The Beam interview series, edition 26: Carl Brockmeyer
CleanTechnica keeps on publishing some of The Beam interviews twice a week. The Beam magazine takes a modern perspective on the energy transition, interviewing inspirational people from around the world that shape our sustainable energy future.
This week Anne-Sophie Garrigou, journalist at The Beam, interviewed Carl Brockmeyer, who leads an ambitious digital transformation initiative to enable new digital business models and sales channels for the industrial global player Leybold. One of the partnerships established recently involves Leybold in the development of the Hyperloop, a new high-speed ground transportation system, imagined by Elon Musk.
Can you talk to us about Elon Musk’s pipe dream, the Hyperloop. What is it exactly? How does it work?
Hyperloop is devised as a fifth mode of transportation besides the well-known modes cars, airplanes, trains and boats. It has the potential to replace short and medium distances of today’s air and train travel with significant gains on overall efficiency, energy consumption and total cost of ownership. Imagine a large tube, which is immune to weather conditions and operates with a low pressure environment inside, a partial vacuum. Inside the tube, people and goods are transported in capsules (or pods), which hover magnetically and are driven by electro-magnetic propulsion. The low pressure environment inside the tube enables high speeds and an energy efficient propulsion, as air inside the tube, or the same system outside the tube, would be slowed down by air drag.
How is it going to revolutionize transportation?
Most of today’s public transportation systems are cost-inefficient, many can only operate on government subsidies. Only few of the train tracks in Germany for example are profit making, for which most connections depend on subsidies from the government, despite the high ticket prices. This is largely due to the high cost to build these systems and high costs to operate and maintain them throughout their lifecycle. This is true for most developed countries.
Hyperloop proposes a technology and along with it a business model that aims to be significantly cheaper to build than today’s high-speed train systems and more importantly aims to be cheaper in its operation and maintenance. This would allow operators of the Hyperloop to actually earn a profit to reinvest. This is important if we want to further develop and innovate transportation systems, and for the same reason, this is probably why we haven’t seen real innovation e.g. on train transportation in the last 100 years. Yes, trains became faster, cleaner and more energy efficient, and of course the likes of Siemens, ABB and Bombardier are putting great efforts into their train developments, but in fact most of today’s trains are evolved versions of older train systems and we have not seen a real disruptive innovation of the train system since its inception. The Hyperloop proposes to do just that, disrupt and revolutionize transportation through a sustainable, energy- and cost-efficient technology.
Another aspect of the Hyperloop to revolutionize transportation is its speed. If you could work in a city that is 600km far away from your hometown and cover that distance in less than an hour in a cost-efficient way with the Hyperloop, than the importance of location changes entirely. You could visit the opera or a restaurant hundreds of kilometers away and be back home for bedtime.
How much energy is required to travel in this futuristic vacuum tube? And where does the energy come from?
Renewable energy is key for the Hyperloop business model. The Hyperloop is devised as an ecosystem, incl. sources of renewable energy, too. As such, Hyperloop tubes could be plastered with solar panels. Wind and geothermal energy could be sourced along the tracks and within the tubes themselves, regenerative energy sourced from the electric propulsion and braking system will play a key-role, too. While I cannot disclose specifics on the energy consumption publicly yet, I can say that one of the targets is to generate more energy with the Hyperloop ecosystem, than it will consume during its operation.