The hyperloop has a new world speed record: 240 mph

For those of you holding out hope for one more high-speed test of the hyperloop before the end of the year, you’re in luck. On December 15th, Virgin Hyperloop One conducted the third demonstration of its not-to-scale system in the desert outside of Las Vegas, sending its magnetically levitating pod through a nearly airless tube at 240 mph (387 km/h).

It was a significant increase over the team’s previous record of 192 mph, but far less than the hyperloop’s theoretical maximum speed of 700 mph. The company believes it would need an additional 2,000 meters (1.2 miles) of track to hit that velocity. As it stands, the XP-1 pod’s maximum achievable speed in the current 1,620-foot DevLoop test track is 250 mph.

It was a bit of good news for the company, which has just experienced a major rebranding and leadership shake-up. Yesterday, it was reported that co-founder and chairman Shervin Pishevar is out, thanks to allegations of sexual assault and misconduct (which Pishevar denies), and Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson is in. Branson also helped secure a new $50 million investment from two existing investors, which sources say will help the cash-strapped company help meet its payroll obligations.

Perhaps more important than the speed of the XP-1 pod was the demonstration of the team’s new airlock technology. In order to obtain the high speeds first theorized in Elon Musk’s 2013 white paper, the hyperloop pod needs to travel through a near-vacuum state. This frictionless environment allows the magnetically levitating pod to travel at airliner-speeds through the length of the tube. The airlock will be a key factor in transferring pods with passengers or cargo between atmospheric states.

According to Virgin Hyperloop One:

All components of the system were successfully tested including the airlock, highly efficient electric motor, advanced controls and power electronics, custom magnetic levitation and guidance, pod suspension, and the vacuum. The tests were conducted in a tube depressurized down to the equivalent air pressure experienced at 200,000 feet above sea level. A Virgin Hyperloop One pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.

The ability to maintain a vacuum in the tube, especially one hundreds of miles long, is one of the steepest challenges facing the hyperloop. Every time a pod arrives at a station, it has to decelerate and stop. Then the airlock will have to close, pressurize, and open again. Then the pod has to clear the airlock before the next pod arrives. The speed in which this occurs will determine the distance between pods.

The longer the headway, the less capacity these pods will have, which may determine how useful a mass transit system the hyperloop can be. Operators can try to compensate by building larger pods, but then they’ll need stronger steel for their tubes to accommodate the added weight, and that spells higher costs.

Virgin Hyperloop One’s speed record may not stand for long. It is only slightly more than the 220 mph notched by Musk’s own Tesla-branded pod back in August at the conclusion of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in Hawthorne, California. The student team from Germany’s WARR Hyperloop, took home the top prize in the competition for its pod which traveled 201 mph.

Musk’s test track, which is 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles) is a little longer than Virgin Hyperloop One’s DevLoop. But it seems likely that whichever company builds a longer track will be the one that ultimately gets to brag about speed.

Comments

If your high speed train is slower than a production car (Agera RS @ 285mph)… you have a problem. Hyperloop is closer to a train then the original spec, deeply disappointing

Also, why is the air pressure so low, why does it have a nose cone? Maybe they would be better off calling this something other than a hyperloop… the whole point of a hyperloop was to not need to be close to a vacuum because of the turbine in front of it.

Why not call it VacTran

"If your high speed train is slower than a production car (Agera RS @ 285mph)… you have a problem."

Why? It isn’t practical to drive a car at 285 MPH as a means of transportation. Why does the train need to be faster than that limit? I think it very significant that it is far faster than the legal highway speed limits of most areas of this country (Texas has the highest, with 85 MPH).

If a company that makes yet another bullet train pretends to be a hyperloop it would be robbing funding from the other companies actually making something revolutionary, a true hyperloop. I’m not convinced these people actually intend this train to go significantly faster than the fastest bullet trains (375mph) at a vastly cheaper cost. They made it bigger, they killed the turbine both of which would make for a slower vehicle.

On the bright side, the infrastructure needed to run this should be similar to what you would need for a true Elon Musk style Hyperloop. I hope they’ll get a contract soon that commits them to go revolutionarily fast (600mph+) for a revolutionarily low cost.

You won’t see this thing moving people around in your lifetime. It’s a boondoggle. They dressed it up with some lights and a air chamber. Thay way they can get the air out quicker. Really though, this is just a typical high-speed train inside an almost vacuum.

High-speed rails, in general, are money losers. Now you throw that into a tube with a long list of other issues. A train that will need its own air supply because people need to breathe. The Hyperloop is NOT even a new idea. I was watching a video on youtube on High-speed trains which came out years before Elon threw a fancy name on it, where they were talking about going faster if it was inside a tube under vacuum so there wouldn’t be any air resistance.

It’s not really slower…can the Agera get to 240mph in half a kilo? LOL. The test track was only 500m.

In reality going from 0-240mph in about half kilometre is not at all satisfying, thats a hell lot of force one will experience.

That’s about 1g acceleration (0-240mph in 11 seconds)… not too bad. Though I have a friend that literally freaks out at 0.7g’s. People will get used to it.

Thats a little over 1g. And thats not satisfying, there will be people of all kinds, from children to elderly. Even normal people feel 1g acceleration hard including me. Telling that people will get used to it is not the solution.
One can simply slow down the acceleration to like 0.5g, and it’ll be good, it’ll make a difference of seconds in total journey time. (Ofcourse, if it ever comes into existence)

Good point. In that sense the title is a bit deceiving, yes it’s a personal speed record, but it’s not really the max speed this thing can reach, unlike the Agera RS record. it’s also not the fastest a maglev has reached.

It’s the fastest a maglev train in reduced air pressure has reached in a constricted length track… Perhaps the title should be "Hyperloop One breaks personal speed record." Did I just fall for clickbait. Darn it.

It’s classic clickbait but reading the article actually informs you, so it’s not the worst.

You’re right! Clearly they’re done building the hyperloop and it’s about to be deployed across the country in its current state, or….. maybe, it’s just another test run and they will continue improving it, as well increasing its speed and reliability until they get to a point where it’s ready to be deployed.

"The company believes it would need an additional 2,000 meters (1.2 miles) of track to hit that velocity. As it stands, the XP-1 pod’s maximum achievable speed in the current 1,620-foot DevLoop test track is 250 mph."

Achieving 240mph of consistent speed is not a problem, wanting to fly off the track at 240mph is a problem.

If the top theoretical speed wasn’t 700+ mph, you’d have a point there. And how many people can afford an Agera RS?

You’ve obviously never driven a car at speed. I’ve driven a car at over 150mph and I can safely say that it is NOT something you want to do on a regular basis. It demands extreme concentration and is exhausting. If you are over 40 years old, even more so. And it is only possible to do on public roads a very, very small fraction of the time (and only in parts of Germany) – even then, only for very, very short bursts.

Besides, most high-speed trains currently in existence (TGV, Shinkasen, ICE) operated at less than 200mph. Traveling in those is an experience as the journey time is dramatically reduced, particularly since they operate city center to city center. That is, after all, the point, not some absolute random number.

Every time a pod arrives at a station, it has to decelerate and stop. Then the airlock will have to close, pressurize, and open again. Then the pod has to clear the airlock before the next pod arrives. The speed in which this occurs will determine the distance between pods.

So Hyperloop would have theoretically much longer minimum headways than existing high speed rail technology, with trains of ~10 passengers versus existing >1,000 passenger trains that go 250mph. If you need 5 minutes between each pod or 3 minutes between each HSR train, that’s 50 passengers per direction per hour versus 20,000.

Wasn’t it 28 to 40 passengers per pod? You can also do pods every 2 minutes and are not limited to 1 track as tracks can be stacked on top of each other.

What’s to say the stations won’t have lots of pod depressurization "parking" spots? You could send pods every couple minutes. When the pods arrive, they are routed to an open parking spot and depressurized while other pods arrive right after it.

Sounds futuristic

How is this a world record? The record holding japanese maglev is 375 mph

Are you comparing a full-size train to a little box with a rocket on the back?

Lets not call this a world record, it’s a record for a train in that particular tube.

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