The Hyperloop carried its first human passengers on 8 November 2020. Virgin Hyperloop, formerly Hyperloop One, reports its Experimental Pod-2 (XP-2) carried two people for 500 meters at 100 miles per hours.
Interestingly, the passengers were two executives; Sara Luchian and Josh Giegel, not professional test pilots. Virgin Hyperloop video shows Luchian and Giegel wore t-shirts and blue jeans, not space suits.
The two wore earphones and seatbelts, but no helmets. Luchian’s makeup did not get smudged. For the test, the two sat on a comfortable seat that resembles a couch.
Luchian is Virgin Hyperloop’s head of customer experience, The Verge reports. Giegel is the company’s cofounder and chief technology officer.
The test took place at Virgin Hyperloop’s DevLoop track in North Las Vegas, Nevada. The XP-2 or Pegasus is a smaller version of Virgin Hyperloop’s planned passenger pod. The full-size pod could carry 23 passengers.
Is Virgin Hyperloop Winning the Race?
Sunday’s test puts Virgin Hyperloop ahead of its competitor Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (Hyperloop TT).
HyperloopTT has two test tracks in Toulouse, France, one of which is one kilometer long. However, nobody has ridden in HyperloopTT’s pod yet. I predict HyperloopTT’s pod will carry passengers soon to counter Virgin’s publicity stunt.
Virgin Hyperloop is the company owned by Sir Richard Branson. Virgin Hyperloop has not set dates for further tests or public Hyperloop rides.
The test ride is important because it shows Hyperloop and viable transportation system. However, I think will be several years before a full-scale Hyperloop hauls passengers.
Hyperloop is a next-generation transportation system that moves pods through tube with low air pressure. Theoretically, electromagnetic propulsion could move pods through the Hyperloop tubes at several hundred miles an hour. However, nobody has achieved those speeds yet.
Several companies; including SpaceX, are working on Hyperloop technology. However, Virgin is the only company that has carried passengers in its system.
Virgin Hyperloop plans to build a larger Hyperloop testing facility in West Virginia. Currently, there are many proposals for Hyperloop lines but no proposals to build a working Hyperloop line.
Hyperloop is not that Fast
However, if it works, Hyperloop could become the most disruptive transportation technology since the automobile. I think Hyperloop could put most airlines, airfreight companies, and many railroads out of business because of its theoretical speed.
Investors need to watch Hyperloop because it could hurt companies ranging from Exxon-Mobil (XOM) to Boeing (BA), to airlines. To explain, Hyperloop could hurt oil companies by offering fast transport that does not run on petroleum products. Instead, Hyperloop runs on electricity.
Hyperloop could hurt airlines and aircraft manufacturers by offering fast travel that is more convenient. To explain, Hyperloop can run into the centers of cities, eliminating the trip to the airport.
On the other hand, that speed is still theoretical. On 8 November 2020, the Virgin Hyperloop only moved at 100 miles per hour, a speed trains have been moving at for almost 90 years. In fact, Britain’s Flying Scotsman became the first train to move at 100 miles per on a trip between London and Edinburgh in 1934. Notably, a steam engine pulled the Flying Scotsman on that trip.
The world’s fastest train; Japan’s Shinkansen high-speed “bullet train,” has travelled at speeds of up to 374 miles per hour. I think Hyperloop will need to carry passengers at speeds of 400 to 500 miles per hour to be competitive. Until a pod achieves that speed, Hyperloop will be just a curiosity