Virgin Hyperloop CTO Defends Project From Critics And ‘Simpsons’ Monorail Memes

Virgin Hyperloop CTO Josh Giegel (left) and director of passenger experience Sara Luchian prepare … [+] for their world-first passe...

“Hyperloop is for everyone. It’s not for the 1%; it’s not for the elite.”

Thus says Josh Giegel, Virgin Hyperloop’s Chief Technology Officer, who has pushed back at critics who have attacked the futuristic vacuum tube transit system as an unworkable extravagance.

Following the first passenger test of Virgin’s Hyperloop technology in Nevada in November, some very mean things were written about the system. One writer called it “the world’s crappiest high-speed rail,” pointing to the low velocity and small size of the Virgin system’s passenger pod; others noted that today’s high-speed and maglev trains already travel well in excess of 200 mph while carrying more than a thousand passengers, all for a relatively low ticket price.

Still others speculated that its apparent limitations would make the Virgin Hyperloop prohibitively expensive to ride—suitable only for only the wealthiest in society. Governments, they contended, would be far better off investing in proven high-speed rail to provide transportation, rather than pour money into what they see as a technological white elephant. Earlier digs at the hyperloop included references to the celebrated Simpsons episode “Marge Vs. the Monorail,” in which a wily conman tricks the townsfolk of Springfield into supporting an impressive but faulty mass transit system.

What did the Virgin Hyperloop CTO think of all the criticism?

“Look,” Giegel laughs, “I think a lot of critics don’t fully understand that this is not a train. It’s also not a plane or a boat. It’s quite a bit different to what people are used to.”

Then again, he says, it’s not surprising that there has been such a vigorous reaction to hyperloop, because people can only make comparisons with other, existing modes of transport. Or in his words: “A lot of the responses to hyperloop have been based on an understanding of the current limitations and constraints of transportation mapped onto our project.”

“But in order to get people out of their cars and onto mass transit, you have to create a value proposition that is more appealing: something that turns a five-hour journey into a half-hour.”

Ushered into the public consciousness by Elon Musk in 2013, hyperloop prototypes are now being trialled in a range of guises around the world. The promise of these systems, which use magnetically levitated vehicles propelled at upwards of 600 or even 700 mph in a low-pressure tube, is, on paper, tantalizing. Proponents say they’re the transport of the future, enabling the movement of large numbers of people over large distances at the speed of a commercial jet, for a fraction of the financial or environmental cost of flying.

Shortly after Virgin’s test, which ran at a maximum speed of just 107mph for safety reasons, the Korean Railroad Research Institute (Korail) took a scaled-down version of its own system to 633mph. A competitor, HyperloopTT, is building a prototype in Abu Dhabi and says commercial operations will begin in 2023. Numerous potential routes are being explored in North America, the Middle East and South Asia, and Europe has set up a commission to develop a hyperloop system.

Yet critics insist hyperloops are an expensive gimmick; prestige projects for the rich that will ultimately squander taxpayers’ money while doing nothing to improve transport infrastructure, much less the lives of regular people. For these skeptics, the involvement of billionaire magnates like Musk and Virgin founder Richard Branson is quite the opposite of reassuring—it is a red flag. Indeed, in Ashlee Vance’s book “Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future,” the author claims Musk first touted the hyperloop solely in order to nix a high-speed rail project in California. “He didn’t actually intend to build the thing,” Vance writes. “With any luck, the high-speed rail would be canceled. Musk said as much to me during a series of e-mails and phone calls leading up to the announcement.”

But Giegel is adamant that the hyperloop of the 2020s is no red herring. Most remaining criticisms, he contends, are based on widespread misconceptions about what hyperloops are and who they are for.

“We’re trying to build a fully electric, zero emissions, on-demand mass transportation system,” he says. He makes sure to emphasize the word mass. “We will be moving thousands of people at airline speeds for ten times less energy consumption than a plane. It answers the question of ‘how do you get large numbers of people where they want to go, faster, whether they’re in a developed country or a developing country?’”

MORE FROM FORBESHere’s What You Need To Know About The 2020 Global Carbon Budget

Giegel was one of two passengers to travel on the first Virgin Hyperloop test in Nevada, and he is at pains to point out that the run was just that: a first manned test, with a two-seater pod, run at a low speed for safety reasons. It’s far from the finished product: the fully functioning hyperloop, Virgin says, will run larger, 28-person pods at upwards of 600 mph. 

But this leads to more questions: after all, trains such as China’s CRH3 Hexie, which went into service over a decade ago, can carry more than 1,000 passengers at a service speed of 236 mph. What, therefore, is the point of moving just 28 people, albeit more quickly? Why not just build high-speed rail?

Again, Giegel says, such criticisms are founded on a false premise—namely that a hyperloop would be limited to transporting 28 people each way at a time.

“If you look at the Wright brothers’ plane [the first powered aircraft, which flew in 1903], that was a single-seater plane. Now, you and I don’t fly on that anymore,” he says. “But you’ve got to start somewhere.” 

A completed system, he says, will be able to handle 50,000 people per hour. Hyperloop vehicles follow one another in convoy, spaced closely, at speed, joining and leaving the main routes seamlessly. The small size, rapidity and frequency of the vehicles enables them to pick up passengers on an on-demand basis. (On the 50,000-person throughput figure, Giegel claims simulations have shown the Virgin Hyperloop can transport far more than that—but out of caution the company has presented what it says is a conservative estimate.)

He gives the example of a proposed hyperloop route between the Indian cities of Mumbai and Pune, a distance of about 75 miles, which Virgin says will be able to move 150 million passengers annually.

“On a good day that journey takes four, maybe five hours,” Giegel says. “With hyperloop they could make that journey in 20 minutes, while taking 150,000 tons of CO2 out of the air every year. So they can live where they want to live and work where they want to work, with low or even zero emissions.”

For its part, the government of the Indian state of Maharashtra appears to be fully on board with bringing Virgin Hyperloop’s vision to reality, putting it on course to be the home of the world’s first fully operational hyperloop.

Which sounds great—if Virgin’s claims are correct. But the bulk of the evidence for hyperloop’s efficacy is derived from computer simulations, most of which were manufactured by companies with a vested interest in hyperloop coming to fruition or, at the very least, delivering value for shareholders. As summarized in a paper published last year in the journal Transportation Planning and Technology, hyperloop “requires much more independent and transparent research” to establish its technological and financial feasibility. And in a 2016 study of hyperloop technologies, NASA came to the conclusion that the construction costs of such a system could never be fully recouped.

Giegel is adamant the hyperloop will be affordable at the user end. “It’s simple,” he says, “if it’s not affordable, people won’t use it. The exact ticket price will vary for each route, but at the end of the day this is a massive infrastructure project like any other and requires significant funds. The question is whether we want to invest in something that is more operationally efficient and provides an inherently different value through speed, induced demand and sustainability.”

But other feasibility studies of hyperloops have had mixed conclusions about their financial viability, too: while some investigations have returned positive findings, a Canadian review of existing studies, published this year by infrastructure firm AECOM, declared:

“Many of the questions investigated could not be answered because the technology is not sufficiently mature, has insufficient information/design options, or in some cases, an absence of initial ideas.”

The report found that this early stage of development means, among other things, that a realistic projection of the true costs of the hyperloop is currently difficult to estimate, but based on current understanding, “it seems most likely that the cost to users will be more comparable to airfares than any local land-based transportation service.”

The concern around costs has perpetuated since the leaking of a Hyperloop One internal document in 2016, in which the company estimated costs for a 107-mile loop around the Bay Area at between $84 million and $121 million per mile.

MORE FROM FORBESThis Is How Much Plastic From Amazon Deliveries Ends Up In The Ocean

But Giegel says many of the studies that have looked at the financials dramatically overestimate the cost of hyperloop, saying such systems can be built at a fraction of the cost of, say, Britain’s ongoing HS2 project, a high-speed rail network the development of which is currently running at a reported cost of some $415 million per mile.

By contrast, the argument goes, hyperloop tubes are under half the cross-sectional area of a high-speed railway line, meaning they can be built at lower cost, saving hundreds of millions of dollars over the project development cycle. The relatively small size of hyperloop tubes and vehicles also means they can make tighter turns, enabling them to be run into cities far more cheaply than conventional rail, or even new roads. And in areas where hyperloop runs above ground, Virgin says solar panels can be installed on the outer surface of the tube, helping to power the system.

All that, Giegel claims, means that “operations costs are so low, the energy costs are so low, that the ticket prices would be in line with what you would pay for a competing mode of transport.”

Energy usage brings the discussion to another criticism of hyperloop, which is that it will take a long time to develop into a fully functioning, low-carbon system capable of delivering emissions savings. Even if hyperloop technology achieves everything it says it will, these critics say, the decades it will take to meaningfully expand it will mean we won’t see its emissions benefits until mid-century—the point by which most developed countries ought to already be at or approaching net zero carbon emissions.  

In Giegel’s view, this is akin to a logical fallacy. “It’s never going to be too late,” he says, “because looking ahead, passenger demand is only going to rise—particularly in Asia with the rise of the middle class in India and China, where the demand for travel continues to explode.”

He adds that, with changes in retail globally, coupled with a demand for ever more rapid deliveries of goods, he believes there is likely to be an expansion in the amount of international and national air freight, emissions from which will need to be offset until emissions-free aircraft are a thing.

“To put it another way, you could argue that all climate action is ‘too late’,” he notes wryly. “There’s a whole bunch of studies that say if we really wanted to completely curb climate change, we would’ve had to have done it in the 60s or the 70s. Either way, it doesn’t mean we should simply stop trying to do things that will help. We will need every tool in our toolbox to fight the climate crisis.”

Besides, Giegel argues, hyperloop is a major technological advance—and while stopping short of referencing the Luddites, he says that every such advance attracts its share of naysayers. In his view, the development of a new mode of transport is both a necessity and an inevitability.

“When I hear the phrase ‘we have rail and it works just fine, why do we need anything different?’ I think about how that sentiment has been echoed in every industry,” he says.

“We had fax machines; they worked just fine. But who still uses a fax machine?”

It is clear that hyperloop’s evangelists have plenty more work to do to convince skeptics that their innovation is a practical mass transit option being pursued for the right reasons. And until more independent studies have verified the extraordinary social, environmental and economic claims that the Bransons and Musks of the world are claiming for the technology, that skepticism will continue to be warranted. But with governments around the world hopping on board, and venture capitalists falling over each other to invest in competing systems, hyperloop’s momentum might already be an unstoppable force.

Source link



Africa,728,Americas,3910,Art & Culture,14230,Arts,6334,Arts & Design,1525,Asia,3115,Automobile,415,Baseball,503,Basketball,402,Books,3727,Business,5168,Celebrity,2594,Cricket,606,Crime,122,Cryptocurrency,1390,Dance,588,Defense,797,Diplomatic Relations,2452,Economy,1010,Editorial,260,Education,1119,Elections,292,Energy & Environment,2989,Entertainment,22092,Environment,3470,Europe,4064,Faith & Religion,206,Family & Life,776,Fashion & Style,3087,Finance,18985,Food & Drink,3577,Football,1028,Games,75,Gossip,10246,Health & Fitness,3918,Health Care,872,Hockey,181,Home & Garden,881,Humour,951,Latin America,49,Lifestyle,16236,Media,491,Middle East,1399,Movies,1581,Music,2487,Opinion,2734,Other,11234,Other Sports,4869,Political News,11238,Political Protests,2281,Politics,17288,Real Estate,1688,Relationship,63,Retail,3070,Science,2474,Science & Tech,9491,Soccer,160,Space & Cosmos,277,Sports,11410,Technology,3270,Tennis,506,Theater,1563,Transportation,276,Travel,2439,TV,3530,US Sports,1435,Video News,3531,War & Conflict,1027,Weird News,954,World,15569,
Newsrust: Virgin Hyperloop CTO Defends Project From Critics And ‘Simpsons’ Monorail Memes
Virgin Hyperloop CTO Defends Project From Critics And ‘Simpsons’ Monorail Memes
Loaded All Posts Not found any posts VIEW ALL Readmore Reply Cancel reply Delete By Home PAGES POSTS View All RECOMMENDED FOR YOU LABEL ARCHIVE SEARCH ALL POSTS Not found any post match with your request Back Home Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat January February March April May June July August September October November December Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec just now 1 minute ago $$1$$ minutes ago 1 hour ago $$1$$ hours ago Yesterday $$1$$ days ago $$1$$ weeks ago more than 5 weeks ago Followers Follow THIS PREMIUM CONTENT IS LOCKED STEP 1: Share to a social network STEP 2: Click the link on your social network Copy All Code Select All Code All codes were copied to your clipboard Can not copy the codes / texts, please press [CTRL]+[C] (or CMD+C with Mac) to copy Table of Content