One of the leading Hyperloop companies in the U.S. has revealed the magnetic levitation technology it will use to send pods at tremendous speeds of up to 1,200 kilometers per hour (760 miles per hour).
You are probably familiar with the technology known as maglev (magnetic levitation), used by high-speed trains in China. Many had touted it as the best technology for Hyperloop, the futuristic form of transport that will send passengers at high speed in frictionless vacuum tubes. But one problem with this technology is that it needs powered rails to create the magnetic force between the rail and the train, which carries a high cost.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has instead announced a different way to levitate their pods. They plan to use non-powered aluminum tracks, with all the work being done by the pod itself. Batteries will power a magnet in the pod, levitating it above the track, and allowing acceleration and deceleration. This is known as a passive levitation system.
A spokesperson for HTT told IFLScience the new system was “a lot cheaper,” in the millions of dollars, than traditional maglev.
“Utilizing a passive levitation system will eliminate the need for power stations along the Hyperloop track,” said Bibop Gresta, COO of HTT, in a statement. “From a safety aspect, the system has huge advantages, levitation occurs purely through movement, therefore if any type of power failure occurs, Hyperloop pods would continue to levitate and only after reaching minimal speeds touch the ground.”
You can check out a video explaining how the technology works below.
This system was originally developed by the late physicist Richard Post in 2000, who Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HTT, cites as his inspiration for this development. Excitingly, HTT have already been trialling the new technology, with full testing being completed. Full-scale operations are expected to begin at HTT’s test track in Quay Valley, California, by 2018 or 2019.
And this latest news comes after several other developments in the field of Hyperloop. HTT has previously announced that it is looking into building a line in Europe with Slovakia’s help, while rival company Hyperloop Technologies recently received funding from the French national rail company, SNCF. Elon Musk, who initially came up with the idea in 2013, is also encouraging competition with his SpaceX company.
If that’s not enough, Hyperloop Technologies says it has a major announcement on the way tomorrow. “The future is happening,” a promotional video boldly claims. Based on the progress being made so far, who could disagree.