The sound spreads through the air at 1,234.8 kilometers per hour. At cruising speed, an Airbus A380 aircraft is capable of traveling up to 1,020 kilometers at the same time. Between that physical phenomenon and the limits of civil aerospace technology, a Hyperloop capsule aspires to travel at 1,200 kilometers per hour. But, before arriving at this feat, the occurrence of Elon Musk, owner of Tesla, must win another career more economic than physical. Three international companies, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), Virgin Hyperloop One and TransPod, lead the competition to demonstrate that, in 2020, it will be viable to transport passengers on a train traveling in a vacuum tube.
With the doubt of who will arrive before the goal, HTT has marked this midday a substantial both to present in El Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz) 01 Quintero, his first travel capsule, ready to star in the tests that the company plans to develop in Toulouse. "World" and "historical" have been the most repeated qualifiers of the event in which the global launch of the first Hyperloop train made to life size by the aerospace firm Carbures, now called Airtificial, materialized.
And the great event has not betrayed the expectations created during the hour of speeches prior to the fall of the black curtain that hid the capsule. Dirk Alhlborn and Rafael Contreras, presidents of HTT and Carbures respectively, have played host to the careful staging that has been witnessed by more than fifty national and international media and politicians of different rank and color, headed by the president of the Board of Andalusia, Susana Díaz, as godmother of the new train.
"It is a plane? Is it a train? It is a bird? No, it's Hyperloop, "Contreras has paraphrased. A few seconds later, the countdown -spoked with epic film music- has concluded with the discovery of the new train, a stylized capsule of gray, black and red colors of 32 meters long. It is the aerodynamic aspect that designer Paul Priestman has given to a cubicle that will travel autonomously -the fuselage does not have windows- at a speed similar to that of sound. "The capsule travels like a plane without wings", has exemplified Alhlborn.
The design is true to the idea that Musk launched in 2013: a capsule inside a tube that moves in suspension in a vacuum similar to how money cases travel in supermarket tubes. "He had a low pressure that we got with vacuum pumps – vacuum. That makes it reach great speed with very little energy ", detailed Alhlborn. The idea is that, in addition to the solar panels, the train "feeds on its own performance", as detailed by Contreras,
90% of the capsule is made of carbon fiber, material in which the Andalusian company is specialized. 21,000 hours of work, 5,000 hours of assembly, 7,200 square meters of fiber and 75,000 rivets are some of the figures of a train that, despite its five tons of weight, must be able to travel in levitation thanks to the impulse in an environment of low pressure. "It is incredibly difficult to manufacture certain parts. To make it real we had to think everything because there was nothing: how many layers, rivets, frames … ", acknowledged Javier Moreno, general manager of Airtificial.
The capsule is equipped with 72 artificial intelligence sensors that will make it possible to monitor every detail of its operation in real time. Although for now, its interior is unexpired, the idea is that they can travel from 30 to 40 people on trips that, in addition to fast, will be efficient. "We are talking about a cost of 20 million dollars per kilometer, according to detailed Alhlborn. To which Contreras has apostille: It is a technology half of face that the high speed ".
"We are facing a milestone such as the presentation of the AVE that has been emulated as the technology that everyone wants. It is the fifth transport revolution, "President Susana Díaz has exhorted. However, despite the enthusiasm in the environment, there are still obstacles to overcome. The first capsule will travel in the coming days to the French city to start the first tests on carbon tubes that Airtificial is also making, but for three years it is not foreseen that the first trips with people will begin.
After five years, according to Alhlborn, the first commercial projects will arrive in the Arab Emirates or in China. It will be possible if, in this margin, HTT solves the unknowns that the new means of transport generates in relation to the regulations of security in the transport of the different countries. In fact, the CEO of Hyperloop TT has not denied that "regulation is the main problem".
In the meantime, the manufacture of the components continues at cruising speed in the different companies involved in the project. HTT is defined as a compendium of 800 professionals from 44 companies located in 38 countries who row together for trying to be the first to demonstrate that the idea that Musk had in 2013 is as feasible as it is profitable. "We are creating a new way to build companies. It is a movement that is being able to integrate different companies giving freedom of movement, "acknowledged Andrés de León, head of HTT operations.
And in that consortium, the Airtificial company has been winning whole since December 2016. It was then when Carbures signed the contract worth 5 million euros for the manufacture of the prototype that has been presented today. In this period, both companies signed another agreement: in March of this year they agreed on another payment of 2.8 million for the manufacture of the tube through which the train will circulate.
"We inaugurated a new sector that we do not know what name we are going to put", explained Moreno. It does not lack reason and, although at the moment it is a niche of market based on an idea to materialize, the director of Airtificial is not wrong when he has assured that "it is an industry of a very high competitiveness". Since Musk launched his idea as an open occurrence to the free development of companies that want to come into play, there are already three companies bidding to be the first to reach 2020 with passenger trips in tests.
HTT, created in 2013, adds Virgin Hyperloop One that already presumes to be the most advanced in the construction of its prototype in Nevada (USA). Also the future of this company seems to pass through Andalusia. The firm founded by Richard Branson announced last August its signing of a protocol with ADIF to establish in Bobadilla (Malaga) an experimentation center for the new means of transport. The value of the installation will be 432 million euros, including manufacturing zones and test platforms. Yes, it will be true provided that consifa 126 million euros in calls for public aid.
Time will tell which company wins the Hyperloop race and, even if it manages to go from spectacular presentations and tests to become a new means of transport. At the moment, the intoxicating effect of the speeches, the epic music and the falling curtains have made the more than 200 attendees of today's call think that everything was possible. Even that Hyperloop can become the transport in which to move around Mars, one of the ideas that Musk launched when he made the world know his quickest occurrence.
The new capsule of HTT has been a manufacturing process 100% Andalusian and, specifically, Cadiz. "We are making history. Cádiz, the oldest city, is kilometer 0. From here we have become global, "said Rafael Contreras, the head of Airtificial. The president of the Board, Susana Díaz, did not miss this achievement, achieved in "a land with difficulties did not have access to the industrial revolution as other areas." Especially when the main competitor of HTT has also promised to reach Andalusia, specifically to Malaga, but without involving the region in the manufacturing process, held in Nevada. In fact, for Lina Gálvez, councilor of Knowledge, Innovation and Universities, the agreement reached between this company and ADIF -national level- is another example of "Andalusia there is someone interested in keeping it in a secondary place".