The further things progress with Hyperloop, the more surreal it all becomes.
Take, for instance, today’s feature in Wired entitled “How Students Built the World’s Fastest Hyperloop.” Basically, it’s about a student competition to launch a cart down a tube, with some of the air sucked out to reduce resistance. The cart hit just over 200 mph.
KQED, in it’s latest story on Hyperloop, describes things this way:
Hyperloop is Musk’s answer to what he called “outdated technology” in plans for high-speed rail in California. Musk proposed a completely new form of transportation — a fifth mode of transportation, along with cars, trains, boats and planes — and then challenged academics to make it.
Comparing it to California high-speed rail is noteworthy, since the French and Japanese spent decades perfecting the technology. The French, in fact, first achieved 200 mph in an experiment with a conventional steel-wheel-on-steel-rail train back in 1955. And, unlike the latest Hyperloop breakthrough, it was with a full-sized train.
(It was actually a French SNCF “C-Motor” that sits retired at the rail museum in Breil Sur Roya, France. A neat little train ride from Nice France.)
The students did surpass Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One’s run of a larger test vehicle in the Nevada desert. “That design, which the company is hoping to commercialize one day, uses magnetic levitation, like a bullet train,” wrote Jack Stewart, in his his story for Wired. Except bullet trains, referring to the iconic high-speed rail network in Japan, don’t use magnetic levitation at all–they use true-and-tried conventional steel-wheels-on-steel rails and have hit 275 mph.
In other words, Hyperloop remains much slower than those pesky “dinosaur” trains that use good-old fashioned tracks and wheels.
Magnetic Levitation technology, which floats the train a few inches above a guideway (no wheels required), also isn’t original to Hyperloop. That’s used commercially in China on the Shanghai Maglev train that runs to that city’s airport. That train, which started carrying passengers in 2004, uses German Maglev technology that was in development for decades. It tops out at 268 mph. The Japanese, meanwhile are building a Maglev between Tokyo and Nagoya, which should be operational by 2027. The Japanese MagLev currently holds the train speed record, at 375 mph.
The current conventional steel-wheel-on-steel-rail speed record, by the way, was achieved by the French in 2007, at 357 mph.
Again, the Hyperloop miniature test train achieved a “record” speed of just over 200 mph.