The hype surrounding the Hyperloop has died down. But that doesn’t mean work isn’t continuing on it, as the Technical University of Munich shows, because Germany is getting its first test tube in Bavaria. This first Hyperloop is to be built near Munich. The researchers want to use it to test hyperloop technology in practice. The tube is to be 24 meters long. A vacuum is to be created inside it so that a vehicle can move through the tube largely without air resistance. Magnetic levitation technology will be used to reduce friction even further. The Hyperloop is a high-speed means of transportation. The technology behind the Hyperloop is similar to that of pneumatic tube mail. Inside a largely airless tube, capsulelike train cars, also called pods, float at about 1,100 km/h with virtually no air resistance or friction. It could be a near-zero-emission mode of transportation because the outside of the tube could be used as a surface for solar cells, which in turn could serve the energy needs for propulsion and the pod.
The test track at the Technical University of Munich should be ready by the end of 2022, said project manager Gabriele Semino. Testing should then start at the beginning of next year. He estimates that in about ten years, the technology will have reached the stage where the first routes can be built. With the Hyperloop, a trip from Berlin to Munich would take about half an hour. Currently, it takes 4.5 hours with the ICE. According to the feasibility study by the Technical University of Munich, building a Hyperloop route between the two cities would cost about as much as building an ICE route.

For the first time, the Hyperloop Conference Hall 15.2 will be held at InnoTrans on September 23, 2022 in Berlin. The Hyperloop Conference is hereby the first international conference on the topic of high-speed transport worldwide. The Hyperloop Conference offers researchers, start-ups, transport companies, representatives from politics and investors from all over the world a platform for exchange and discussion within the framework of the “Conference Corner”. The focus is on questions such as: What are the latest technological developments? What does it take to implement an Hyperloop infrastructure? How can Hyperloop technology be integrated into existing transportation systems? How can acceptance in society be increased?

The agenda of the Hyperloop Conference includes a variety of formats with exciting topics around ultra-high-speed transport. There will be keynotes, panel discussions, master classes and an HYPERLOOP SAFARI. There will be two discussion forums on the challenges of the Hyperloop ecosystem for passenger transport and on the challenges of freight transport.

Speakers at the conference include Oliver Luksic, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport, Carlo Borghini, Executive Director & CEO of Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking, Keir Fitch, Head of Rail Safety & Interoperability at DG Move, and Thomas Jarzombek, Spokesman for Education and Research for the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag.

Compared to other means of transport, this sounds very impressive at first glance, but it is still in the range of maglev trains such as the Transrapid. In Japan, a 286-kilometer maglev line is currently being built from Tokyo to Nagoya, which is expected to reach an average speed of 420 km/h from 2027 onward. Whether hyperloops can keep up economically depends largely on their capacity. With 28 seats in a capsule, as proposed by Elon Musk, and twelve starts per hour, a hyperloop could transport a maximum of 336 passengers per hour in one direction. A rail line achieves values between 5,000 and 10,000 passengers per hour. This would mean that hyperloops could cover no more than five percent of the current passenger volume in air traffic and high-speed trains on main European routes. In the meantime, however, hyperloop companies are aiming for more seats; Zeleros, for example, is planning capsules with up to 200 seats that would take off 24 times an hour.

The EU Commission is currently having hyperloops investigated in the Hypernex research project. In addition to universities, the four Hyperloop start-ups from the EU are represented in it, Zeleros from Spain, Hardt from the Netherlands, Transpod from France and Nevomo from Poland. María Luisa Martínez Muneta from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, who is coordinating Hypernex, estimates that the first test routes in the EU could be in operation by 2025 and the first passenger connections by 2030.
The Hyperloop certainly has potential. Investments, especially in structurally weak countries, can quickly pay off thanks to the logistics. However, it will probably take several years to decades to complete the technology. Research in this area is still largely under the radar, but something is happening – especially in Germany.