Frequently Asked Questions

General

What is Hyperloop Connected?
Hyperloop Connected is an initiative of Delft Hyperloop, with the goal to create a platform with an overview of all Hyperloop related knowledge. Currently, there is no comprehensive overview of who is working on Hyperloop and what they are working on, which is not effective. On Hyperloop Connected, all sorts of information about the Hyperloop can be found. This information is not only provided by Delft Hyperloop, but everyone can submit an article. Read more about Hyperloop Connected

What is a hyperloop?
Hyperloop is often mentioned the fifth mode of transportation because it cannot be classified into one of the current modes (car, boat, plane or train). The major difference is that the Hyperloop travels through a near vacuum tube, therefore bringing the air resistance to a minimum. Moreover, the Hyperloop will levitate during its journey which eliminates rolling resistance. These two resistances make the current modes of transportation inefficient. Because significantly less resistance is present for the Hyperloop, it is possible to travel efficiently with speeds above 1000 kilometres per hour which is even faster than a plane! 

Who is Delft Hyperloop?
Delft Hyperloop is a student team from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Currently, we are competing in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, which we have won in 2017 and came in second in 2018. In addition to this, we also focus on bringing the Hyperloop closer to realization, by conducting research and tackling challenges that withhold the Hyperloop from being implemented. 

Why do we need a Hyperloop?
People tend to travel further and further. However, current transportation modes do not suffice in multiple ways. They are reaching maximum capacity, are operating very environmentally unfriendly and are prone to external influences. In order to meet the Paris agreement of 2015, transportation must become greener. With the Hyperloop, these issues can be dealt with by particularly replacing the short to medium haul air traffic. By reducing the air resistance and eliminating the rolling resistance, the Hyperloop is energy efficient. Furthermore, the Hyperloop has a high transportation capacity and can reach speeds above 1000 kilometers per hour.

When would we have a Hyperloop in the world?
Currently, Hyperloop technologies are being developed by multiple companies and student teams. However, legislation and certification are not ready yet, as this takes time with innovations. Especially in Europe, where multiple countries are involved, that process is long. However, in countries like China, India or United Arab Emirates, projects like this can probably be implemented earlier viewed from economical and political aspects. Therefore, the first commercial track will be in one of the before-mentioned countries, within 10-15 years. Europe and the USA will follow afterwards. 

What is the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition?
The Hyperloop Pod Competition is initiated by Elon Musk and organised by SpaceX. Elon Musk published the Hyperloop Alpha Paper about the possibility of the Hyperloop system back in 2013 and started the competition in 2015 to accelerate the development of Hyperloop and raise public awareness. Student teams from around the world compete every summer in the 1.25 kilometer tube which is installed in front of the SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles. The objective is to design and build a prototype that will race inside this tube to reach top speed. For more information, visit SpaceX

Technology

What is meant by vacuum?
The tunnels in which the pods travel will be a near vacuum. The reason to reduce the air pressure is to lower the aerodynamic drag significantly. The tubes will operate at 30-200 Pascal (0.03% – 0.2% of the atmospheric pressure). The tubes will be connected to a series of vacuum pumps which will initially remove the air from the tubes and are used to maintain the near vacuum during normal operations. Since commercial vacuum pumps are most efficient above 10 Pascal, the pressure will not be reduced any further. If this would be done nevertheless, the benefit of lower drag would be counteracted by increased energy use of the vacuum pumps. The tubes are expected to leak air into its near vacuum based on imperfections in welds, O-rings and outgassing. A fraction of the pumps needed to completely remove the air will be used continuously to counter this leakage and keep the tubes at the required pressure. For more information, visit the article about Variable Tube Pressure. The pod is propelled by means of a Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) or a Linear Induction Motor (LIM). The LIM is a rotary induction (AC) motor rolled out over the track. A force is induced similar to a rotary motor and produces forward motion. LSM propulsion generates a moving magnetic field that ‘pushes’ the pod forward. Since the losses of the LIM are significant, from an efficiency point of view one should opt for the LSM in the track. 

How does a hyperloop levitate and accelerate?
The Hyperloop can levitate in several ways, the initial concept (as proposed by Elon Musk in the Alpha Paper) used air bearings that produce a layer of air below the pod n which the pod could float. However, air bearings are inefficient, complex and dangerous. Therefore, magnetic levitation such as Electrodynamic Suspension (EDS) or Electromagnetic Suspension (EMS) is favourable. EDS is a passive form of levitation which works when the Hyperloop is above lift-off speed of approximately 12 km/h. The lift force is generated by eddy currents that are induced in the track because of a changing magnetic field. EMS is an active form of levitation, where the distance between the pod and the track is constantly measured and regulated with electromagnets. An example that uses EMS is the Maglev train Transrapid. For more information, visit the article about Levitation Systems for the Hyperloop. The pod is propelled by means of a Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) or a Linear Induction Motor (LIM). The LIM is a rotary induction (AC) motor rolled out over the track. A force is induced similar to a rotary motor and produces forward motion. LSM propulsion generates a moving magnetic field that ‘pushes’ the pod forward. Since the losses of the LIM are significant, from an efficiency point of view one should opt for the LSM in the track.

How can people board and alight?
By using an airlock system, it is possible to get the pod out of the tube and into the station. This airlock consists of a chamber and two doors in between the tube and the station environment. A pod will move into the chamber, the doors will seal and air will be pumped in or out of this chamber, depending on which direction the pod will travel. This method is used in space stations and ensures a safe transfer from atmospheric pressure to vacuum. Another possibility is to use jetways that are sealed around the pod, this eliminates the necessity of having many airlocks at the station.  For more information, read “Tube to Station Vacuum Interface”

What will a pod look like?
Because the tube is near vacuum and the inside of the pod has normal pressure, this results in a pressure difference which needs to be designed for. Therefore, the pod acts like a pressure vessel similar to an airplane. An optimal shape for this pressure vessel is a cylinder, which is the main characteristic of the pods shape. The shape of the Hyperloop pod will still have aerodynamic features since the tube cannot be brought to absolute vacuum level. To reduce the aerodynamic drag the shape is aerodynamically optimized, resulting in a capsule shape with minor modifications. There is a gap between the pod and the tube which enables the air to flow past the pod. The pods are capable of transporting about 50 passengers at a time. For more information, read “Designing the Delft Hyperloop Passenger Pod”

Economics

What are the costs for a hyperloop system?
One of the advantages of the Hyperloop is that the operational costs are very low compared to other modes of transportation. However, the investment costs for the infrastructure are high. For above-ground infrastructure, the costs are estimated to be approximately €38 million per kilometre, whereas underground infrastructure will be around €61 million per kilometre. These estimations for bidirectional transport. The costs for a pod will be approximately €8 million. For more information, read “A Closer Look at the Infrastructure Costs”

What will a ticket cost?
Sufficient revenues need to be generated to deal with the investment costs of the Hyperloop network. However, a ticket will not be more expensive than an airline ticket with the same destination. In return, the journey will be greener, faster and more comfortable. With variable pricing, tickets can be even cheaper outside the peak hours. 

Safety and passengers

Will there be emergency exits and what do they look like?
To guarantee safety, emergency exits will be installed in the tubes. The pods make use of levitation and the propulsion system is integrated with the infrastructure. This means that very little subsystems within the pod can fail. The pods will, therefore, be able to continue moving towards a safe zone where passengers are able to exit at all times. The measures required for a safe operation are currently researched. 

What will a trip look like?
A journey in the Hyperloop would have the same conveniences as a train with speeds higher than those of an aircraft. After purchasing a ticket and going through fast security checks, the passenger can board any Hyperloop pod he or she wants. Seats will not be predefined so there is no worry to miss your trip. Seats will be designed for optimum passenger comfort and can be compared to those of business class in aviation. The Hyperloop pod will be able to fit about 50 passengers, have special room for disabled passengers and include a toilet. There will be three seats in a row with an aisle in between. The ceiling will mimic skylight to make passengers feel at ease. Where possible, the stations will be built underground and close to city centres to make for an efficient connection. 

How can the safety be guaranteed?
It is important that the safety of the system will be guaranteed before having an operational Hyperloop. Currently, plans for long test tracks are being made, which means the system can be tested on full speed. This way, the Technological Readiness Level of the Hyperloop can be raised to level 9. When the system is proven safe at high speeds, freight can be transported at the beginning for further testing, because it is less harmful when something goes wrong. Subsequently, the Hyperloop can be ready to transport passengers.