The people-moving potential of a Hyperloop rightly generates a lot of the buzz, after all we are talking about fizzing passengers through low-vacuum tubes at close to the speed of sound. But what about its capacity to moves goods with new levels of efficiency? Richard Branson's Virgin Hyperloop One has just introduced a new service called Cargospeed that, if it gets up and running, is promised to deliver cargo with airline-like speeds at trucking-like costs.
Cargo has always been a part of the Hyperloop picture, in fact Virgin Hyperloop One signed a deal with Dubai port operator DP World back in 2016 to conduct a feasibility study, looking at how the system could move goods inland from the region's ports. The two are now building on that partnership, by revealing a further fleshed out plan for how such a system would work.
Called DP World Cargospeed in full, the service was conceived to deal with an expected surge in demand for high-priority shipments over the coming decades. The companies reckon global freight transport will quadruple by 2050, and a network of high-speed Hyperloop tubes is the best way to take the strain off airlines, roads and rail.
The Virgin Hyperloop One system used for Cargospeed will be the same used for its passenger service, a mixed-use transport system capable of traveling at around 1,000 km/h. It says this will allow for four-day truck journeys to be completed in 16 hours at comparable costs.
Further down the track, DP's ports will integrate Hyperloop technology, where goods can autonomously be loaded into the pods and carted off to their destination. And this could have advantages beyond simply making for faster deliveries. It could mean finished goods sit on the shelf for less time, so less warehouse space is needed and therefore operations will become cheaper overall.
Virgin Hyperloop One has recently outlined plans for a 10-km (6.2 mi) test track in the UAE's capital Abu Dhabi. It is not clear whether this will incorporate its Cargospeed service, but the company does point to the Mumbai port in India as one high-potential route. It says the choked up Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which carries 110,000 vehicles every day, can be alleviated somewhat by a hyperloop system, which would cut the two to three hour truck journey to just 25 minutes.
The company hasn't put a timeline on when its Cargospeed service will be up and running, but in an interview with CNBC on Sunday, chairman Richard Branson described the Hyperloop technology as ridiculously exciting and said he expects it to become operational in two to three years. While targeting speeds of 1,000 km/h plus, the fastest Virgin Hyperloop One's pods have traveled in testing is 387 km/h (240 mph) last December.
You can check out the promo video for Cargospeed below.
Source: Virgin Hyperloop One
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