In 2013, Elon Musk sparked renewed interest in what would become referred to as a hyperloop. This extremely high-speed form of transportation was believed to be the way of the future. With the potential to move passengers or cargo at speeds well beyond air or train travel, the idea was intriguing. And since then, a handful of companies considered the concept. Among them was Los Angeles-based company Hyperloop One. It was to become the high-speed transportation company to finally make the hyperloop a reality. But unfortunately, as reported this month, this isn’t likely to be the case. After a critical review of hyperloop technologies, the company has decided to call it quits. Thus, the future of the hyperloop in general remains in question.
It should be noted that the high-speed transportation company did have some successes on the test track. It also attracted a significant amount of investment funding. But ultimately, Hyperloop One was unable to gain enough traction for an actual hyperloop project. Even after the company switched its focus to cargo from passenger transportation, things didn’t improve. A critical review of hyperloop systems apparently persuaded the company it was best to simply move on. Does this mean that hyperloop transportation is done as well? That remains to be seen, especially given some of the major challenges ahead. The concept still remains an intriguing one and an idea that has tremendous benefits.
The Gist of Hyperloop Technologies
If you’re not aware of how a hyperloop system operates, it’s worth exploring that a bit. You can read an in-depth Bold story on it here, but in essence, a hyperloop is a high-speed transit system that involves the use of large low-pressures tubes. Within these tubes are capsules, or pods, that can carry passengers or cargo. These capsules are actually supported on a cushion of air giving them aerodynamic lift. As such, they have the potential to move with minimal-to-no friction in a near-silent fashion. Notably, these tubes and capsules must be large enough to physically perform the tasks. However, Hyperloop One as a high-seed transportation company believed this was possible. Others, after a critical review of hyperloop systems, didn’t necessarily agree.
Of course, these capsules must have some type of engine or device to move them through any network of hyperloop tubes. In this regard, a magnetic linear accelerator was used to accomplish the task. The hyperloop transportation company would affix these magnetic accelerators at various points along the tubes to facilitate high-speed movement. As such, critical review of hyperloop structures were believed to achieve much faster speeds. Compared to a high-speed rail, the hyperloop might travel four times as fast. And comparing it to airflight, it could get to a destination in half the time. Based on these estimates, it’s not surprising why investors might be attracted to a high-speed transportation company using a hyperloop.
A Promising Start
In terms of Hyperloop One, the company was founded in 2014. After Elon Musk stimulated interest, it was prime time to consider such a maneuver. Over the course of the next few years, the high-speed transportation company raised over $400 million. A sizable portion of this came from UAE’s major shipping company, DP World. But Hyperloop One also attracted attention from billionaire Richard Branson. He also invested heavily in Hyperloop One and rebranded it under the Virgin name. Given this momentum, any critical review of hyperloop technologies then would have likely been favorably. Significant optimism thus surrounded the potential success of Hyperloop One.
Several advantages of a hyperloop system were touted by the high-speed transportation company. For one, a hyperloop tube if constructed well would be completely immune to weather conditions. It would also eliminate concerns about vehicular crashes and related injuries. Critical review of hyperloop systems also showed they were greener and produced minimal noise, which was similarly attractive. And of course, they were super-fast travelling around 700 mph. All of these benefits looked to be possible when Hyperloop One successfully performed its first test in 2020. It was then that it became the first high-speed transportation company to actually transport passengers using a hyperloop.
Challenges, Hurdles, and Lack of Support
Over the last few years, things didn’t go quite as well for Hyperloop One. Engineering struggles soon became apparent that limited expansion of the hyperloop from testing to reality. For one, transport around corners proved to be difficult using a hyperloop system. Optimal performance only occurred when hyperloop tubes were straight. At the same time, barriers to constructing the tubes in urban areas was also difficult. A critical review of the hyperloop prototype showed that these tubes had to be rather large. This meant significant issues in urban planning to accommodate them, not to mention construction costs. The high-speed transportation company had trouble overcoming these issues, especially when it came to passenger transport.
Based on these issues, Hyperloop One made a major announcement in 2022. It decided to move away from passenger transport and to focus on cargo alone. The decision had some notable repercussions as a result. For one, the high-speed transportation company had to let many of its employees go as it downsized. The news also led to Branson selling his stake in the company and removing the Virgin name. In the subsequent months, Hyperloop One’s shares dropped to near zero, and it failed to secure any construction contract. These circumstances as well as a critical review of hyperloop system potential in the near future forced its closure.
The Future of Hyperloop
When it comes to the future of Hyperloop One, it’s clear the high-speed transportation company is done. It reported that its assets would be soon sold for liquidation. This includes its test track located in Las Vegas. In terms of its employees, their last official day at the company will be December 31. But despite this, there still remains the question as to whether hyperloop transportation itself is still feasible. A critical review of hyperloop by some suggest it’s not simply a pipedream but a technology that needs tweaking. At least this is what California-based company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies believes. It currently has four different hyperloop prototypes in the works. For this reason, we can’t close the chapter on hyperloop systems just yet. But when it comes to Hyperloop One, it appears we can.