Students want to show that hyperloop is ‘not science fiction’

Capsules that let people float through a tube at 1,000 kilometers per hour on their way to their destination: this may seem futuristic, but TU Delft students are convinced that the so-called hyperloop is the means of transport of the future. On Saturday they introduced the public to their vision and their new prototype with an exhibition in Rotterdam.

Hyperloops are a kind of pneumatic post for people or goods. The trains, called pods, must eventually flash through them in a near-vacuum. People can potentially travel from Amsterdam to Paris in half an hour, fully electric and without emitting CO2 or other harmful substances.

“The biggest plus is the efficiency,” says Gijs Roodenburg, 23, of the student team. “Because there is no air or rolling resistance, you need much less energy than if you were to build an electric plane, for example.”

The pod that the Delft Hyperloop student team has built itself is the centerpiece of the so-called Hyperloop Experience, which will be held on Saturday in the Steur building in Rotterdam-West. The Helios I is a scale model of 2 meters long.

A new feature of this design is that the pod is guided at the top and no longer runs on a kind of rail, like previous TU models. The pod floats by means of an electromagnetic system. “The first time we saw him fly, it was a really special moment,” says Barte van der Zijden, 22, who is also on the team.

In a report, Delft Hyperloop writes that this means of transport will distinguish itself in the future with “faster travel times, improved comfort and potentially lower ticket prices.” Building the infrastructure does require “a huge investment” at the start.

“We want to make the concept tangible and take it out of the science fiction atmosphere,” explains Van der Zijden. “It should be possible to transport goods by hyperloop within 20 years and people within 30 years,” she thinks.

The subject is not yet very politically alive, the students admit. There are also technical challenges. For example, standardization is necessary. “If different hyperloop companies use different techniques on their pods and in the track, pods from one company may not be able to cross another company’s orbit.” Good cross-border cooperation is also necessary.

The streamlined Helios I looks fast, but that’s not the focus yet. If all goes well, this model will go about 70 kilometers per hour. The underlying technology is more important, the students explain. On July 23, their prototype will compete with copies of student teams from other countries on a test track in Hilversum.

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