This Hyperloop Firm Is Gearing Up to Build the World’s Longest Test Track

A hyperloop company is planning to start construction on the world’s longest test track known to the public this year. TransPod, a startup founded in 2015, announced on Tuesday plans to build a 1.86-mile test track in France, with a view to conducting tests as early as 2020. The move brings the futuristic vacuum-sealed pod transport system, with predicted top speeds of up to 700 mph, closer to life.

If it comes to fruition, the test track will measure longer than the 0.31-mile “DevLoop” operated by Virgin Hyperloop One in the Nevada desert. It would also out-measure the 0.8-mile SpaceX track in Hawthorne, California, which the company has used to host three student-led pod design competitions.

Sebastien Gendron, co-founder and CEO of TransPod, tells Inverse that the test track “will be developed together with industrial partners and universities. We take a collaborative approach to our research and development, to leverage the expertise of global leaders in high technology, science, and engineering. Our test facility will support our work with the European Union and Transport Canada to define, establish, and standardize the methodology and framework to regulate vacuum-based hyperloop travel systems. And our goal is to beat the current HSR [high-speed rail] speed record of 600 km/h [373 mph] in the next three years.”

TransPod concept art of a hyperloop in Toronto.
TransPod concept art of a hyperloop in Toronto.

Gendron has set his sights high. Ever since entrepreneur Elon Musk first released his idea for the hyperloop in a 2013 white paper, companies have scrambled to come close to the theoretical speeds of 700 mph, enough to make the trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles in around 30 minutes. The current record holder is 290 mph from WARR Hyperloop, a student-based team from the Technical University of Munich that achieved the speed in July 2018 at SpaceX’s third competition. The previous record was 240 mph from Virgin Hyperloop One, achieved in December 2017.

TransPod's concept design for a hyperloop station.
TransPod's concept design for a hyperloop station.

The team plans to build the track in Droux, a western town close to the company’s brand new headquarters in Limoges, where it expects to begin operations in February. The aim is to use the results of the tests to help build a pod, also to be built in Limoges.

TransPod could see some big competition close to home. The firm’s former headquarters in Toulouse, 180 miles away, is home to its rival Hyperloop Transportation Technologies’ research and development site. Work commenced in April 2018 on a 0.2-mile test track. This rival test track will act as the predecessor to a longer 0.62-mile track, elevated by pylons 19 feet into the air.

Related video: How Virgin One Says It’s Perfecting the Hyperloop Design

Media via TransPod, Virgin Hyperloop One