Hyperloop And The Best Electric Train Technologies
Transporting people/goods at high speed through a tube, that is the way of the Hyperloop train. This technological marvel could change long-distance travel forever.
If you don’t know, now you know.
There’s a lot more to Hyperloop trains than that, but you get a general idea.
‘Unreal’ is a word you could use to describe these locomotives.
After all, the idea that trains can travel up to 760 mph is ludicrous — especially when you factor in “magnetic levitation” (more on that later).
Today we’ll be covering Hyperloop in full, alongside the best electric train technologies you need to know about.
Know that some of the locomotives covered here have the power to outshine even the finest eVTOL aircraft; that’s how unique they are when talking about the future of electric/non-electric transport.
With Hyperloop, you could spend a day in another country and travel back within the same day just on a whim.
The possibilities are seemingly endless!
© Credit to Tesla
The Hyperloop Train Explained
Let’s begin by looking at Hyperloop trains.
Hyperloop is a new form of land-based transport currently in development that has the power to transport passengers from set locations at ridiculous speeds.
The concept has been around for quite some time. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that people began to take notice, thanks to one Elon Musk and his ‘Hyperloop Alpha’ paper.
The paper outlined how a modern system would work and the costs involved. Elon’s original outliner named trips from San Francisco to LA, but these days, companies are thinking a lot bigger.
For example, routes from New York to Washington DC and Pune to Mumbai have been mentioned in the past.
You’d have to imagine country-to-country travel is the endgame for Hyperloop, given its overall potential. At least, that’s what the experts think.
So, what makes them different to standard trains?
The most obvious difference is the fact that the Hyperloop train travels along its own tube. It’s this tube that allows it to travel so fast as most of the air has been removed to reduce the amount of friction.
Furthermore, rather than using wheels, the Hyperloop train floats on air skis — again, to reduce friction.
What are the Benefits of Hyperloop?
As you can imagine, travelling via Hyperloop comes with a range of outstanding benefits — or at least it will once these networks are up and running.
The most obvious benefit is the fact that it gets you from A to B a lot faster. According to Mr Musk’s original Hyperloop Alpha paper, a Hyperloop train can take passengers from one city in California to the next in around 30 minutes.
Capsules would run every 30 seconds, too, meaning there’s room for everyone.
Superfast travel for the masses and a lot cheaper than you might think.
According to the Alpha paper, trips could cost $20 — that’s £13 for our UK readers, which happens to be a hell of a lot cheaper than standard train fares these days.
Remember, these prices are estimates and are subject to change, but we’re hopeful it remains cheap.
For reference, a trip from Edinburgh to London can range from £74 to £134 depending on the site/rail-line you go with.
Outside of being incredibly efficient (and cheap), Hyperloop is also said to be better for the environment.
From what we know, a Hyperloop train emits zero direct emissions as it travels. For example, Virgin’s Hyperloop utilises an ultra-efficient electric motor.
In Elon’s original Hyperloop Alpha paper, he imagined solar panels attached to the roof of the transport tube to power it.
Moreover, these capsules can carry more people than most trains at high speed, thus tackling traffic congestion in an environmentally friendly way.
To recap, the benefits of Hyperloop include:
- It’s an incredibly fast/efficient form of transportation.
- Travel via Hyperloop could be cheaper than other modes of travel.
- Hyperloop is better for the environment emitting fewer emissions.
- Choosing to travel this way could tackle traffic congestion in busy areas.
How Does the Hyperloop Train Work Exactly?
As mentioned, the Hyperloop transports passengers/cargo at high speed in its own tube.
The air within said tube is mostly removed to reduce friction, allowing the pods/capsules inside to move a lot faster between spaces.
You see, the pod inside forms an air cushion underneath it. In other words, the pod is constantly levitating as it travels, like magic.
It’s called magnetic levitation for a reason and is the basis for what is known as a maglev train.
For example, Maglev electric trains use two sets of magnets, one repelling the ground under it with the other pushing the train forwards; both work in tandem at all times.
Removing the air pressure inside the tube is essential and is taken out via pumps.
Air pressure in the tube is so low it mimics the conditions of being up in the air (200,000 feet above sea level).
Confined in its own space allows Hyperloop pods to move unrestricted — it’s why they can run one pod every 30 seconds.
Moreover, Hyperloop train tubes can exist both above and so below (underground). Of course, it costs more to dig holes in the ground. Still, this hasn’t stopped states like Las Vegas from showing an interest in establishing an underground network.
Hyperloop transport has been described as “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table,” if that helps break it down in simpler terms.
© Credit to Virgin Hyperloop
Introducing: Virgin Hyperloop
Virgin Hyperloop is easily the best company to follow when it comes to Hyperloop trains, and will more than likely be the first company to launch this mode of transport to the people.
The company was founded in June 2014 and initially raised $295m in a bid to bring Elon Musk‘s Alpha plans to fruition.
You could say they were directly inspired by Hyperloop Alpha.
They cite it often when making any kind of progress.
Moreover, the Virgin Hyperloop made history as the first company that has tested Hyperloop technology in the real world with real passengers.
This happened last year at the company’s DevLoop test train in the desert on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Nevada. A pod carrying two passengers accelerated to 100 miles per hour on the track before coming to a complete stop.
“No one has done anything close to what we’re talking about right now,” says Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop, talking to The Verge.
“This is a full scale, working hyperloop that is not just going to run in a vacuum environment, but is going to have a person in it. No one has come close to doing it.”
According to Virgin Hyperloop, with enough track, its Hyperloop can travel up to 670mph. This is slower than Musk’s outlined 760 mph but impressive nonetheless if the company can pull it off.
According to reports, Virgin Hyperloop hopes to begin commercial operations in 2030. The original plan was to have a passenger-ready version ready by 2021, but plans changed.
What do you think?
Can Virgin Hyperloop pull it off?
Problems Facing Hyperloop Trains
It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Anything that looks to provide a complete overhaul of an established transport system in trains will run into issues.
Especially when this type of transport works on such a large scale — not to mention one that creates a near-vacuum in order to travel.
This isn’t the same as an electric car or an eVTOL aircraft, as you need to build miles of track/tubes for it to run.
And then, you need to gain planning permission from the country/locations of your choosing.
Money is one of the major gatekeepers, keeping companies far away from Hyperloop technology; it’s partly the reason why a large company like Virgin is considered one of, if not the biggest, company working in the space.
Even companies like Virgin Hyperloop run into money problems once set up. Virgin Hyperloop has been strapped for cash a few times, relying on new investment/funding rounds to keep them ticking.
Natural occurrences like earthquakes have also raised some red flags.
We shouldn’t have to explain the risks you run when building Hyperloop tubes underground in areas rife with earthquakes.
At the end of the day, there will always be those who lean on the side of caution, and rightfully so.
But we believe Hyperloop trains to be the future of transport as a whole.
This is the closest we’ll get to teleportation, and yes, there are risks, but the evidence is there. Companies like Virgin Hyperloop wouldn’t invest so much time/money in this field if they didn’t think it could take them places (literally and figuratively).
Looking At The Best Electric Train Technologies
Hyperloop trains aside, there are many companies out there looking to implement electric train technologies, and have already; you just didn’t know it.
Battery-electric trains have been around for quite some time now — some using lithium-ion batteries, the same batteries found in electric cars and boats.
Siemens, one of the largest rail companies globally, has received orders for Mireo Plus B battery-powered trains in the past. Locomotives that can travel rail routes without support from overhead power lines for up to 50 miles.
Deliveries of these electric trains will go to Baden-Württembergin, Germany, in 2023.
It’s not just electric-powered trains building steam/momentum, either. Hydrogen-electric trains are growing in popularity. Europe, in particular, is considered a hot spot for these types of vehicles.
You’ll more than likely see the following locomotives in the real world before you see a Hyperloop train.
Which isn’t all bad, when you stop to consider the benefits some of these trains/companies offer.
© Credit to Alstrom
Alstom: Hydrogen-Powered Trains For the Masses
French manufacturer Alstrom has made a name across the transport sector for its innovative ideas and projects.
In fact, Alstrom is hailed by many as one of the world’s largest manufacturers of high-speed trains, tramways, metros and electric trains.
The company has distributed hydrogen-powered trains to countries like Poland and Germany, with many more on the way.
They’ve even commission electric trains in Azerbaijan if you can believe it.
The Coradia iLint, the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell train, completed three months of successful test operation in Austria last year with plans to roll it out fully. Germany has already approved the Coradia iLint as a replacement for diesel types.
“The Coradia iLint is powered by fuel cells and offers a performance comparable to a diesel train while emitting nothing but water. Even though the iLint train is hydrogen-powered, it uses batteries as part of the traction system.”
Founded in 1928, Alstom has sealed contracts for its hydrogen-powered locomotives worldwide and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Alstrom is a company to watch as we dive deeper into eco-friendly alternatives surrounding transport.
Seriously, follow them on social media. They make new announcements almost every day as they continue to secure eco-friendly alternatives for a bustling market.
© Credit to Japan Railway Group
JR Tokai: An Operator Building a Bullet
Our next electric train might be a prototype at this moment in time. Still, it has the power to be the fastest electric train in the world — taking advantage of innovative technology as it does so.
Meet JR Tokai — otherwise known as Central Japan Railway; they make electric trains capable of attaining speeds of 500 km/h.
Visually, the Maglev looks like a stretched-out version of most city-liners.
A previous version of the Maglev contained gas turbine generators that distributed power to lighting/air conditioning systems. An updated version does away with the turbines completely, instead relying entirely on coils embedded within the train and the tracks underneath.
As you can imagine, stripping away certain parts gave the Maglev a lighter feel, thus allowing it to travel faster.
A streamlined electric train for one of the busiest countries in the world.
Talk about a match made in electric heaven.
The goal is to have the Maglev run services between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027.
Maglev actually has quite a lot in common with the aforementioned Hyperloop train come to think of it.
For starters, it utilises magnetic-levitation technology to run. And then there’s the obvious fact that it travels at lightning-fast speeds.
© Credit to Vivarail
Vivarail: The Electric Train Battery Specialist
Companies like Vivarail allow others to craft some of the finest electric trains known to man — without them, many projects would fail.
The technology supplied by Vivarail can power a range of unique locomotives, from diesel trains to commuter types.
Its batteries are designed with fast charging in mind, able to “recharge a battery train to full power in circa 10 minutes,” which is unbelievable when you consider its overall size. This is possible due to its battery bank infrastructure, which stores off-peak power from renewable sources.
According to Vivarail, it’s this recharging that gives the Class 230 unlimited range.
Ergo, making it one of the leading names in electric train technology, in our opinion.
All of Vivarail’s batteries are approved for passenger service, making them a white whale of sorts if you’re an operator in the UK.
The company built a fleet of operational battery hybrids for Transport for Wales to run the Wrexham-Bidston line.
Furthermore, Vivarail worked on a unique project in the US, a project known as ‘Pop-Up Metro.’
This project was the brainchild of international rail entrepreneur Henry Posner III and looks to use battery trains as shuttles into city centres.
The first train is set to launch later this year and will undoubtedly raise the profile of Vivarail.
Watch this space.
© Credit to Talgo Group
Saudi Arabia: Home to the Haramain High-Speed Electric Train
When you have an excess amount of wealth, you tend to have access to greater technologies/transport.
This is where the Haramain high-speed electric train enters the picture, a locomotive that links the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
According to sources close to the service, this project will transport 60 million passengers per year on 35 electric trains, which is crazy to even think about.
Speed-wise, these Haramain trains travel at 300 km/h, making it one of the fastest electric trains in the world.
Slower than the Maglev prototype but impressive nonetheless.
The railway was inaugurated by King Salman in September of 2018 and continues to be a technological marvel in Saudi Arabia. Many have travelled far and wide to ride this electric train; that is the power it has in the world of locomotives.
Wrapping Up: Hyperloop And The Best Electric Train Technologies
From Virgin Hyperloop to Maglev, we think it’s safe to say that the future of rail travel is in safe and speedy hands, don’t you think?
Hyperloop will always grab headlines as it’s an absolute technological marvel, like we said at the beginning. But that doesn’t mean that electric trains, or hydrogen-electric trains, won’t have a place in the future.
Moreover, there will still be a place for locomotives operating on a much smaller scale, such as metros and trams, at least for the time being.
We may have to wait a while yet, what with Virgin Hyperloop — easily the company to watch if you’re interested in Hyperloop — teasing future commuters with a 2030 launch.
It goes without saying, but the Hyperloop train is something that will need to pass all the proper tests/regulations before it’s service-ready.
Either way, we’ll be first in line to climb on board when that day comes.
Care to join us?