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On November 8, 2020, Virgin Hyperloop conducted the first passenger test in a hyperloop pod in Las Vegas, US. The test serves as a major milestone and a huge step towards commercializing the hyperloop technology. In development for more than six years, the company is close to bringing the much-awaited concept to life.
The test ride involved two humans speeding up to 100 mph (160 km/h) on its 500m-track in the Nevada desert. The occupants traveled in an XP-2 vehicle designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Kilo Design.
However, the commercial systems will have pods with a capacity of 25 to 30 people and plan to transport tens of thousands of passengers every hour.
Virgin Hyperloop aims to transport people across much longer distances at speeds reaching an astonishing 670 mph. Prior to the test run, it ran more than 400 unoccupied tests at its development site in Las Vegas.
Though the concept of hyperloop was initially pitched by Elon Musk, several companies across the globe have been actively working on the technology.
The hyperloop works by creating a vacuum of air that allows the vehicle to accelerate at high speeds via electromagnetic propulsion. The train car in the tunnel is lifted up above the track by magnetic levitation, while the magnets’ like poles push the train upward. The magnets also propel the train as like poles repel and push the train forward, and the opposite poles attract and pull the train forward.
Though hyperloop systems can operate above ground or underneath it, Virgin Hyperloop has focused on above-ground projects as of now, as tunneling below ground is significantly more time-consuming and expensive.
Recently, the company signed an MoU to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed hyperloop corridor at the Bangalore International Airport in India. It has also signed a contract with the Ministry of Transport (MoT) of Saudi Arabia for conducting a pre-feasibility study on the use of hyperloop technology for transporting passengers and cargo across Saudi Arabia.
Virgin Hyperloop's next project is a 6-mile (9.6 km) test facility in West Virginia. Its hyperloop system is expected to be certified by 2026, with commercial projects rolling before the end of the decade.