It seems that people just can’t get enough Hyperloop at the moment. Fresh off the back of other European countries announcing they would invest in the pioneering technology, France has now thrown its hat into the ring.
According to BFM Business, France’s national rail company, the SNCF, is going to invest an unknown sum of money in American company Hyperloop Technologies, with perhaps a view to potentially build a line in France. However, at the moment other details are few and far between.
BFM Business reported that SNCF has been interested in Hyperloop for several months. Hyperloop Technologies had been looking for about $80 million in a second round of funding, and SNCF now appears to be among the investors.
"Hyperloop is a switched-on and visionary project," SNCF chief executive Guillaume Pépy told L'Obs magazine last year. "We are following it very closely."
France is known for its relatively advanced rail network, with the TGV being the first high-speed passenger train in operation in Europe. Early adoption of Hyperloop would again make France the front runners when it comes to next-generation forms of transport.
Quite where Hyperloop would operate in France is anyone’s guess, if it did come to fruition. But with speeds of up to 1,200 kilometers per hour (760 miles per hour), it could feasibly enable travel between major cities in tens of minutes, rather than currently hours.
Hyperloop, which is still only in a concept stage at the moment, works by creating a frictionless vacuum inside an enclosed tube. Passengers would then travel in pods, being able to travel at high speeds without air resistance.
Two rival companies in the U.S., Hyperloop Technologies and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), are both currently leading the development of the project, building test tracks in Las Vegas and California respectively. Elon Musk, who originally put forward the idea for the technology in 2013, is also encouraging development. Recently, his SpaceX company held a competition for teams to design pods, to be tested later this year.
And over in Europe, it’s not just France getting in on the action. Earlier this year, Slovakia announced it was working with HTT to look into developing a high-speed line between several European cities – Bratislava in Slovakia, Vienna in Austria, and Budapest in Hungary.
With the interest shown around the world in Hyperloop so far, it perhaps raises questions as to why some countries – like the U.K. – are investing huge amounts of money in more traditional high-speed rail. However, the fact remains that it is still an experimental technology at the moment, but perhaps in a few years, we will start to get a clearer picture about whether Hyperloop can really be the “fifth mode of transport” it is often touted to be.