A chance to be in the Hyper-Loop

  • Hyperloop high-speed transportation project destined to "change the way we live"
  • HTT makes a call to action for volunteers to work on their project in their spare time

A chance to be in the Hyper-Loop

 

IMAGINE if you could get on an electric train in Kuala Lumpur and half an hour later be walking in the streets of Singapore. These carriages would run continuously all day with one departing every thirty seconds.

It draws no power from the electrical grid and is made from a material previously only heard about in comic books.

Now, imagine it was designed almost entirely by volunteers from around the world, and that you too could participate for a share in the company.

This is the vision outlined by Bibop Gresta (pic) at the Global Entrepreneur Community held last week in Kuala Lumpur. He is the chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), one of the two companies that have taken the challenge to build and implement the Hyperloop, the project championed by multi billionaire Elon Musk to bring the next generation of long-distance transportation to the masses: A train that travels in a near-vacuum tube at the speed of sound.

"It will change the way we live," said Gresta, "(and) it's done, created out of existing technologies... But how to achieve it is very complicated".

The solution proposed by HTT uses a capsule powered by a linear motor using powerful neodymium magnets. The track does not need to be electrified (the capsule carries its own battery on-board) and the capsule will naturally levitate as it gains speed. The reduction in air resistance and rolling friction enables the capsule to travel at high speeds.

To further embellish this already fantastical idea, HTT is also collaborating with a Slovakian materials firm called c2i to develop a carbon-fibre composite called "Vibranium" - a name taken directly from the pages of comic books, most well-known as a fictional component of Captain America's shield.

Hyperloop says that their new material will be used in the pod to help protect the passengers. It is eight times stronger than aluminium and 10 times stronger that steel alternatives (similar to other carbon-fibre composites). It also will be embedded with sensors that can help them measure the performance and stresses the capsule undergoes, with an eye towards preventive maintenance, in advance of actual failure.

Another innovation is that the electricity to power the Hyperloop will be self-generated. "We have a system that is a giant power station that happens to transport people," said Gresta. The outer surfaces of the tube through which the trains travel will be covered with solar panels, and it will be supplemented by electricity generated by the kinetic energy of the train moving, along with regenerative braking.

They have also identified location where wind and geothermal power are suitable sources to be tapped. "The combinations of these technologies allow us to generate up to 20 percent more electricity than we consume," boasted Gresta.

All this adds up to reductions in operation costs. On top of that Gresta claims that the Hyperloop will be half or a quarter of the price needed to build an equivalent high-speed rail, and that it will be capable of transporting 3,400 people an hour. Gresta optimistically stated that "We can recoup our cost of investment in eight to ten years".

One interesting aspect of HTT is that it is relying on "crowdstorming" as part of its development process. Unlike its competitor Hyperloop One that employs around 200 full-time engineers and designers, HTT has reached out for volunteers, and currently boasts about 600 people from around the world helping out in their free time. The incentive? High-level contributors are volunteering in exchange for stock options in the company.

Gresta says that these volunteers are organised in small groups of about seven people and they are given specific problems to work on for about a month. The group collaborates online and eventually creates an analysis document which is then validated by another team from HTT. The final document is then sent to the project integration team who decides to implement the best solution. "They basically are entities like cells of a bigger organism," explains Gresta.

While the original white paper by Elon Musk focused on a link between Los Angeles and San Francisco, HTT has decided to broaden its scope. Earlier this year they announced an agreement with the Slovakian government for a feasibility study for routes between Slovakia and Austria and Hungary. They have also announced a similar agreement with Abu Dhabi to study a route between the city and Al Ein.

Gresta admits that he has also spoken with the Malaysian government about what HTT can do in Malaysia. "I think there are the right elements in this country to tackle the problems in the right direction," he said, adding that "The (Malaysian) government right now wants to solve the problem and that's why I'm here". However, he declined to give further details, other than to say "it was a very nice meeting".

What he did elaborate on, was the need to act quickly on forward-thinking solutions. "If you continue to invest in technologies that are obsolete and will create a giant legacy and problems on the budget of the country... that is a disaster. But you have the possibility to start from scratch and pass to a technology that will solve the problem." 
 
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