Thu 06 Apr 2017 - Impact
Whether you believe we should Make America Great Again, or simply Keep America Awesome, I think all Americans can agree on a few basic principles:
Whichever part of the U.S. you’re currently in, it’s easy to feel like our country’s grasp on these ideals has been slipping. We have failing dams, toxic water, airports belonging in a ‘third world country’, and collapsing bridges. The European Union now has a larger economy than us, and China is leading the world in clean tech. Hard-working Americans often struggle to find jobs, and last year’s election exposed a rift in this country that will take years to heal.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave our infrastructure a D+ in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, advising that deficiencies will have a “cascading impact” on employment, incomes and international competitiveness. The ASCE estimates that the average U.S. family will lose $3,400 a year from 2016 to 2035 because of bad infrastructure. Surface transportation is the sector with the largest gap, with more than 53% of required spending remaining unfunded to 2025. Congested roads alone cost US drivers $160 billion in wasted fuel and time in 2014. Traffic fatalities increased 7% from 2014 to 2015, with 35,092 people dying on America’s roads.
Americans are ready for solutions--within years, not decades. One of the rare things the majorities within both parties agree on is the need to ramp up infrastructure spending. In just a few months, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will unveil a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure plan. The administration’s plan is almost certainly going to be a mixture of public and private investment. That’s a good thing, as private capital often has the benefit of holding a project’s feet to the fire by demanding a decent return. The same accountability should apply to public funding. Taxpayers should only pay for something if they get value from it.
We have some ideas. This week we held our Vision For America launch event in Washington, D.C., to showcase the U.S. teams in the semifinalist round of the Hyperloop One Global Challenge. We kicked off the Global Challenge a year ago to solicit proposals for the world’s most promising Hyperloop corridors. America delivered, producing more Global Challenge semifinalists than any other country in the world. The eleven U.S. teams represent routes that would connect 35 metro areas and 83 million Americans: Las Vegas to Reno in 42 minutes (compared to 7 hours by car or 1 hour 15 minutes by plane). Chicago to Columbus in 29 minutes (half the time of a plane journey, and that doesn't even include the airport hassles). Denver to Boulder in 5 minutes (compared to a 90 minute drive).
The teams, hailing from Nevada, Florida, California, Texas, Colorado, New England, Missouri, the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest, submitted excellent proposals with data-rich economic cases for Hyperloop. Several of them come with the support of governors, mayors, Congressional representatives, and regional planning commissions. The Nevada and one of the Colorado proposals are officially sponsored by their state Department of Transportation. The DOTs of Florida and Texas are a partner to their Challenge proposal. Our finalists understood that, unlike other start-ups, we need to ask for permission to change the country.
The work that went into developing these proposals underscores Americans’ desires for more autonomy and greater economic freedom. The U.S. doesn’t lack for talent or innovation—its biggest problems are driven by imbalances. People are being priced out of the cities in which they want to live. Employers struggle to find great talent from nearby labor pools. Road congestion is a tax on everyone’s time, respiratory health and sanity. By offering fast, clean and efficient transportation that collapses distances that once seemed daunting, Hyperloop can restore some balance to the economy.
Close to two-thirds of Boulder County residents have been priced out of home ownership. A Hyperloop would enable breadwinners to build a career in Boulder’s thriving tech hubs while commuting from Greeley, where median home prices are 60% lower. A commuter in Dallas could live close to her aging parents in San Antonio without having to give up her job.
With a Hyperloop network extending out of the Seattle area, as proposed by one of the Global Challenge teams, employers such as Boeing, Amazon or Microsoft could access ten times the labor pool, reaching as far afield as Portland, Boise, and the San Francisco Bay area. Hyperloop would also allow Boeing to move new manufacturing facilities inland to a place such as southern Idaho, dropping its land cost by more than 50%. Shipping and logistics would get far more nimble and reliable with Hyperloop-powered on-demand freight networks. The Hyperloop Texas Global Challenge team was inspired by the ability to help a small business owner restock her store within 2 hours, allowing her to fully capitalize on the crush of visitors to the yearly SXSW festival without maxing out her credit line buying up extra stock in advance.
The Hyperloop is real, and it’s fast becoming an American reality. This week we finalized tube installation on our 500 meter-long DevLoop, located at our site in the desert outside of Las Vegas. DevLoop is the world’s first full-system Hyperloop test track, and is our outdoor lab for validating our proprietary levitation, propulsion, vacuum and control technologies. In the coming months, we will run the first pod through it, proving the core set of system components work together. Then we’ll look to build proof of operations centers in locations around the world to demonstrate the system is reliable and safe, and scale up from there. Success will require working closely with partners in government and transportation agencies to obtain all the certifications and regulatory approvals, as well as bottoms-up efforts with community leaders and advocates.
America has shown the ability to dream and act boldly before—the establishment of the Interstate Highway System in 1956, the enactment of airline deregulation in 1978 and interstate trucking in 1980 were all integral to defining our current logistical roadmap. The Interstate Highway System was widely considered one of Eisenhower’s biggest accomplishments, generating a 28% return on investment between the 1950s and 1990. It’s the backbone of commerce in this country, moving passengers and goods constantly.
When we’re successful as a country, it’s because the public and political leaders are energized to solve a problem. Greatness is a measure of the problems we choose to solve, as President Kennedy famously invoked in his 1962 speech:
But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? Why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.
The country needs a new network. One that’s smarter, faster and cleaner. One that will help businesses react faster to shifts in demand and unlock more productivity and growth. Let’s build a network that’s owned by Americans and made by an American company. One that’s an example for the rest of the world to follow. All we ask is to be part of the solution.
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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. Watch a video explaining the concepts here.
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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