The much-awaited hyperloop is finally here, as India is all set to earn the distinction of being the first country in the world to get a fully-functional hyperloop transportation system. The proposed hyperloop route between Pune and Mumbai was recently granted the infrastructure project status by the Maharashtra government.

How the Project Materialized

In May 2016, Virgin Hyperloop One – the US based transportation company – issued a global challenge in an effort to find the most promising routes where the hyperloop transportation technology can be applied. Out of the 2,600 entries which came in, the company managed to shortlist four routes, one of which was the Pune – Mumbai route.

Virgin Hyperloop One says that there are several reasons why India is ideally suited for implementing the hyperloop transportation system – an extremely low-cost manufacturing base, the availability of top-notch engineering talent, favorable regulatory conditions, and unflinching support from the political class.

The approval for the hyperloop project comes at a time when the Indian government is gearing itself to embrace new technologies with respect to public transportation. The Mission 350 plan by the Railway Ministry, in particular, focuses on the application of magnetic levitation technology in high-speed rail networks. It is the same technology used in the hyperloop system as well.

How the Hyperloop System Works

The hyperloop system consists of two main components – the pod (which transports the passengers) and the tube (a tunnel-like structure within which the pod travels).

A linear electric motor is used to propel the pod along the tube. The motor has two key components – a stator (which is attached to the tube) and a rotor (which is attached to the pod). When voltage is applied, the rotor spins along the stator, which causes the pod to accelerate along the length of the tube.

The key thing to be noted here is that the pod does not move on the track, like the way a train does. Instead, it floats above the track glides through the tube in a lightning fast manner. The concept is commonly referred to as magnetic levitation, as the pod is able to levitate due to the action of the electromagnets in the motor.

The air in the tube is vacuumed out to reduce friction to the extent possible. It is one of the reasons why a hyperloop is able to achieve extremely high speeds – up to 670 miles or 1080 kilometers per hour.

How Is Hyperloop Different from Other Modes of High-Speed Transportation?

Hyperloop differs from other modes of high-speed transportation in many ways.

Speed

It is one of the biggest advantages of a hyperloop system, as it is capable of traveling at a speed of 1,000 kilometers per hour. It is faster than any other mode of transportation, including airplanes.

No Noise Pollution

Automobiles, as you know, can be extremely noisy. The bigger the vehicle, the more noise it tends to make. With hyperloop, however, noise pollution is not a problem at all. Since the system is based on the concept of non-contact motion, it does not make loud noises while traveling through the tube. The passengers sitting inside the pod will not be able to hear anything while those who are outside the tube will only be able to hear a big ‘whoosh’ as the pod passes by.

Energy Efficiency

The hyperloop is extremely energy efficient compared to other modes of transportations like traditional trains and high-speed trains. This is one of the biggest reasons why it has captured the imagination of a large number of people around the world.

High-speed trains and conventional magnetic levitation trains generally require the entire length of the track to be powered. Virgin Hyperloop One, on the other hand, only requires a small portion of the track to be powered. So, the total amount of energy consumed by the hyperloop system is much lower compared to other modes of high-speed transportation.

Since there is no emission, the hyperloop leaves a much smaller energy footprint compared to almost any other mode of transportation currently available today.

Moreover, the hyperloop system, as Virgin Hyperloop One puts it, is energy-agnostic. It can be powered using any source of energy. If it can be powered by solar or wind energy, it can be transformed into a 100% carbon-free transportation system.

Safety

The hyperloop system is specifically designed to be safer than other forms of transportation in several ways.

  • It operates autonomously, which eliminates the possibility of human error.
  • It is designed to operate in an underground tunnel or along a series of columns, as a result of which the risk of collision – with pedestrians, vehicles, or wildlife – is eliminated completely.
  • It operates in near-vacuum conditions and there is no contact with the tube. So, there is no friction or turbulence even at extremely high speeds.

The Expected Impact of Hyperloop in India

The construction of the proposed Pune – Mumbai hyperloop system is expected to be completed in two phases. The first phase of construction is expected to start by the end of the year and completed by 2023. Once the system is fully functional, passengers will be able to travel from Pune to Mumbai in 25 minutes. Currently, it takes approximately three and a half hours to travel from Pune to Mumbai.

The project is expected to cost Rs. 70,000 crore, which makes it one of the most expensive and ambitious infrastructure projects ever undertaken by a state government in India.

Currently, 75 million passengers travel between Pune to Mumbai every year. The number is expected to increase to 130 million by 2026. Conventional modes of transportation are not equipped to handle such a large increase in the number of passengers. Even if they manage to do, it is likely to result in a significant increase in carbon emission levels.

The hyperloop system, on the other hand, is capable of transporting 150 million passengers between Pune and Mumbai every year. So, despite the costs involved, the hyperloop might just be the solution to our transportation woes in the long term.

 

Featured Image: Flickr by Kevin Krejci

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