Virgin Hyperloop One: First US Feasibility Study Shows Huge Cost Savings

Hyperloop, the vacuum-sealed transit system, could bring big economic benefits to local areas. That’s according to Virgin Hyperloop One, which announced on Wednesday the completion of the first-ever feasibility study focused on the benefits it could bring to the United States.

The report, independently produced by engineering and procurement firm Black & Veatch, looked at a proposed route through the Interstate-70 corridor in Missouri that would reduce trips from Kansas City to St. Louis from three-and-a-half hours today to just 28 minutes. It considered issues like social impact, station locations, rights-of-way and regulation questions.

The team found a number of big benefits to building a hyperloop. It could offer an 80 percent increase in ridership demand from 16,000 to 51,000 passengers on each round trip. It would reduce interstate accidents that would save $91 million per year, while also saving on time spent on the road that would result in $410 million in savings. The cost of taking the hyperloop could also be lower than the cost of the gas to drive the journey. The study also claims that linear infrastructure costs are around 40 percent lower than high speed rail projects, with much higher speeds.

The Missouri route map.

Virgin Hyperloop One

“We are thrilled at the results of this study,” CEO Rob Lloyd said in a statement. “A feasibility study of this depth represents the first phase of actualization of a full-scale commercial hyperloop system, both for passengers and cargo in the United States. We are especially proud that Missouri, with its iconic status in the history of U.S. transportation as the birthplace of the highway system, could be the keystone of a nation-wide network. The resulting socio-economic benefits will have enormous regional and national impact.”

Hyperloop was first outlined in a 2013 white paper authored by Elon Musk. It described a vacuum-sealed tube that would send pods through at speeds of up to 700 mph — even faster than the current rail speed record of 375 mph set with a maglev near Mount Fuji in 2015. Musk released the paper for third parties to create their own projects, but moved into the space himself in August 2017 with The Boring Company venture after he grew frustrated with the slow pace of progress.

No team has publicly reached even half the theoretical speed, but the area is progressing. The current public top speed record is from WARR Hyperloop in July 2018, during SpaceX’s third pod competition, where it reached 290 mph down a 0.8-mile test track. Delft Hyperloop, which came second in the race, told Inverse prior to the competition that current technology would allow teams to reach closer to the theoretical top speed over a track of around 45 miles, giving enough space for accelerating and braking.

Hyperloop could make its way across the United States soon. Musk has outlined ideas to build a system from Washington, D.C. to New York, while Virgin Hyprloop One states Ohio and Colorado are also undertaking feasibility studies. Texas also plans an environmental impact study for a hyperloop system.

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