Logistics

‘Hyperloops are cheaper than high-speed trains’

M Ramesh Chennai | Updated on January 19, 2021

Josh Giegel, co-founder and CTO, Virgin Hyperloop

Their size brings down construction cost markedly: Virgin Hyperloop co-founder

Hyperloop transport infra is much cheaper than high-speed train. While the cost would depend on the route specifics, typically, it would be a third cheaper than high-speed train infrastructure, said Josh Giegel, co-founder and CTO, Virgin Hyperloop, the new-age company that has a keen interest in India.

In an exclusive interview to BusinessLine, Giegel said hyperloops — the system in which pods (that can typically seat 28 people) move at ultra-high speeds inside a vacuumised tube — are cheaper because they are not wide, and hence can be built anywhere. For example, an elevated track for the tube can be built on the median of a motorway, he said. Hyperloop systems are “substantially smaller, can take sharper turns and climb hills,” he added.

Incidentally, a team of researchers from IIT-Madras, headed by Sathya Chakaravarthy, professor of aerospace engineering, had also come to a similar conclusion last year about hyperloop costs.

This assumes importance as the government is reportedly considering fast transportation projects akin to the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train.

Last November, Virgin Hyperloop ran a test in the US with two passengers, Giegel himself being one of them. After the test, “regulators across the world are embracing the hyperloop (concept) at a rate that I could not see a couple of years ago,” he said.

India projects

The company is in talks with Indian authorities for at least two projects — one connecting Mumbai and Pune and the other for either connecting the Bengaluru International Airport to the city or an intra-airport transport facility or both.

Virgin Hyperloop has repeatedly stressed its keenness on the Mumbai-Pune project, since the commuting density between the two cities is very high, at about 150-200 million passengers annually. Giegel stressed that material and labour for Indian projects would come from within the country.

Virgin Hyperloop was born as Hyperloop One in 2014, founded by Shervin Pishevar, an Iranian-American, Giegel and others. In 2017, Richard Branson’s Virgin group made a “significant investment”, leading to the name change. The company has also raised funds from DP World, the Dubai-based logistics group.

Asked when Virgin Hyperloop could demonstrate the promised speeds of 1,200 kmph, Giegel said the technology is ready and the company is waiting for at least a 50-km stretch. “We are like an Olympic sprinter looking for a track,” he said.

Published on January 19, 2021

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