This story about the Hyperloop was first published on Gas2.
On July 29, Hyperloop One established a new speed record for its XP1 experimental transportation pod — 192 miles per hour. The test took place inside the company’s 500 meter long test track. The XP1 employs maglev technology to reduce friction to a minimum. The tube it travels in operates in a partial vacuum in which air is as scarce as it is in the atmosphere 200,000 feet above the earth’s surface.
Hyperloop One Approaches 200 MPH
The XP1 makes a sort of whining/whistling sound as it travels inside the tube. The Verge describes it as the sound one would expect to hear from “a low grade TIE Fighter from Star Wars.” Shervin Pishevar, CEO of Hyperloop One, says, “When you hear the sound of the Hyperloop, you hear the sound of the future.”
The company’s first test of the system in May yielded a top speed of only 70 miles per hour, but it was “the catalyst to move to the next level,” according to Josh Giegel, the company’s co-founder and lead engineer. The XP1 pod is 28 feet long. Constructed of carbon fiber and aluminum, it looks like an aerodynamically optimized bus from the future — which it very well may be.
Other Hyperloop Ventures
Hyperloop One is not alone on the Hyperloop stage. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies says it is working on its own test facility in Korea, where it plans to build a system connecting Seoul with Busan. At speeds up to 650 miles per hour, the trip would take about 20 minutes, as opposed to several hours today.
Brogan BamBrogan, one of the co-founders of Hyperloop One, was ousted in a boardroom coup last year. He has taken the money he was paid by the company to go away and invested it in yet another Hyperloop company called Arrivo. Not much has been heard about BamBrogan’s venture recently.
Musk Started It All
The Hyperloop, of course, is the brainchild of Elon Musk. Frustrated by being stuck in Los Angeles traffic one day, he thought urban transportation could be much improved if we all got around inside vacuum tubes like those at the drive up window at the neighborhood banks.
He put the idea out there and invited anyone who was interested to run with it. But Musk never quite forgot about his creation, which seems to have been reincarnated in a different format as The Boring Company, the new enterprise that Musk thinks will bore tunnels underneath the ground to smash the curse of urban congestion forever.
Elon Jumps Back In The Game
Now a person close to Musk tells Bloomberg the inveterate entrepreneur may want to get back into the Hyperloop game personally. Apparently, SpaceX owns the Hyperloop trademark. It also has the rights to @Hyperloop on Twitter and the domain name www.hyperloop.com.
The Boring Company issued the following statement this week: “While we’re encouraged that others are making some progress, we would like to accelerate the development of this technology as fast as possible. We encourage and support all companies that wish to build Hyperloops and we don’t intend to stop them from using the Hyperloop name as long as they are truthful.’’
The statement must be a bit of a shock to the three companies that are already trying to make the Hyperloop a reality. Between them, they have raised nearly $200,000,000 to fund early trials. They may have assumed that Musk would simply bore the tunnels needed to contain their technology, but Musk seems to have other ideas.
Don’t Bet Against Musk
Jonathan Silver is a former loan program director at the U.S. Department of Energy. He was directly involved in the $465 million loan that Tesla was awarded in its early days, a loan that was paid back in full, with interest, 9 years early. “There’s probably a finite amount of capital willing to bet on (the Hyperloop) and bet against (Musk), he says.”
Apparently Musk is having second thoughts about letting others he has no control over benefit from an idea he came up with. Is the world ready for three or maybe four Hyperloop companies? Why not? After all, the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific railroads were able to peacefully coexist — sort of.
For now, all three companies are applauding Musk for his vision, no doubt hoping he will pick one of them to partner with. If that happens, the other two disappointed suitors will be left to press their claims in court, which will enrich a few lawyers if nothing else.
More Than Hype?
If this all seems to you like a lot of hoopla for something that may or may not ever be commercially viable, you’re probably right. “If wishes were horses, we’d all be kings,” my old Irish grandmother liked to say. Even Musk with his fierce pursuit of the barely possible may not be able to bend the laws of physics and economics enough to make the Hyperloop a reality. “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.