Virgin Hyperloop gave the first ride on its test track Sunday in Las Vegas, but it will be years before the public can potentially take a high-speed ride on a hyperloop.
A hyperloop is an unproven transportation system in which people travel in a vehicle in a vacuum tube at speeds as high as 600 mph. Virgin’s system includes magnetic levitation, much like used in advanced high speed rail projects in Japan and Germany.
Magnetic levitation lifts a train car above a track, as the magnets’ like poles push the train upward. The magnets also propel the train as like poles repel and push the train forward, and the opposite poles attract and pull the train forward. Magnetic levitation has been used on some train systems since the 1970s.
Virgin Hyperloop’s pod only reached 100 mph on the track, according to the company, rather than the 600 mph that hyperloop advocates have long promised. Virgin Hyperloop says its track is 500 meters long, limiting how fast the pods can go. Still, Virgin Hyperloop executives view the test as a major milestone and a step toward commercializing hyperloop technology.
Virgin Hyperloop envisions building systems that connect cities. Its future commercial systems will have pods that seat between 25 and 30 people. Virgin Hyperloop envisions carrying tens of thousands of passengers per hour. Hyperloop systems can run either above ground or below ground, but so far the company has focused on above-ground projects. Tunneling below ground can be time consuming and expensive.
Hurdles remain before a commercial hyperloop system is built. Virgin Hyperloop still needs to raise enough money for its next project, a six-mile, $500 million test facility in West Virginia. The test facility is being built to certify Virgin Hyperloop’s technology.
The company’s hyperloop system should be certified in 2025 or 2026, and that we could see hyperloop projects before the decade ends.
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