Twenty student teams from around the world have designed and built a half-sized Hyperloop pod that will travel through a 1.2 km low-pressure tube, but only the fastest vehicle will win the third SpaceX Pod Competition on 22 July.
The Delft Hyperloop team presented Atlas 01, the launcher they have been working on for a year, last Tuesday, 19 June. The vehicle is optimised for speed, as this is the only winning criterion in this edition of the competition. The team does not only want to win, but also break the current speed record.
To travel as fast as possible, the members of Delft Hyperloop have tried to reach a high power-to-weight ratio by shedding every excess gram on the vehicle. A large wheel clamped on the track ensures as much grip as possible, and a fail-safe system on the pneumatic brakes guaranties a secure deceleration.
‘Hyperloop is more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than planes’
The speed they expect to achieve with Atlas 01 is a secret, but they will “try to break the current Hyperloop speed world record of 384 km/h by a large margin,” announced team leader Edouard Schneiders.
During the presentation of the new launcher, the team revealed another surprise: it has designed and built a passenger module. “We find it really important to focus on the whole Hyperloop transportation system,” explained Schneiders, and that includes the passenger experience in addition to the launcher.
The vehicle designed by the team can fit up to six people, has ergonomic chairs, panels with information, lighting systems that mimic the outside conditions through different time zones and entertainment systems to make passengers feel comfortable.
By organising these Hyperloop Pod competitions, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX hopes to accelerate the development of Hyperloop. This ‘fifth mode of transportation’ was conceived by Tesla and SpaceX and consists of a pressurised vehicle powered by electric motors that travels in a tube in a near vacuum. This reduces air resistance, allowing the pod to reach a velocity close to the speed of sound.
It is not only the speed that is an advantage. “By 2100, carbon emissions in the aviation industry alone will make the Paris agreement targets unachievable,” explains Schneiders. The Hyperloop could be ‘revolutionary’ as it is more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than other means of transportation.