Urban Transport

Hyperloop One shows off magnetic drive in dramatic demonstration

Hyperloop One shows off magnet...
The Sandshark test sled nearing maximum acceleration
The Sandshark test sled nearing maximum acceleration
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The Sandshark hitting the braking barrier
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The Sandshark hitting the braking barrier
The Sandshark begins braking
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The Sandshark begins braking
Sandshark coasting
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Sandshark coasting
Sandshark accelerating under magntic drive
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Sandshark accelerating under magntic drive
Sandshark making its run
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Sandshark making its run
The Hyperloop One test site in the Nevada desert is designed for component testing
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The Hyperloop One test site in the Nevada desert is designed for component testing
The Hyperloop One track with the sled "Sandshark"
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The Hyperloop One track with the sled "Sandshark"
The demonstration was conducted for a grandstand of invited guests and media
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The demonstration was conducted for a grandstand of invited guests and media
The Sandshark before the demonstration
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The Sandshark before the demonstration
The test sled building up to 2.5 Gs in less than two seconds
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The test sled building up to 2.5 Gs in less than two seconds
The Sandshark test sled nearing maximum acceleration
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The Sandshark test sled nearing maximum acceleration
The test sled hits the sand brake
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The test sled hits the sand brake
Hyperloop One CTO and co-founder Brogan BamBrogan addresses the crowd following the demonstration
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Hyperloop One CTO and co-founder Brogan BamBrogan addresses the crowd following the demonstration
The Sled Recovery Vehicle returns the sled to the start of the test track
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The Sled Recovery Vehicle returns the sled to the start of the test track
Co-founder and Executive Chairman Shervin Pishevar, CEO Rob Lloyd, and BamBrogan after the demonstration
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Co-founder and Executive Chairman Shervin Pishevar, CEO Rob Lloyd, and BamBrogan after the demonstration
New stators that will provide additional acceleration being prepared
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New stators that will provide additional acceleration being prepared
Mockup of the test sled
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Mockup of the test sled
Detail of the test sled mockup
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Detail of the test sled mockup
Sled and recovery vehicle after the demonstration, which were off limits because of the electrical charge the sled carries
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Sled and recovery vehicle after the demonstration, which were off limits because of the electrical charge the sled carries
The sled rides on solid metal slippers
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The sled rides on solid metal slippers
One of the pipes that will be used for the full-scale test version
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One of the pipes that will be used for the full-scale test version
Far end of the test track
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Far end of the test track

At a secluded test site in the Nevada desert about 10 miles north of Las Vegas, Hyperloop One today made its first public demonstration of a key component of its new transportation system that promises near supersonic speeds at ground level. The Propulsion Open Air Test (POAT) took place under sunny skies and saw electromagnets propel a sled at 115 mph (185 km/h) along a specially-built test track measuring 1,500-ft (457-m) long.

According to Hyperloop One co-founder Brogan BamBrogan, the purpose of the test was not only to show potential partners how far Hyperloop technology has come in a short time, but also to act as a component test in the run-up to a full-scale test version of the system, which is expected to come online later this year.

In its fully integrated form, Hyperloop will consist of a partly-evacuated steel tube in which will run a capsule. This capsule, which will use a compressor to create a stronger vacuum ahead of the vehicle to cut down on air resistance, will include a passenger/cargo compartment, batteries to power the system, and a levitation device to lift the capsule off the guide rails.

Unlike Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, which recently demonstrated a passive maglev system, Hyperloop One uses compressed air forced through runners to create a near-frictionless surface to glide along.

Sandshark making its run
Sandshark making its run

On paper, the technology is impressive, but in the real world these individual components require rigorous testing and at its Nevada facility Hyperloop One is currently developing the magnetic drive that accelerates the capsule to over 700 mph (1,126 km/h). In this case, the tube was replaced with an open-air test track, the air blades with metal slippers running on steel rails, and the capsule by the "Sandshark" test sled.

Target test engineer Jeff Ferm told us that the rail-and-slipper arrangement is one that's been used since it was first developed for rocket sleds over 75 years ago. He added that this setup is much simpler than wheels, and adds only negligible friction to the test.

The propulsion system for the test consisted of a sled-mounted rotor and a 187-ft (57-m) long stator. Put simply, the device that catapults the sled at a force 4.3 times the pull of gravity can be thought of as an electric motor that's been cut open and flattened out, so instead of going around, the rotor shoots off in a straight line.

Sandshark coasting
Sandshark coasting

Today's demonstration was a classic blink-and-you-missed-it event that took only about four seconds. As the 10-second countdown reached zero, the sled moved forward almost silently, then shot along the rails like a stabbed rat. Then the test vehicle slammed into a barrier of sand, which exploded into a brownish-red spray as the sled ground to a halt.

In a post-demonstration briefing, BamBrogan said that when the test track stator is doubled in length, the Sandshark will reach speeds of 400 mph (644 km/h) in two seconds. However, he emphasized that just getting a sled to go fast wasn't the goal – the purpose of the runs are to test various components and capabilities, including the Hyperloop power system, ways of making them fully controllable by means of Variable Frequency Devices (VFC), new software, and switching gear to make the propulsion system scalable for practical use and bring down per-mile costs.

As an example of this testing regime, we saw the Sandshark being retrieved from its stopping point by a robotic Sled Recovery Vehicle (SRV) – the purpose of which is entirely practical. Ferm pointed out that the engineers want to carry out as many runs per day as possible, but it isn't safe to approach the track until it's powered down. The SRV eliminates this and allows runs every 30 minutes.

The Sandshark hitting the braking barrier
The Sandshark hitting the braking barrier

According to BamBrogan, the next phase of the program is to build a fully-integrated Hyperloop system at the test facility by the end of the year to demonstrate that the idea is not only possible, but feasible and even practical.

BamBrogan told us that he doesn't see Hyperloop competing directly with other transport systems, but rather enhancing them. In addition, he sees Hyperloop One not as the controller of the new Hyperloop systems of tomorrow, but as a developer and enhancer that builds an "ecosystem" that other companies, individuals, and governments can adapt as they see fit. In terms of a timeframe, he does expect Hyperloop to be fully operational within five years.

When asked what it will be like to ride in Hyperloop, he said that it will be "like an elevator" with a brief acceleration of under 2.5 g, followed by a ride without turbulence or sharp, buffeting curves.

In a previous briefing, Hyperloop One executives said that the system has a wide range of applications from intercity to intracity travel, container port management, and generally shrinking the world through high-speed, on-demand travel and freight transport.

You can watch the Propulsion Open Air Test in the video below.

Source: Hyperloop One

Hyperloop One - Propulsion Open Air Test

18 comments
CAVUMark
That is impressive.
Nik
I think I should have blinked.
Vincent Bevort
WoW. Sees this technique in Germany for more than 20 years ago Didn't know you where sooooo far behind
Mel Tisdale
This is very definitely not for me. According to the text it either accelerates at 2.5 or 4.3 times gravity and I don't look forward to either. In the unlikely event that I should ever wish to experience that sort of 'thrill' I will go to a theme park where they have rides built for the purpose. As for this demonstration, what's new? Regarding security, give me a couple of sticks of gelignite and I could put it (it being the whole track) out of commission for a week or more.
Tommo
Did he actually mean to say: "we are standing on hollow ground" instead of "hallowed"?
Ferraro_Robots
@Vincent Bevort - Germany has a hyperloop? Link or it didn't happen.
Billy Sharpstick
What a novel idea! Otis made this in the 70s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_University_Medical_Center_Patient_Rapid_Transit
DavidB
He lost me when he said, "We are standing on hollow ground." LOL It's a wonder people didn't immediately run away, in fear of getting caught in a cavern collapse.
Kpar
It all looks so promising. Wait'll the Feds get their hands on it, and then it'll die without a whimper.
Derek Howe
I'm a big fan of anything that can get me from A to B, faster. But isn't this basically a maglev train in a nearly airless tube?... (I'm referring to the hyperloop, not this tech demonstrator)