Hyperloop capsule unveiled ahead of testing in France

Hyperloop TT has unveiled its first real-life model of the new passenger capsule to be tested in France

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (TT) has unveiled the first example of a real-life passenger capsule for its vacuum tube transport system, ahead of the capsule’s move to Toulouse (Occitanie) for testing.

Hyperloop TT is one of the companies working on development of the technology, which was first brought to public attention by Elon Musk.

The controversial Tesla billionaire first suggested the idea in 2012, and coined the name “hyperloop”. He has since moved on from the project and allowed other companies to develop it instead.

The hyperloop system would see passenger capsules - in a similar shape to bullet trains - propelled at high speeds of up to 1,200 kph through low-pressure tubes, levitated by electromagnets.

This year, work began at the Hyperloop test track at its research and development centre, on the site of an old military base in Toulouse-Francazal. Another 1,000-metre testing track is also under construction.

The 32-metre, five-tonne capsule is made of a double-layer of vibranium, a new “intelligent” composite material, and has been named “Quintero One”.

It was presented yesterday (Tuesday October 2) in Spain, and will now be tested on the existing 320-metre “track” before the end of the year.

Dirk Ahlborn, co-founder and CEO of Hyperloop TT, said: “In just five years, we have improved upon and resolved all the problems within the Hyperloop technology - with our new levitation system, our vacuum pumps, and our intelligent [material] composites.

“This capsule will form part of one of the most efficient transport systems ever created.”

Paul Priestman, chairman of transportation design company PriestmanGoode, which has been working with Hyperloop TT on the project, said: “What we’re trying to do is develop the most modern, the most futuristic form of transport.”

The company has already tested one capsule prototype, in Las Vegas, USA.

It managed to reach a speed of 387 kph on a track that was less than 500 m long, which, although fast, makes it slower than the 574 kph record seen by existing TGVs, and far short of the 1,200 kph promised. This second round of testing is expecting to address this.

Hyperloop TT is not the only company working on the idea in France.

A Canadian company named TransPod is also hoping to test its version of the technology at a 3km testing track in Droux, near Limoges (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), having requested a license to do so this summer.

Yet, the project is not without its critics. Some have baulked at its prohibitive cost, while others are concerned about potential passenger safety, with one critic condemning it as “a pipe dream at best [and] a con at worst”.

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