When he presented the concept in 2013, Elon Musk brought public attention to the Hyperloop and triggered real Hyperloop hype that is inspiring experts and developers all over the world – including Continental. We recently provided the student team from the cooperative Engineering Physics course at the Emden/Leer University of Applied Sciences and the University of Oldenburg with the right high-performance belts for their Hyperloop development and assisted the students with advice and support.
The Hyperloop concept itself is actually an old one: The British inventor George Medhurst “thought up” the basic idea of the Hyperloop as early as 1812. A capsule, containing either passengers or goods, is propelled through reduced-pressure tubes – similar to the old pneumatic mail hurtling around buildings through long, winding tubes. However, the Hyperloop is intended to bring passengers and goods from A to B at up to 1,200 km/h, i.e. at the speed of sound. That’s the concept.
But what is concerning experts around the world is the practicability of the technology. Who will finance the construction of the thousands and thousands of kilometers of tubes? Can such routes even be integrated into the landscape and existing infrastructure? How long will it take until such a scenario becomes reality?
The question of practicability also fundamentally depends on where the Hyperloop is implemented. The geography in the USA, where the idea has come back around, is more suited to an additional route network than in the densely populated, predominantly urban Central Europe, for example, although there are promising projects and initial Hyperloop test tracks here, too. Developers are also focusing on sparsely populated regions in Canada, parts of Asia, Australia and Africa as potential targets.
In finding the answers to all these questions, it quickly becomes clear that Hyperloop technology is not just some vague vision of the future. Its advantages in terms of energy efficiency could be groundbreaking: The capsule-like vehicles are based on magnetic levitation or air cushion technologies, which create low air and friction resistance for very energy efficient operation. And the sheer number of researchers, developers and projects around the world working on implementing the Hyperloop proves its potential to revolutionize mobility. Potential that we too have recognized. We are already supporting and providing impetus for Hyperloop projects – such as the development by the student team from the cooperative Engineering Physics course at the Emden/Leer University of Applied Sciences and the University of Oldenburg: The team has created the Hyperloop for the “HyperPodX” project as part of an international Hyperloop competition in California (USA).
Hans-Jürgen Duensing, member of the Continental Executive Board:
“We see a promising future for technology in new rail transport solutions such as the Hyperloop, and are passing on our expertise built up over more than 90 years in industry to the engineers of tomorrow.”
It is driven by one of our high-performance belts. It drives the electric motor, which is mounted in the 250 kg Hyperloop prototype and enables a top speed of up to 500 km/h. For this purpose, the student team needed high torque and a very powerful belt. “With its design of carbon cord and polyurethane, our belt is extremely energy-efficient as well as very narrow and therefore extremely lightweight. It is also very reliable without maintenance. We were thus able to offer the students a suitable solution,” says Alexander Behmann, application engineer for drive belts. The results speak for themselves: The team of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, informatics and economics students from the Emden/Leer University of Applied Sciences and the University of Oldenburg placed within the top ten in the competition.
So a visionary concept from 1812 may yet be gradually turning into another success story that can help shape mobility in the future.