There are two hyperloop startups based in Los Angeles: one is extremely eager to publicize its progress on this futuristic, insanely fast transportation system, the other... not so much. Until now.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), the more coquettish of the two startups, finally released a handful of images and a video to prove that it is building what it says is the world’s first full-scale, passenger-ready hyperloop, capable of speeds of up to 760 mph. Unfortunately, the pictures raise more questions than they answer.
Let’s see what we’ve got:
Something that appears to be the inside of a hyperloop tube.
A mechanical arm spraying water at something.
Some.... metal struts maybe? I don’t know what this is.
A guy welding something.
Spooky fluorescent lighting in a giant hanger thing.
Aaaaaaaaand a dude’s back.
All of which is meant to bolster the impression that HTT is building a real hyperloop that real people will really be able to use. The company says it’s working with Carbures, a Spanish aerospace, engineering, and defense firm, on its pod, the specs of which are pretty incredible. The capsule will be 98.5 feet long, 9 feet in diameter, and weigh 20 tons. But even with 28–40 people on board, HTT says its capsule will be able to travel 760 mph through a nearly airless tube. The construction of the capsule is underway at HTT’s Toulouse-based research and development center and will be officially unveiled in “early 2018.”
Take all that with a grain of salt. Up until this point, HTT has only released renderings and cool illustrations of its system, which purports to use passive magnetic levitation to shoot passenger-filled tubes through an airless tube at passenger jet-speeds. Last year, the company released a video that shows what the passenger experience in one of its pods would be like.
By contrast, its crosstown rival, Hyperloop One, conducted a public test of its propulsion system last May, and has released a slew of images of its nearly mile-long test track that it’s building in the Nevada desert. And the company’s former head engineer (who was ousted after a nasty spat with his co-founders that turned into a now settled lawsuit) just started his own hyperloop company. So this space is filling up fast.
HTT’s spokesperson has said the company is not as generous about showing off its tech in public because it’s concerned about its intellectual property being copied or ripped off. And unlike Hyperloop One, which seems to be leaning toward using its hyperloop to transport freight, HTT has consistently claimed that its system will be for passengers looking to travel long distances in mere minutes.
The two companies are structured very differently, too. Hyperloop One is basically a traditional tech startup with investors and a board that includes former Obama strategist Jim Messina. HTT, on the other hand, boasts that it is a solely volunteer and crowdsourced venture. The company says it has talent from NASA, Boeing, Tesla, and SpaceX working among its 800-plus volunteers.
HTT has run into bureaucratic hurdles. Its test track in California was delayed after it was revealed the company failed to complete the state’s environmental review process. With the company shifting most of its focus to Europe, it’s unclear whether HTT’s California property is still in the mix.
Both companies have landed several lucrative partnerships with foreign governments, like Slovakia, Finland, and Abu Dhabi, and are in the various stages of construction and prototype testing. The real bragging rights, though, will go to the one that becomes the first to demonstrate this system’s viability. Because no one is going to volunteer to be the first passenger unless they’re sure they won’t be turned into liquid.