the linear motor in a 1,640-foot-long tube capable of reducing the air pressure down to the equivalent of 200,000 feet above sea level. Top speed will be around 250 mph. Today we’re also unveiling XP-1, the pod we’ll be using for those full systems tests over the next several months at DevLoop. XP-1 is comprised of a carbon fiber and aluminum aeroshell atop our levitating chassis, which is the business end of the vehicle, where all the performance comes from: suspension, lift, guidance and propulsion.
That May 12 test may have been short -- only 5.3 seconds, about half the duration of Orville’s first flight -- but we were only testing with 100 feet of the motor. The longer the motor, the faster we can go. Five seconds sure felt momentous that night. We were standing in the back, staring like everyone else at the video feed from inside the tube. The vacuum pump down had begun around 8 p.m. By 11:45, tube pressure was down to 100 pascals. The motor team ran some preliminary tests, edging the pod up and back a few feet at a time just to make sure the motor was working fine. We emailed the Hyperloop One team at 11:51 p.m. with the image of Orville’s first flight and a note that said, “Grab the kids, grab the dog, put the beer down, it's on!"
Just before midnight, DevLoop test engineer James D'Entremont (playing a younger version of NASA Houston flight control's Gene Krantz) started going through the system checks: Max runtime? Three. Max frequency? 43. Verify control boards are active. Verified. Pressure management, confirm ready test? Ready for test. Tube, confirm ready for test. Yeah, ready. Power electronics confirm ready for test. Ready for test. Motor team. Pod team. PRV. Controls. All ready. Awesome, said D'Entremont. Test director, can you confirm ready for test? Ready.
"Can you give me the tube pressure?" asked D'Entremont. Somewhere around 5-ish pascals. At this point, we’d achieved the fourth largest vacuum chamber in the world, and the biggest in private hands.
"Time of test, zero zero 2,” said D’Entremont, and gave the command to turn on the first thyristor, which delivers power to the stators that propel the pod.
"Fire in 5. 4. 3. 2, and 1.” There was a half-second delay. A clench in the throat. Then, sure enough, the sled shot off down the track, chased by the electromagnetic force from the stator. The wheel mounts rumbled along for a second, and then the rumbling stopped as the pod lifted off the track and glided for 3 seconds before coming to a halt on its own.
Hyperloop One's Kitty Hawk moment had arrived. The room erupted in applause, whoops, hugs, and high-fives. The whole group came back into the control room to watch one more run of the tape, share some words and reflect on what we'd accomplished.
History is made by people, not events, by hard work and persistence, and not by chance. Close to 200 Hyperloop One engineers, machinists, welders and fabricators collaborate to accomplish our Kitty Hawk moment. It was their determination that made the previously impossible possible. Getting here wasn’t easy. The road ahead won’t be any easier. But soon we will all be going farther and faster together.
There's a great quote from Charles Lindbergh about aviation's pioneering brothers: "In honoring the Wright Brothers, it is customary and proper to recognize their contribution to scientific progress. But I believe it is equally important to emphasize the qualities in their pioneering life and the character in man that such a life produced. The Wright Brothers balanced success with modesty, science with simplicity. At Kitty Hawk their intellects and senses worked in mutual support. They represented man in balance, and from that balance came wings to lift a world."
There will be a moment decades from now when folks from the Hyperloop One team will be in Vegas with their children or grandchildren, and they'll hop in a car and drive north – everyone in the car will be asking, “Where are we going? The only thing up here is Love’s Truck Stop.” Then you’ll see her, faint in the distance but clearer and more detailed as you approach. She’ll be standing proudly, a testament to the work of each person on the Hyperloop One team. The kids will look, and they’ll see a shape they’ve seen all over the world. “Is that a Hyperloop?” they’ll ask. No, it’s the Hyperloop, the original, the one from which the revolution began.
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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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