On August 27, the third round of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop competition was won by the WARR Hyperloop team, a collection of 30 students from Germany’s preeminent engineering and technical university in Munich, TUM. The competition took place at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The WARR Hyperloop entry set the highest top speed of the day — 201 miles per hour — in the ¾-mile-long, 6-foot-tall test tunnel constructed by SpaceX last year.
The Hyperloop competition is designed to test prototypes for a new form of transportation — pods that travel at near-supersonic speeds through a specially constructed tube. The tube itself is intended to operate in a partial vacuum, dramatically lowering wind resistance. The first competition was held at Texas A&M in 2016.
More than 1,000 students from 120 colleges and universities around the world brought their creations to Texas. Elon Musk told those who came for the competition, “What this was really intended to do was encourage innovation in transportation technology, to get people excited about new forms of transport, things that may be completely different from what we see today.”
In the end, 22 were deemed worthy enough to advance to the second round, which took place last January at SpaceX headquarters. When it was over, three teams remained — those from MIT, the University of Delft, and TUM. They were invited back for round three last weekend, where the WARR Hyperloop team set the pace with the highest recorded top speed.
The TUM entry is a scale model prototype constructed of carbon fiber and weighing 176 pounds. It is powered by a 50 kW electric motor and has four pneumatic friction brakes that bring it to a stop in 5 seconds or less, according to the team’s website. The team also set the highest top speed in the second round of the competition last January at 56 miles per hour. Such incremental progress has Elon Musk excited, and the video is quite thrilling alone.
Hyperloop pod run by team WARR pic.twitter.com/ntaMsoxkZE
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 28, 2017
After the test, Musk had a lot to say to his fans and supporters. “Might be possible to go supersonic in our test Hyperloop tube, even though it’s only 0.8 miles long. Very high accel/decel needed.” Later he explained the high acceleration and deceleration capability is only needed for the current test track because of its relatively short length. “Btw, high accel only needed because tube is short. For passenger transport, this can be spread over 20+ miles, so no spilt drinks.” Asked on Twitter what he considers “supersonic,” Musk replied, “Call it ~800mph.”
Musk is a visionary, but Donald Fagen of Steely Dan was prescient when he penned the lyrics to I.G.Y. That song, released in 1982 when Elon was still a mere lad, saw the future clearly — “Undersea by rail. Ninety minutes from New York to Paris.” Once again, life imitates art.
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