On Sunday afternoon, all three teams competing in the final round of the second edition of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition were confident they’d perform well at the event held in Hawthorne, California.
Then WARR Hyperloop hit the button and quickly the contest ended. And Elon Musk did not hesitate to declare the 200-mph hyperloop pod from Munich the winner of the second competition.
It was an early favorite, after all. At just 176 pounds and with a super-efficient set of batteries, the WARR team from the University of Munich was there to go as fast as they could to win.
“The whole idea for us is that we’re interested in competition,” said Martin Riedel, a 24-year-old engineer on the team. “And the competition is maximum speed, so we looked at all of our options to get maximum speed.”
But what won? It was briefly described as an electric car by event organizers, but the sleek carbon fiber-topped pod had the exterior profile of a fast train.
“It’s like a mixture between a car and a train,” Riedel said of his team’s project. “It’s an electric motor on a wheel, but it pivots at one point and clamps down at the other.”
The way the WARR pod’s slick shape allows it to stay down on the track allows more torque to be put down and greater performance, he said, up to 1.5 gs, rather than the typical 1.0.
In order to get the highest top speed, WARR went with the lowest everything else, it seemed. They were already on track to do well here after winning fastest pod in January’s hyperloop pod contest and further refined their approach Sunday’s event.
“The less weight you have, the faster you can go, so we decided to build the whole system to a minimum,” Riedel said. “So the batteries are a minimum size and the most discharge-heavy batteries that we could find, put right to the motor. The brakes are really tiny and high pressure to brake fast. And everything else is as compact as possible. For our limited time we can do that.”
Capable of about 75 horsepower, Riedel said, the WARR pod had nearly 1 horsepower per kilogram, and the team was proud of that level of efficiency.
One thing was clear early on at the sequel to the Hyperloop Pod contest held earlier this year: there’s more than one way to win. Organizers marveled that the various teams had brought vastly different looking pods than others.
The contrast in looks and performance was striking. Paradigm Hyperloop’s enormous, 1,800-pound setup still recorded a respectable 60 mph through the tube, though it was the heaviest thing put in there and the vacuum pressure had a hard time building up.
“Getting in the tube was the goal,” team members said to a group of reporters after their run.
Team Swissloop’s setup still needed a forklift to get launched before it had a somewhat embarrassing time getting started, shortly after Musk arrived at the event. Once their battery was replaced, they got up to 24 mph.
“This is really about advancing the state of transportation, trying new things that have never been done before that can really make an incredible difference to people’s lives, Musk said to attendees after WARR’s run.
“The reason I love these things is that it makes me excited to wake up in the world,” Musk said. “There are a lot of problems in the world and if we don’t have things that inspire us, what’s the point of living?”