Ground transport at 760 mph: New hyperloop passenger pod unveiled

Ground transport at 760 mph: New hyperloop passenger pod unveiled

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) unveiled its first full-scale passenger capsule Tuesday in Spain.

The company will test the capsule at its track in Toulouse, France.

HTT CEO said he hopes to have a full hyperloop up and running in three years.

Elizabeth Schulze October 2, 2018

Elon Musk's dream of hyperloop travel is getting closer to reality.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) unveiled its first full-size passenger capsule in Cadiz, Spain, on Tuesday.

The company, one of several in the race to enact hyperloop technology, said the vessel had been built to scale to transport passengers at super-fast speeds through magnetic tubes.

HTT CEO Dirk Ahlborn told CNBC he hopes to have a full hyperloop system up and running in three years. "In three years, you and me, we can take a hyperloop," he said.

Ahlborn added that passengers would need to sign a waiver before boarding a hyperloop as regulators continue to work out legal and safety requirements. He said worldwide adoption of hyperloop transport could come in "maybe five to 10" years once a legal framework is in place.

"It's definitely much sooner than anybody would expect," Ahlborn said.

HTT's capsule measures 105 feet long and weighs five tons. The company has not fully completed its interior, which it says will fit between 28 and 40 passengers.

The capsule will now move to HTT's research and development center in Toulouse, France, to finish assembly and run tests on the facility's full-size track.

"The importance of what we achieved is that it's a real full-scale capsule," HTT chairman and co-founder Bibop Gresta told CNBC. "This is the first time that we've shown what a hyperloop would look like."

Hyperloop transport was first envisioned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2013. The technology would use magnets to levitate and propel pods through large tubes at speeds of more than 700 mph — shortening a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, for example, to just 30 minutes.

HTT is one of several companies racing to make Musk's vision a reality. Virgin Hyperloop One unveiled a prototype model of its full-scale passenger pod in February in Dubai.

HTT's capsule was built at the southern Spain aerospace facility of its partner Airtificial. Airtificial was formed by the merger of Spanish manufacturer Carbures and Spanish engineering company Inypsa, which produces parts for companies including Airbus and Boeing.

"The aerospace engineering industry here in the south of Spain is very strong," Rafael Contreras, Airtificial co-founder and chairman, told CNBC. "We have engineering capacity, we have the systems, the structure."

The skin of HTT's capsule is made of material the company calls Vibranium, which consists of carbon fiber and embedded sensors. HTT claims the material is eight times stronger than steel and 10 times stronger than aluminum alternatives.

But even in the world of high-speed travel there's still some way to go before hyperloop becomes a full reality.

Unlike its rival Virgin Hyperloop One, HTT has yet to complete a successful test of its hyperloop capsules.

HTT has focused its efforts on securing regulatory approvals and legal frameworks for hyperloop travel. Last year, it announced a strategic partnership with insurer Munich Re to develop insurance for high-speed capsule transportation.

"The passenger needs to be at the center," Ahlborn said.

HTT has also signed commercial agreements to build tracks in China, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.

So far, no hyperloop commercial tracks are up and running. HTT has only carried out so-called "feasibility studies" that aim to explore if a hyperloop system is economically viable in some countries.


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