Using super-powered magnets to propel passenger capsules and shipping containers more than 965 kilometers (600 miles) per hour, the Hyperloop concept seems to be something taken straight from a Jetsons episode. These days, however, the high-speed transportation system is making headlines almost weekly. In the latest round of announcements, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT) said building has started on Europe's first Hyperloop test track.
The first set of tubes has arrived at the company's facility in Toulouse, France. Here, the test track will be used to test prototype pods that could potentially reach speeds of up to 1,220 kilometers (760 miles) per hour and will be operational later this year.
Construction for the test track will be done in two phases. The first phase, according to the company, includes a 320-meter (1,049-foot) system that will be operational this year. A full-scale passenger capsule currently being constructed at the company’s Spain facility is scheduled for delivery this summer. Additionally, a second full-scale system, which extends 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) and is elevated at a height of 5.8 meters (19 feet), will be completed in 2019. Both systems, which will be assembled and integrated at the French facility, are "fully upgradeable".
The California-based company says they have agreements in place in nine countries and are working on feasibility and research. The facility in Toulouse will be the delivery site of the first full-scale passenger capsule.
“Hyperloop is no longer a concept, it has become a commercial industry,” said HyperloopTT chairman Bibop Gresta in a statement.
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk first unveiled the Hyperloop concept in a 2013 whitepaper in which he called the transport system a "cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table”. The technology uses super-powered magnets to levitate carrier pods through a long tube with air removed, essentially creating a vacuum that zips pods between destinations.
Other companies have announced their own Hyperloop systems. Earlier this year, Virgin’s Hyperloop One unveiled a 140-kilometer (87-mile) tube that connects Abu Dhabi to Dubai and announced future plans to have three production systems in service by 2021.
When all is said and done, HyperloopTT says their Hyperloop will cut travel time between major cities by several hours.