Elon Musk is apparently very resentful of all the attention that Hyperloop One has been attracting with its testing. Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) and SpaceX tested a pusher vehicle at speeds of up to 220 miles (355 kilometers) per hour in their test tube in Hawthorne, California.
The speed test involved what can best be described as a Hyperloop locomotive, an engine designed to push or pull pods through the tube, TechCrunch reported. Interestingly enough the top speed of the engine was 19 miles an hour faster than the fastest test pod in SpaceX’s August Hyperloop competition which moved at a speed of 201 MPH (324 KPH).
Both tests are faster than Hyperloop One’s Pod; which was tested at a speed of 192 miles per hour (308.994 kilometers per hour) on July 29, USA Today reported. Hyperloop One is still the clear leader here because it has a full sized test track and pod. SpaceX’s pods and tubes are not big enough to carry people, Hyperloop One’s is.
This competition is obviously good for Hyperloop because it will spur more development and testing. Interestingly enough, the SpaceX locomotive was built with off the shelve technology; the drive train from a Tesla car. It was able to achieve those speeds with a 75 horse power motor, Tech Crunch reported. That proves how potentially disruptive this technology can be.
One has to wonder what will happen when the other two companies with test tracks Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) and Hardt Global Mobility start testing their systems. Hardt has a high-speed Hyperloop test track at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands. HTT is building a test track and a passenger pod in Toulouse, France.
Hyperloop is far more Disruptive than you think
The potential speed makes Hyperloop a far more disruptive technology than you might think.
Hyperloop uses three technological fixes to get around the physical barriers against high-speed travel:
- First, it operates in an enclosed tube which prevents weather, people, animals, and vehicles from interfering with the system’s operations.
- Second air is removed which reduces resistance allowing vehicles to operate at speeds rivaling those of jets in the upper atmosphere where the air is thin. News articles indicate that the Hyperloop One tube in North Las Vegas, Nevada, mimics the atmosphere 200,000 feet (60,900 meters) above the ground. This effectively increased horse power to 3,100.
- Third magnetic levitation or maglev infrastructure lift vehicles off the ground, which enables them to skim along at high speeds. This lowers resistance by eliminating the need for wheels and braking.
Theoretically, this makes speeds of up to 700 miles or 1,126.54 kilometers an hour possible. Musk is already talking about increasing the speeds in his system to 804.672 kilometers or 500 miles per hour. An effective commercial transportation system running at those speeds would be incredibly disruptive to the economy.
How Hyperloop could Kill Local Businesses
A good example of this would be my situation I live in a town called Fairplay, Colorado. If I want to go out to dinner I either have to go to one of the restaurants in town or drive 30 to 40 miles to reach another city which takes around 45 minutes (under good conditions).
If somebody were to hook up a Hyperloop between Denver and Fairplay; a distance of 85.3 miles, I would be able to travel to travel to Downtown Denver in about nine minutes. That means instead of eating at the local café, I could have dinner at the Wynkoop Brewing Company or one of several dozen other great restaurants within walking distance of Union Station in Downtown Denver. Yet my travel time would be just a few minutes more than a drive to a local restaurant.
What happens to the local greasy spoon when that happens? How is the local café owner supposed to compete with five-star restaurants in the big city that might be easier to reach than his location?
This, of course, is the central dilemma new transportation tech often creates for local businesses. It allows larger, better-capitalized and more sophisticated competitors to reach out and compete with them in their areas. For example, Amazon can now only undercut the prices at the local store, it has a far greater selection and a more convenient business model.
One has to wonder if any local community or small businesses would survive the coming of the Hyperloop. The havoc it wreaks is likely to be a hundred times greater than the disruption caused by the opening of interstate highways.
We need to ask those questions because competition between Hyperloop organizations is likely to bring such disruption faster than most of us expect.