Hyperloop One, the US-based startup that wants to revolutionise how the world travels, today showcased its vision for India at an event in Delhi. Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant also attended the event.
For those who don’t know, Hyperloop as an idea was originally proposed by SpaceX and Tesla boss Elon Musk. Hyperloop could allow for passengers, freight to be transported at super-fast speeds, more than 1000 km per hour which is faster than airlines, in a levitating pod that would travel in a vacuum tube. Hyperloop One’s own website describes the mode of transport in these words, “We use a custom electric motor to accelerate and decelerate a levitated pod through a low-pressure tube. The vehicle will glide silently for miles with no turbulence.” Essentially these pods are autonomous, and it would mean high-speed travel inside a tube.
Hyperloop One, which has been around for two years, held a global competition in 2016 asking contestants to pitch a proposal on where all the network should be built. The company says it received over 2000 entries, and out of the 30 semi-finalists it has picked five from India. Interestingly Hyperloop claims India had the highest number of registrants. The list of semi-finalist teams from India are AECOM, LUX Hyperloop Network, Dinclix GroundWorks, Hyperloop India, and Infi-Alpha.
Each of these teams has proposed a route for the network according India. For instance, Dinclix GroundWorks has pitched an ambitious 55 minutes travel time from Delhi to Mumbai via Jaipur, which is a total distance of 1,317 kms. AECOM has pitched Bengaluru to Chennai, which is 334 kms in 20 minutes. LUX Hyperloop Network has proposed route for Bengaluru to Thiruvananthapuram in 41 minutes. Hyperloop India has pitched Mumbai to Chennai via Bengaluru in 50 minutes. Finally Infi-Alpha has proposed Bengaluru to Chennai in 20 minutes
While Delhi to Mumbai in 55 minutes sounds like the stuff of dreams, Hyperloop is an idea that has not been tested. The company is still testing its original pod technology, and will be doing the first public demonstration of its technology in Nevada desert in the summer of 2017. But it seems the idea has found some initial enthusiasm in India.
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said the Indian government will be exploring these new technologies keenly, and will see what else can be done to improve transportation in the country.
“The government of India will be delighted to work with Hyperloop One. We have to transform urbanisation and how we do transportation, and for that we need disruptive technology, that changes how we transport. Hyperloop One is one way,” said Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant at the event.
“A technology like Hyperloop will affect society, business. It will give back time to citizens of the world. We’re looking to co-develop the technology in India with a partner. The pods would be manufactured in India, once this becomes operational,” said Shervin Pishevar, who is the Executive chairman and co-founder of Hyperloop One.
The idea that Hyperloop One is proposing could mean systemic shifts in how urbanisation is viewed. It could mean you live in Chennai, but end up working in Bengaluru, because travel time is reduced drastically.
Hyperloop One is a privately-held company and currently has over 225 people working for it. The company claims HyperLoop will be a more efficient, environmentally and cost friendly way of traveling with no direct emissions or noise. It also claims to be less expensive unlike high-speed rail and maglev (magnetic levitation) rains which require power along the entire track.
But of course, for Hyperloop One the challenges are many. For starters in a country like India, should Hyperloop One end up being approved it would face a multitude of regulatory challenges. One of the questions raised will be whether Hyperloop would come under the railways or civil aviation or an entirely new body. Safety would be another concern.
For now, the Hyperloop One idea sounds like a cool way to travel that is yet to be tested. The first public test takes place in 2017, and the company wants to have three systems in service by the year 2021.