Hyperloop: The future of freight movement?

Hyperloop pod

Successful test moves technology closer to reality

The road to a good transportation alternative is paved with good intentions. As the search goes on for viable sources of alternative energy to power freight movement, the same search is happening to streamline shipping and logistics.

Enter Hyperloop One, which just completed a successful test in Nevada over the weekend.

According to Pocket-Lint.com, hyperloop is a transport system developed by Elon Musk that will help commuters travel faster. For example, a commute from Los Angeles to San Francisco, covering 381 miles, currently takes almost 6 hours. With the hyperloop, that same commute would take less than 30 minutes.

This is the transportation technology that Hyperloop One hopes to infuse in the shipping and logistics sector.

According to Dapeng Zhang in his article with Hyperloop-One.com, intermodal freight is “the fancy term for the movement of containers via rail, ship and truck without touching the freight itself.” Zhang envisions Hyperloop One contributing by moving intermodal freight.

The need to speed up the delivery process still involves trucks and trains. The Hyperloop One technology is a step to speed up the transportation and delivery of freight on the part of the rail system. It is also worth noting that when compared to trucks, the rail system utilizes less fuel. This is consistent to Musk’s vision of less reliance on fossil fuels and more dependence on alternative sources of energy.

A Trucks.com article explained that the hyperloop is comparable to the pneumatic tubes found in some office buildings that help corporate executives distribute packages in capsule form for dispatch to different floors.

(This is video from Hyperloop One's May test of its technology.)

 

Musk is trying to duplicate this technology in the Middle East. On a road that links Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, a total of about 4,000 vehicles travel the road, taking up to 2 hours to make the trip. If the hyperloop is successful, that trip for commuters and freight forwarders alike is expected to be trimmed to just 12 minutes. In a nutshell, Trucks.com has a more interesting explanation to what the Hyperloop One technology is expected to be - “a futuristic concept that would pack customers and cargo into capsules and quietly shoot them through a pipeline at nearly the speed of sound.”

It sounds like an angle from some science-fiction novel.

“I don’t know how they’d move any kind of bulk commodity in that technology. You would have much smaller weight and/or more capsules going through the tube,” a skeptical Eric Jessup, co-director of the Freight Policy Transportation Institute at the Washington State University, told Trucks.com.

Jessup went on to say that the technology presents “a whole host of issues that haven’t really been grappled with.”

Rob Lloyd, the chief executive at Hyperloop One, thought that the outdated transportation network outweighs any concern on whether the hyperloop technology will be applicable in intermodal freight or not. The problems in need of a long-term solution outweighed the challenges for investment in infrastructure. Lloyd chose to be explicit in describing these problems when he said, “We see our supply chains clogged in ports and roads across the world, costing hundreds of billions of dollars in inefficient product and supply chain.”

And in terms of investment in infrastructure, the $160 million raised by Hyperloop One was a statement alone about the demand for this kind of technology. Apparently, business establishments are willing to spend for better freight transportation. The fund raised served as seed money for the prototype propulsion system spearheaded by Hyperloop One.

The weekend test conducted by Hyperloop One at its Nevada test track successfully moved a Hyperloop pod 1,640 feet at 192 mph. The company hopes to achieve 250 mph for its Dubai program.