By on May 12, 2016

Hyperloop test

No one wants their most exciting moment to last two seconds, so let’s hope the folks at Hyperloop One have bigger things coming down the, erm, pipe.

Yesterday, amid great fanfare and hype, the recently renamed Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop Technologies) performed the first open-air test of the electromagnetic propulsion system at the heart of the futuristic transportation concept.

As a bandstand of employees and media watched beneath the hot Nevada sun, a test vehicle rocketed along a track for two seconds, hitting Camry-on-a-joyride speeds — officially, 116 miles per hour — before plowing into a sand trap. The future doesn’t have brakes yet, just sand.

Underwhelmed by the spectacle? Hyperloop One would probably counter that by saying you aren’t using your imagination.

The Guardian newspaper was being imaginative when it described the test as reaching “the technological heights of a 1996-era rollercoaster.”

Company co-founder and chief technology officer Brogan BamBrogan, whose name and moustache are anything but boring, called the test one of Hyperloop’s “bigger, more tangible” milestones.

brogan bambrogan

In Hyperloop land, the test was a major step towards missile-shaped pods filled with people rushing on a cushion of air through low-pressure tubes at the speed of sound. The concept, conceived in the madcap brain of Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, was gifted to the world by the man in the sleeping bag.

Musk delivered kudos over Twitter following the demonstration, which could have upped the “wow” factor by having the test vehicle disappear without a trace at the end of the track.

Two teams are seriously pursuing the wheelless future of land transport — Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, both headquartered in the southwestern United States. Musk isn’t working with either team, but follows the work on his concept closely.

BamBrogan showed up in Detroit last month with the intent of drawing engineers away from the auto industry. There’s a hiring binge underway at Hyperloop One, and BamBrogan wants the best and brightest on board his tube to the future.

Yesterday’s test might have thrilled engineers and employees of his company, but BamBrogan’s only hope of quelling the snark and cynicism surrounding Hyperloop is to perform longer, faster and more complete tests, find more financial backers (they already have several), and prove the technical and financial feasibility of the technology to the naysaying public.

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44 Comments on “Hyperloop Makes Successful Open-Air Test, Breaks the Speed of Yawn...”

  • avatar

    “The concept, conceived in the madcap brain of Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk”

    Wrong. It’s been around for a long time, both as realistic proposals and in fiction.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re on a war path of being right.

      Though in my experience with sci-fi, most of the hyperloop-esque vehicles operate in a vacuum. The hyperloop operates in a near vacuum and uses a turbine / ducted fan to mediate the air pressure before and behind it. Are there any good books or shows that have something closer to this machine?

      • 0 avatar

        “You’re on a war path of being right.”

        Yeah, it’s an affliction. I have an enormous capacity for useless facts (0-60 time of the ’68 427-435 Corvette as tested by Car&Driver? 5.6 seconds. Why I retain that, I can’t say) coupled with a background as an IT trainer, which compels me to correct errors. By the way, I’m serial Yamaha owner (RD-350, ‘650 Seca, FJ100, FJ1200), I remember hanging on every new sport-oriented bike they released.

        I find all of these hyperloop ideas interesting. Full-vacuum or partial vacuum is really just a distinction, fiction-wise. As much as I love SF, most authors play fast and loose with the details. I was referring to Peter Hamilton’s Neutronium Alchemist series which has multiple appearances of the “Vac-Train”. Being English, he’s a bit obsessed with trains having melded traditional trains with wormholes to create a galactic rail network.

        My overall point is that SF provides the ideas and, later, others make them happen as technological advances allow. I’m convinced that Elon Musk sees himself as the hero from Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold the Moon”. And, love Musk or hate him, his successes have inspired and emboldened a lot of other people. Snarky articles such as this call out for criticism. Anyone who has ever built anything complex and new knows that the process is a series of steps, with testing of concepts all along the way. making fun of early tests is, in my opinion, small-minded.

        • 0 avatar

          I thought Musk was trying to be a characyer from the Red/blue/green Mars series.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t see Elon lining up with any of the major characters from Kim Stanley Robinson’s magnum opus.

            John? Not anywhere near politically idealistic.

            Maya? Not a cynic.

            Arkady? Elon doesn’t seem to be an admirer of Trotsky

            Frank? This might be the closest fit, but I’m not sure Elon is the sort who would engineer the assassination of his best friend.

            I’ve read the Mars trilogy three times now. It’s brilliant, particularly from the point of view of exploring alternative economic systems, particularly free-market/socialist hybrids. And it’s a great read.

    • 0 avatar

      The propulsion technology is not the biggest problem. What are the routing plans? Is is just SF to LA or will it have stops along the way? How many stops and where? If not, how will people get to the end points and where will they park? How much will tickets cost? What’s the size of the market? What’s the business case? Etc., etc.!

      Airplanes are a better point-to-point solution as they can easily be re-routed.

      • 0 avatar

        The “business plan” is to be well enough along the way to a functional routing and, more difficult, power delivery infrastructure; by the time they dump the sci-fi vacuum headfake, for an add-on on to existing Teslas; to give them a multiyear lead and shot at owning the standard for BEV-over-rail highways.

        Batteries will never realistically be dense enough for long distance travel, and nobody with insights gleaned from trying to get to Mars, will ever settle for making short solo trips, while dragging 2000lbs of battery around with him. That’s straight up aesthetically and intellectually insulting to a genuine space-ager.

        The end goal, is electric-cars-over-rail (and, far enough into the future, perhaps vac-tubes. But that’s several Musk-years beyond Mars. Not to mention requiring door seals that don’t fall off in the cold…. :) ). Infrastructure provided electric power for the autorouted long, fast, high-consuming part of the journey, while simultaneously charging moderate sized batteries for use on the last mile. Resulting in “infinite” range, while dragging around minimal waste.

        Crazy names and crazy “dreams” are just there to reinforce the “mad scientist” aura of the whole thing, while getting a leg up on the otherwise more organized Europeans. Musk and his crew aren’t crazy. Nor stupid. They know very well that Toyota is likely right about the ultimate potential for BEV energy density. But mad scientist or not, Tesla have nothing near the resources to make “hydrogen sized” fundamental bets. And as far as zero emissions go, it’s eventually going to come down to either H2, or infrastructure provided electric with batteries only for last mile.

      • 0 avatar

        “Airplanes are a better point-to-point solution as they can easily be re-routed.”

        True. However, one of their failings is that they can be re-routed by Air Traffic Control.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          “Airplanes are a better point-to-point solution as they can easily be re-routed.”

          True enough, if the points happen to be airports, but transportation demand between major urban areas is mostly constant. That’s why airlines have schedules.

  • avatar

    “Did you see those dorks Orville and Wilbur playing around with a big kite?”
    – equivalent snarky writer in 1900

    Just like gliders, not all worked out. Glad people kept trying.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t see the technology as much of a reach.
      Like any building project these days it’s all about environmental approvals, right-of-way, government subsidies, etc.
      I don’t think these groups really expect it to happen, but there is big potential money to be made in the crony capitalism.

    • 0 avatar

      An editorial retraction published by the New York Times as Apollo 11 was heading to the moon:

      JULY 17, 1969: On Jan. 13, 1920, Topics of The Times, an editorial-page feature of The New York Times, dismissed the notion that a rocket could function in a vacuum and commented on the ideas of Robert H. Goddard, the rocket pioneer, as follows: ”That Professor Goddard, with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react — to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”

      Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.

  • avatar

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t care about the propulsion technology; wake me up from my nap when you have a plausible solution to the extremely expensive civil engineering problems involved with construction. (The need for virtually straight right-of-ways, the massive numbers of very long tunnels and bridges, ZERO at-grade crossings, susceptibility to seismological issues (kinda important in the LA-SF target market), and security.

    If they keep hiring mechanical and areospace types and not a whole platoon of civil engineers, this tech is going nowhere besides pilot projects. (Or money pits in China.)

    • 0 avatar

      Not only the physical engineering and the cost… Have you seen pictures of the rear of this rig sitting on the rails before launch? It’s got an electrical snake hooked up that’s got to be a least a foot in diameter, and that’s a conservative estimate. How much electricity will it take to run this thing? Where will that come from? Don’t they already have grid problems in California?

      A picture from the rear here:

  • avatar

    Congrats all around. Inflated egos, check. Now go get that C-round, and that’ll be the last we’ll hear from you.

  • avatar

    So much yummy snark.

    I think I’ll be sad if we come to the realization that the last time North America could really do something great in transportation was the Railroad, or perhaps, to a lesser extent, the Interstate system.

    Here’s hoping we as a people can continue to dream big, and have the foresight of our rail-and-pavement-riding ancestors.

    • 0 avatar

      “The last time North America could do something great in transportation was the Railroad, or perhaps, to a lesser extent, the Interstate system.”

      You obviously have forgotten the glorious Pontiac Aztek.

    • 0 avatar

      The British were first with railroads.
      The German Autobahn preceded American Interstate highways.

      • 0 avatar

        You are correct; however, neither had been done on an American scale.

      • 0 avatar

        “The British were first with railroads.
        The German Autobahn preceded American Interstate highways.”

        And the Russians were first into space, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything.

      • 0 avatar

        Something Great does not equal Something that had no precedent. I’m pretty sure some Frenchman went up in a hot air balloon before any Americans flew too.

        • 0 avatar

          Hot-air balloons had been used since the 18th century, but a hot-air balloon does not fly. It floats. It is an unpowered aerostat.

          The first powered flight was in 1852, by yes, a Frenchman named Henri Giffard, in his steam-powered dirigible.

          The Wright brothers were the first to fly (not glide) a fixed-wing aircraft.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The disparaging tone of this post betrays your ignorance of this project, and technology development.

    This thing was probably running at 5% power.

  • avatar
    Hogie roll

    I like the idea of fast trains. Except the other people on them.

    • 0 avatar

      Even the Boxtops did not have time to take no fast train.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup. This will never pencil out unless lone individuals can clog the tube at rush hour. It may be fast, but it’s still mass transit AND a set route. The beauty of the car is that capital, maintenance, and operator costs are borne by the individual. The guv’mint just builds the roads/highways, and uses fuel taxes paid by the individual to cover the cost and maintenance. Mass transit, despite its efficiency, can never charge a fare high enough to recover all costs. A perpetual and considerable subsidy is required.

  • avatar

    “rushing on a cushion of air “. Isn’t it supposed to join the well established ranks of maglev transit systems with the innovations being the magnetic propulsion (tested here) and near vacuum (hyper expensive) tubes to run through? If this is a hovercraft I’ve been misled.

  • avatar

    Just build japanese style maglev trains inside a glass enclosure to use for the low pressure tube.

  • avatar

    Honestly, boring through ground and spraying sealant while reinforcing is pretty well tested, it’s just not cheap. Then again, it will seem cheap compared to the battalions of lobbyists and lawyers needed to make it happen.

  • avatar

    Big Whoop.

    Like a very good ponzi scheme, there are tidbits of action to mask the scam.

    I guess it was too expensive to have this in a tube?

  • avatar

    Shoulda filed this under “comics”.

    The land cost alone will break any such project. Unless they start buying US Senators in exchange for eminent domain support, this is going nowhere.

  • avatar

    “So they landed a rocket vertically on a moving platform in the middle of the ocean. Big effin’ deal.”

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    With a few exceptions, there’s just too much conventional thinking around here.

  • avatar

    The idea of the Hyperloop is solid, and the physics work.

    Now, all we need is a clean-sheet world, with no property lines, low/no air pressure, and little/no tectonic activity to bring it to fruition.

    Mars comes to mind.

    • 0 avatar

      Nice one. So the Mars colonization is a tactical maneuver in support of the long term strategy to build a hyperloop. That’s why he’s so unpredictable, we didn’t know what game he was playing!

  • avatar

    What’s with the snarky comments, TTAC? Don’t have an Elantra 2-door to review, or maybe write another article about a Porsche that you never drove? Or write a comment about a comment that one of your writers wrote about an article by another writer (the Death By 17 Hundred Regurgitated Posts) Shoosh, go get busy with something useful, kiddo.

    Just a few years ago we followed with skepticism the Space X testing. It worked! And the rocket missed its landing platform. And it still worked!

    Even if all that Hyperloop can accomplish is to build a new train line in a tube on new supports and magnetic ride, that alone would be a huge accomplishment in the country where High Speed Rail train service barely breaks 90 mph in some segments. Here, if the train is in a tube and on above-ground supports, with even moderate air pressure reduction, that alone would allow it to travel faster and achieve efficiencies that no train service has achieved in this country yet. So leave them alone and go review a 4 door BMW Coupe`, we all need it lotsa.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe people waste time trying to invent things. What will they try next, a computer that fits in your pocket and connects to a global information network?

    • 0 avatar

      Nope, that’s the old new. The new new is a vest that monitors twitter feeds and communicates to the candidate via patterned vibrations so he truly tell the people what they want to hear. Sadly, it ends up working a lot like the Microsoft twitter AI…

  • avatar

    I kinda of thought the whole hyperyloop hype was a new money sucking scheme but then I read that the french railway system was investing in it. Now I am sure it is…

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