Fri 23 Jun 2017 - Impact
Part of a series highlighting proposed European routes from the Hyperloop One Global Challenge. Posts featured routes in Germany, the UK, and Spain, Netherlands and Poland. Update: Corsica/Sardinia: Bastia-Cagliari and Estonia/Finland: Tallinn-Helsinki were named finalists in the Challenge.
Europeans have long been seafarers, pioneering vessels to ferry goods and passengers across the waterways that surround the continent. However, the seas that separate Europe continue to create economic and social divides between nations. High-speed transport connections can break down these barriers and help European nations create stronger economic and social ties.
Nowhere has this been more apparent than the creation of the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France. A study by Ernst and Young pegged the annual economic impact of the tunnel to the UK at £91.4bn per year, representing a quarter of all UK trade in goods with the European Union. The implementation of the tunnel has led to £1.7 billion in additional tourism revenue, accounts for 30% of UK exports, and added 220,000 jobs to the economy.
Given the magnitude of the Channel Tunnel’s impact, it is no surprise that other European countries bound by seas are looking to a future where ambitious transportation plans can bring them closer. At the Hyperloop One Vision for Europe event, two semifinalist teams, Corsica-Sardinia and Helsinki-Tallinn, shared their plans to bridge physical divides with Hyperloop.
Although Helsinki can be glimpsed on a clear day from the top of Tallinn's tall towers, the two capitals of Finland and Estonia are separated by a two-hour boat ride and 90 km (56 miles) of cold sea. The proposed Estonia-Finland Hyperloop route would cut the ride to 8 minutes, city-center to city-center.
The proposed Hyperloop route would be 22 minutes shorter than a proposed high-speed rail corridor between the two countries and would be cheaper to build. Hyperloop One systems are two-thirds the cost of high-speed rail as they require less land and are cheaper to construct and operate. While both projects would require expensive underwater tunneling, Hyperloop One system tunnels will cost significantly less than high-speed rail tunnels and have greater advantages. A single high-speed rail tunnel is large in diameter and is built to house one train at a time. A Hyperloop One system requires a much smaller tunnel bore. As a comparison, a single high-speed rail tunnel could house a two-way Hyperloop One system.
“We are already connected, Finland and Estonia, but it takes too much time to merge the two cities into one city. We have a double city today but we want to make it one city,” said Stanislav Popkov, Architect and Estonia-Finland Hyperloop Project Manager.
After the fall of the Soviet-era bloc, Estonia’s success as a leading country in Central and Eastern Europe has benefited from its strong relationship with Finland. Over 8 million people cross the Gulf of Finland on ferries every year, 60,000 Estonians take the trip weekly. The Hyperloop route would create the ability for the two countries to be separated by the distance of a metro stop, enabling easy commutes and helping businesses to attract top talent and additional customers.
“A lot of Estonians go to work in Finland and a lot of Finns come to work in Estonia. For this labor market to work in a coherent way it is really important to have this infrastructure in place,” said Marten Kaevats, National Digital Advisor, Government Office of Estonia. “I think Estonia and Finland both have a good skill set of people and community and the right mindset to actually make it happen.”
The proposed route would also have a significant impact on real estate development in Tallinn. It is three times more expensive to live in Helsinki than Tallinn, according to the proposal authors. Hyperloop could enable individuals and businesses to choose where to locate and alleviate pressure on Helsinki’s competitive real estate market.
Hyperloop could ease the movement of goods and freight in the region, too. Cargo traffic between Finland and Estonia is expected to grow from 23 million tons in 2014 to 50 million tons by 2080 according to Talsinkifix. Tallinn has strong transportation links with other regional cities including Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, and St. Petersburg, and can aid in transporting goods from Finland to Russia, Central Europe, and Scandinavian countries.
Ultimately, this Hyperloop segment could link to the proposed Helsinki-Stockholm Hyperloop route put forth by FS Links. The two projects collectively could enable journeys between Tallinn to Stockholm via Helsinki in under 40-minutes and could have a transformative impact on the region.
“Right now Finland is currently isolated from the European railway network,” said Janne Ruponen, Mechanical Engineer, Estonia-Finland Hyperloop Delegation. “This link could serve as the first metro system link between the two capitals and will change completely the future of how we see cities or megaregions.”
The island nations of Corsica and Sardinia are separated by a 20 km (12 miles) patch of the Mediterranean Sea. But, the transportation inefficiencies have led to economic disadvantages between the two countries with greater investment, infrastructure, and economic opportunity in Sardinia than its northern neighbor.
The Corsica-Sardinia Hyperloop route, proposed by the Corsican investment company FemuQui, looks to bridge both the economic and geographic divide between the two island nations creating one holistic economy.
"The Governments of Sardinia and Corsica have decided to support this idea because it is a revolutionary idea that is able to modify the geography and probably the history (of the two islands) too,” said Massimo Deiana, Assessore/Minister, Government of Sardinia, on behalf of President Pigliaru and President Simeoni. "We can start a new era because we are speaking about a new system, a new way of thinking about distances and moving people and things".
The proposed route would stretch from the northern capital of Bastia to the southern capital of Cagliari with stops throughout both islands, ultimately connecting two million inhabitants in under 40-minutes.
The economic and social connections of the route would be profound and could boost tourism opportunities, ease the movement of freight, and connect the island’s disparate infrastructure.
The beautiful beaches and pink granite inlets of the islands drew 15 million tourists in 2015. Given the challenges of traveling between islands, tourists often choose to only visit one island. To visit both takes 16-20 hours for a round trip journey (including transfer and waiting times) by car, ferry, or plane according to the proposal. Connecting both islands would create a seamless travel experience which would boost tourism and the ability to create a common brand between the two islands.
In 2015, 45 million of tons of maritime freight goods passed through the ports of Cagliari and Bastia according to the proposal. A 40-minute connection between the ports and inland centers would shift the trade routes of the islands. The northern port of Cagliari would have an extended access to north Mediterranean trade centers and Bastia would be able to lessen its dependency on French trade. As a result, the proposal asserts that consumer prices on the island would fall dramatically, improving the purchasing power of Corsican consumers.
The inhabitants of Corsica would have better access to healthcare services as Sardinia has 10 hospitals while Corsica has only 3. Additionally, the proposal foresees creating a university network of more than 45,000 students between the two countries and its three universities creating a critical mass for teaching, research and student exchanges.
Marten Kaevats from the Estonia-Finland delegation summed up the Hyperloop opportunity ahead for countries like Estonia and other European nations. “The most interesting thing is the cultural and mind shift change that this technology brings us. Meaning a more connected world, more open, and more coherent. The spatial behavior of people will start changing rapidly to something completely different.”
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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 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 Spirit AeroSystems, 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.
Yes. We’ve successfully run hundreds of tests at our full-scale prototype in the Nevada desert. On November 8, 2020, the first passengers traveled safely on a hyperloop – making transportation history. This test demonstrated that we can safely put a person in a near-vacuum environment, and our entire safety approach was validated by an independent third party.
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 VH 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. Our goal is to achieve safety certification by 2025. We are on track to meet this goal and have unveiled West Virginia as the home of the world’s first Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC). This announcement builds off of significant progress around the world on the regulatory front. In July 2020, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine Chao and the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council unveiled the guidance document on a clear regulatory framework for hyperloop in the United States. In the EU, the European Commission (EC) has just released the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy and hyperloop is explicitly identified as a game-changing mobility technology. We are also working closely with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DGMOVE) and Shift2Rail to deliver the next wave of sustainable mobility through robust regulatory standards. In India, the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India, 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 placed along the route length while engaging pod brakes to safely bring 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 on a 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 VH 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 VH 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 VH 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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