Elon Musk's concept for a solar-powered transportation system has completed its first milestone.
On Tuesday, Hyperloop One (formerly called Hyperloop Technologies) announced that it was ready to run the first-ever public test of a jet propulsion system for the world's first high-speed, tube-based transit system — the Hyperloop.
On Wednesday morning, part of that system was tested in Northern Las Vegas, Nevada. And it was a success!
What Is The Hyperloop?
The Hyperloop is an above-ground, tube-based transit system that uses linear induction motors and air compressors to propel pressurized capsules that are supported by air or magnets.
The Hyperloop is expected to travel up to speeds of 750 mph — almost the speed of sound. Also, because its pods will travel in a tube system, the Hyperloop will be protected from harsh climates that affect other transit systems.
In 2013, Musk published a blog post and accompanying 58-page paper that denounced California's high-speed rail project and introduced the Hyperloop as a faster, cheaper form of transportation. He open-sourced the paper, and now, Hyperloop One is ready to test his idea.
What Is Hyperloop One?
Formerly called Hyperloop Technologies, Hyperloop One changed its name in time for Wednesday's test. Hyperloop had been competing with another company, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), to be the first to get the project running.
So, "One" has two points of significance: that the Los-Angeles based firm is the first to test the project, and that it's the only company you should associate with Musk's brainchild.
What Happened At The Test Site?
Wednesday's test didn't feature a full-scale Hyperloop system: it didn't include pods or pylons that support a levitated, solar-powered, low-pressure tube transit system. Instead, the test focused on Hyperloop One's linear electric motor-based propulsion system — essentially, a motor that has zero moving parts.
On Wednesday morning, the Hyperloop One team shot a bare-metal sled at 120 mph down a 58-meter-long track. Slightly elevated by magnetic levitation technology, the sled accelerated at 2 g-force before hitting a patch of sand. The whole test took two seconds.
"This is about validating the hardware and software," Hyperloop One cofounder and CTO Brogan BamBrogan said at Wednesday's event. "We’re aiming to hit 400 mph in two seconds. And by the end of the year, hopefully we’ll have a full test, with the sled in a tube accelerating with our custom propulsion.”
The next test will take place in the same desert location, where Hyperloop One's team plans to build a three-mile track with tubes elevated by pylon.
According to SVP of Engineering Josh Giegel, all current tests are tied to an electric grid. As testing and development continues, however, the company could potentially switch to a solar power system.
What's Next For Hyperloop One?
Hyperloop One plans to create a fifth mode of transit that will significantly reduce travel time between faraway cities — a huge upgrade for the travel and leisure industry. According to Musk, a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco could take just 35 minutes.
Hyperloop One also announced that it has received $80 million in funding from more than half a dozen new partners in the fields of architecture, engineering, tunneling, freight, and finance. The company's total funding is now $120 million.
In a release, Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd said, “We will work alongside these world-class partners to redefine the future of transportation, providing a more immediate, safe, efficient, and sustainable high-speed backbone for the movement of people and things."
The company has not outlined a timeline for full production. But according to Lloyd, the team hopes to have the Hyperloop system moving cargo by 2019 and passengers by 2021.
Considering Hyperloop One's first test went as planned, the startup could be on its way to becoming a household name in high-speed transit.