Last year, Hyperloop One boldly promised what no one had promised before — a fill scale, full speed test of its Hyperloop system in the Nevada desert. It told the world it would be a “Kitty Hawk moment,” a reference to the time when Orville and Wilbur Wright ushered in the era of manned flight on December 17, 1903. The test was promised by the end of 2016, then it was moved back to early 2017, then March 31. Now it has been moved back again, but that’s not the end of the bad news.
The test is now slated for sometime in May or June but when (and if) it happens, it will be conducted on a much smaller test track than originally anticipated and at much slower speeds. The original test track was supposed to be about two miles long, but it will actually be less than a half mile in length. That means the hoped for top speed of 750 miles per hour won’t be attainable.
Hyperloop One president of engineering Josh Giegel tells the Wall Street Journal that top speed testing isn’t necessary. He explains that a shorter track will still help Hyperloop One learn about important aspects of the tube the Hyperloop pods will travel through, including possible issues with leaks. “We’re not building an app,” Giegel says. “It takes more money and time and physical space to build what it is we are building.” The company has obtained about $160 million in backing from investors so far.
Hyperloop One wants to be the first company to build a functioning Hyperloop. After all, it was that promise that helped attract all that money from its initial investors in the first place. The original concept for the Hyperloop came from Elon Musk, another person whose big ideas are sometimes way out ahead of what’s possible now. The Wright Brothers may have flown the first heavier than air vehicle in 1903, but the first schedule airplane flight didn’t happen until 11 years later. It took nearly 45 years befor transatlantic flights became commonplace.
The Hyperloop may be the breakthrough that reinvents long distance travel, but it could be decades before anyone gets to take a ride on one. So far, no “proof of concept” version exists to show the idea is either technologically possible or commercially viable. It’s one thing to build a big long tube in a desert. It’s quite another to build one that connects places where people actually live. Stay tuned.
Source: Inverse Photo credit: Hyperloop One