Hyperloop: the future of transport?        

insights  September 12, 2018

Urbanization is increasing throughout the world. By 2025, about 60% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. By 2050, this will be even more than 2/3th of the world’s population[1]. This has major consequences for the accessibility of cities and calls for changing mobility and transport choices. One of the solutions in the field of transport that will become reality in the future is the hyperloop.

What is a hyperloop?
The hyperloop concept was first presented in 2012 by Elon Musk. It is a lightweight capsule that travels through an almost vacuum-aspirated tube. In that tube there is almost no air resistance and this ensures that the transport is much faster, cheaper and more efficient than with the current means of transport[2]. The capsule can reach a speed of 1200 kilometers per hour and is suitable for both passenger transport and freight shipments. The tubes through which the capsule travels can be built both underground and above ground.

The capsule can reach a speed of 1200 kilometers per hour

The pros and cons  
Besides the fact that the hyperloop is faster and cheaper, it is also quieter and more sustainable than other means of transport. This is because the hyperloop travels on clean electricity, where it hardly emits any CO2.This new form of transport is seen as the solution to the increasing traffic on the road and in the air. As the number of online purchases worldwide increases, so does the number of deliveries and delivery options. This creates logistical bottlenecks. The increasing number of cars and trucks on the roads causes congestion which doesn’t only effect the environment but also reduces the accessibility of inner-cities. When the hyperloop is eventually used for freight transport, this will result in less truck traffic on the road, which will reduce congestion.

However, the hyperloop also has a major disadvantage and that is its lack of flexibility[3]. Future transport systems must be able to adapt to the changing and unpredictable future. This requires system flexibility, which the hyperloop lacks.

Another concern is sick passengers. Due to the enormous speed of the capsule, travelers are exposed to high G-forces. Elon Musk assumes that he can limit these forces to 0.5G, but tests have shown that some travelers are already nauseated at 0.2G, which makes traveling by hyperloop uncomfortable.

The future
All in all, developments with regard to the hyperloop are in full swing. It is not the question whether the hyperloop will be in use in the future, but when.

[1] Cob (2017), Raildistributie.
[2] NOS (2017), Dit vroegen jullie aan de TU Delft-studenten achter de hyperloop.
[3] De Volkskrant (2017), Hyperloop: lastige oplossing op zoek naar een probleem.
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