When Elon Musk first presented the concept of the hyperloop, a new form of transportation based on pods that ride on a low-friction cushion of air, he made it clear that it would be a project for others to take on, not something to add to his personal to-do list.
The role of Elon and his companies has been to inspire and coordinate progress. SpaceX sponsors the annual Hyperloop Pod Competition, in which teams from around the world build prototype hyperloop pods in order to demonstrate various technical aspects of the technology. Developing the concept into commercial projects is up to private industry, and several startup companies around the world have projects underway, from the US to Europe to India to the Middle East.
The latest news comes from a Dutch technology startup, Hardt Hyperloop, which was founded after a team from Delft University won the Best Overall Design prize at the 2017 Hyperloop Pod Competition. The company has raised several million euros in funding, and its plans have substantial support from the national and provincial governments.
A new study, commissioned by Hardt Hyperloop and the province of Noord-Holland, has found that a hyperloop connection could reduce commuting times from Amsterdam to other northern European cities from “hours to minutes.” Travelers could arrive in Brussels in under 30 minutes or in Paris in 90 minutes—a trip that currently takes over 3 hours.
A network of hyperloop lines connecting Amsterdam with Paris, Brussels, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt would greatly reduce demand for short-haul flights from Schiphol airport, opening up space for more intercontinental flights and reducing overall air traffic.
Above: A look back at what Hardt Hyperloop is all about (YouTube: Hardt Hyperloop)
Jeroen Olthof, the deputy responsible for mobility in Noord-Holland, envisions a “compact region” of five European cities within which commuting would be quick and easy. “We know that people are willing to travel from door to door for up to one hour for their work. With such a super-fast hyperloop, it suddenly becomes possible to travel much longer commuting distances.”
The new study’s economic models suggest that the savings of commuting time and the increased opportunities for cross-border commerce could increase the province of Noord-Holland’s GDP by some €275 billion ($300 billion).
Hardt Hyperloop has already built a 30-meter low-speed test tunnel in Delft. A new European Hyperloop Center in Groningen will feature a 3-kilometer high-speed test track, and will be open to hyperloop developers from all over the world. Construction is scheduled to start this year, and is expected to be completed in 2022.
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