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Hyperloop: What’s behind the hype?

Uber, fully electric cars, combustion vehicle bans in cities – radical ideas split people into two camps: those for and those against it. Such is the case with Elon Musk’s famous Hyperloop. Praised by many individuals and media outlets for its ingenuity, criticised by equally vocal populations – including many experienced in the transit industry – for being too costly, overpromising and better for moving goods than people. So what’s the deal with Hyperloop? Is it the next big thing for the mobility industry and Business Mobility – or is mostly just hype?

High-speed and anytime

On it’s website, Hyperloop One, the parent company, sells its product idea as ‘broadband for transportation’, which, according to the company, translates to affordable, accessible, fast transport that’s available on demand. So what is it exactly and how does it work? The Hyperloop is a special system that uses propulsion to move pods through tubes at high speeds. Specifically, it involves:

  • Tubes: a controlled environment in which pods travel
  • Levitated pods for passengers and cargo
  • Lower air pressure in tubes for less resistance

In the clip you gain a closer look at how this revolutionary idea could actually work:

Speed is of the essence

Under these conditions, a trip on Hyperloop can expect to reach an astonishing velocity of 1,127 kilometres per hour. Let’s put that in real terms: the journey via Hyperloop from Stockholm to Helsinki would take an estimated 28 minutes to cover the 483 kilometres between the two cities. Comparatively, the distance currently takes 17 hours by ferry or 3.5 hours by plane, including check in and flight time. The estimated cost for the Stockholm-Helsinki stretch: an estimate €19 billion euros.

Despite the steep price tag, Hyperloop One argues the infrastructure would be significantly cheaper than what’s required for high-speed rail. However, in the above case of Stockholm-Helsinki, it would require a costly sub-sea tunnel under the Baltic, a point of great contention.

Testing underway

Initial testing of Hyperloop technology took place last May in the Nevada desert and not long ago the first tube was installed there. Recently, the company took many by surprise by announcing plans to build the first Hyperloop in the United Arab Emirates where, if all goes as planned, it will take travellers and goods from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in just 12 minutes – a journey that typically takes 2 hours by car.

Good for businesses?

How Hyperloop will impact businesses and business mobility has yet to be seen. Assuming it comes to fruition, maybe mobility budgets – offered by Alphabet in Belgium and the Netherlands – can be spent on rides on the Hyperloop in the future. The fact is, it’s still feels to far-fetched to make any concrete predictions – we’ll check back in a few years with an update.

What do you think of Hyperloop? Is it just a hype or will it become a bona fide means of transport? Tell us in the comments!