Thu 14 Sep 2017 - Team
Now that we’ve announced the ten winners of the Hyperloop One Global Challenge, bringing to a close a year-long search for the world’s most promising proposed Hyperloop routes, it’s worth looking back at what we’ve learned from the journey. Before the Challenge even began, we were engaged in projects in Finland, with DP World and the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai, in Russia, and at the Port of L.A. and Long Beach in California. We were starting to see global interest emerging that would be impossible to serve as a two-year-old startup in downtown Los Angeles.
So we took a page from our board member Peter Diamandis and his X Prize Foundation and launched the Global Challenge in May 2016. X Prize challenges set audacious goals to spur significant leaps in space exploration, medicine, energy, and computing. The idea is to cast the widest net possible to break bottlenecks in markets where incumbents have failed to solve hard problems. Our take on it was to challenge teams young or old, expert or amateur, to submit their best proposals for Hyperloop networks connecting cities and regions.
More than 2,600 teams registered. By January 2017 we had narrowed the field down to the 35 strongest teams. We then held standing-room-only events for the contenders in New Delhi, Washington, D.C., and Amsterdam, showcasing their work to leaders from government, industry, and universities. Hours of judging, interviews, and analysis by our engineers and business strategy teams yielded the ten winners of the Challenge. The winning teams will get our support and resources to move their projects toward commercial readiness.
These teams all have well-defined routes and implementation strategies, strong support from public and private stakeholders, compelling business cases, and represent the most innovative and creative applications of Hyperloop One technology. Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, who spoke at our event in Washington, sent us an email congratulating the winners, writing: “Across the world, there is a hunger for new solutions to old problems. Nowhere is that sentiment stronger than in the bold ideas taking root in transportation. The Hyperloop One Global Challenge has internationalized one of the boldest new concepts in the field, and I congratulate the successful teams.”
Governments have a lot of options for solving their transportation headaches, but one thing we hear often is how hungry they are for new, innovative, sustainable transportation solutions. Ministers in Spain, Mexico, the Netherlands, Corsica, and Sardinia all championed Hyperloop One proposals in their countries. The Dutch even ran a national competition to identify a Global Challenge submission. “We need new concepts to keep the Netherlands moving. Concepts which will add new modes of travel on top of the existing infrastructure,” said the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen at our Amsterdam event. “Hyperloop can be the game changer. Fast, quiet, innovative and sustainable.”
India had some of the most ambitious entries and secured two winning routes: Bengaluru-Chennai and Mumbai-Chennai. Amitabh Kant, the CEO of Niti Ayog, India’s agency responsible for transforming the nation’s economy, told attendees at our event in India, “The key to India's growth at a rapid pace is how we transform the process of urbanization. Without disruption, it is not possible. What the Hyperloop presents is a transformational technology which will enable many countries to leapfrog.”
As a direct outcome of the Global Challenge, we now have our first agreement with a U.S. state government. Hyperloop One and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), with support from AECOM, will enter a public-private partnership to begin a feasibility study in Colorado. Says Shailen Bhatt, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Transportation: "We are excited to partner with Hyperloop One in exploring the next step of the feasibility of this innovative technology, potentially transforming how Colorado moves. The Hyperloop technology, in general, could directly align with our goals of improving mobility and safety in Colorado, and we have been encouraged by the continued progress the technology is taking."
Other government leaders got just as engaged with their proposals. The leader of the winning Miami-Orlando team is Alice Bravo, Director of the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works. The Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh route is led by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the agency responsible for transportation planning in the Columbus, Ohio area. William Murdock, Executive Director of MORPC, is thinking creatively about how on-demand and fast freight powered by Hyperloop can impact his region: “In Columbus, we have an international airport that exports food products directly. If you can get perishables to Columbus in 20 minutes, you’re exporting next day from the fields of Indiana to the Middle East or Japan.”
We were also blown away by how much creativity and effort the Challenge unleashed from the private sector, including the world’s top engineering and design firms. AECOM, for example, launched a company-wide call for proposals to its more than 87,000 employees in 150+ countries, yielding several of the winning submissions.
“The excitement around Hyperloop is in its potential to reimagine transportation by eliminating the barriers of distance and time,” said Michael S. Burke, AECOM’s chairman and chief executive officer. “That half of the winning teams are supported by AECOM demonstrates the power of our connected expertise and is further evidence that these are the kinds of problems AECOM is built to take on and solve. We’re excited to be part of Hyperloop One’s efforts to create impactful use cases for a technology that can transform what it means to get from point A to B anywhere in the world.”
Mexico’s leading young architect Fernando Romero, who helped design Mexico City’s New International Airport, is one of the creative minds behind the winning Mexloop proposal to connect Mexico City to Guadalajara via Querétaro and León. Mexloop is a collaboration among representatives from Romero’s firm FR-EE and engineering firms Arup and Sener. Their route would link a population expected to grow to more than 60 million people by 2050. Stations would be strategically located near airports, rail freight hubs, and metro and commuter rail stations to maximize the efficiency of existing transport infrastructure.
I’d like to congratulate all the winners and finalists of the Global Challenge, along with the thousands of people and companies that put so much effort into thinking about how Hyperloop can change the world. “By connecting with partner cities across larger geographies, these projects pragmatically solve big problems that have national implications. Urbanists and policy makers alike can now dream again about the future of space and time in uninhibited ways,” said one of our judges Alan Berger, Norman B. and Muriel Leventhal Professor of Advanced Urbanism at MIT.
You often find great ideas beyond the walls of your own company, and the Challenge exemplifies our belief in an open approach to finding those ideas. The next big step in building our open platform is to bring together all of the winning teams and our government and industry partners early next year at the first Hyperloop One Global Summit. We'll announce a location soon, but I can guarantee it will be an epic gathering of innovators eager to develop hardware, software, and services on the Hyperloop One platform. If we stay true to the open approach, there will be dozens, and ultimately hundreds, of companies actively building a more connected world with us. Together we’ll deliver the world’s first operating Hyperloop systems starting in 2021 and beyond.
Read more about Hyperloop One Global Challenge proposals:
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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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