In August 2013 Tesla CEO Motros, Elon Musk, detailed in 57 pages the means of transport of the future, the Hyperloop, a network of underground pipes that could transport people. Inside the tubes there must be low pressure so that crowded capsules can travel at supersonic speeds.
This sounds like science fiction, but Musk’s dream may be very close to becoming reality. The startup Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced today that it signed an agreement to work with Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum and the global engineering firm, Aecom. The two companies will contribute their knowledge in exchange for shares in the company, joining the team of engineers from companies such as Boeing and SpaceX that already work on the project.
The moment that Musk published his idea was aligned with the launch of JumpStartFund, a startup that combines elements of crowdfunding and crowd-sourcing to promote revolutionary transport infrastructure projects. JumpStartFund created Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc., an initiative that brings together engineers willing to spend their free time working on the design of the project in exchange for shares.
According to a Wired note, the startup’s plan is to start in 2016 the large-scale construction of Hyperloop for passengers. The prototype will travel 5 miles through the Quay
Valley, a community created from scratch halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ahlborn said he has many potential investors.
Startup announced today that it has 400 members on its team working on the project; they are not employees, they are men and women with regular jobs at NASA, Boeing and SpaceX, who spend their free time at Hyperloop in exchange for shares, which gives them the opportunity to work on a revolutionary way of transportation.
The alliance of Oerlikon and Aecom is a great support for the company, which suggests that the prototype could become a reality and not remain an idea. Oerlikon has worked on empty projects and new businesses for more than 100 years; has collaborated on projects such as the Hadron Collider at CERN.
“I do not think the difficulties in construction are more significant compared to other technologies that are already out there,” says Carl Brockmeyer, head of business development at Oerlikon. “From a technical point of view, it is not a challenge. We are used to much higher and harder applications.”
According to Brockmeyer, the difficult part of the Hyperloop project will be to “solve other limitations” such as energy consumption and cost.
Oerlikon has put more than a dozen employees in the project whose job is to simulate how much energy is needed to clean the Hyperloop tube to obtain zero or low pressures and the price of this.
Borckmeyer declined to give details but said they would be “surprising” at how little energy is needed for the project, in fact, he believes that the necessary energy could be generated by the solar and turbian wind panels that Ahlbron plans to build in the Quay Valley.
“I thought, ‘traveling in a vacuum tube?’ This is something we should be involved in,” says Brockmeyer.
Aecom is there to help the construction. The company is involved in architectural and infrastructure projects, including the Brooklyn Barclays Center Arena, the Crossrail tunnel being built under London, and the Alameda Corridor merchandise rail highway in Southern California. Andre Liu, VP of startups for Fortune 500, said the technology to build the Hyperloop already exists. “He (Ahlborn) has very realistic plans … he is approaching the right path”
“This is a validation of the fact that our model works … it’s the next step,” said Dirk Alborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies at Wired.