by John JervisOct 02, 2020
Amid mounting scepticism for the vacuum-based transportation system, Virgin Hyperloop seems to have offered a promise in what is going to be a long haul for the future of transportation and automobile design. Having been in development for the better part of the last decade, Virgin Hyperloop has successfully completed a test run with its newly unveiled XP-2 vehicle, which has been designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and Kilo Design. Josh Giegel, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, and Sara Luchian, Director of Passenger Experience, were the first passengers on-board the pod nicknamed ‘Pegasus’ that ran along a 500 meter DevLoop test site near Las Vegas in Nevada. Before this well documented run with human passengers, Virgin Hyperloop had already run over 400 unoccupied tests.
For the uninitiated, the Hyperloop concept has been touted to revolutionise point A to point B travel at nearly airline times for a fraction of the cost, and sustainably so. The technology that it utilises requires significant infrastructural development in the form of linear low pressure tubes that span the distance to be covered. The tube has near vacuum like conditions in which electric current propels a pod like vehicle containing passengers, levitating in the vacuum through a strong induced magnetic field. Hyperloop vehicles could silently glide for miles at speeds of up to 760 mph, with low turbulence, close to no sound, and an on-demand, direct to destination run. The initial alpha version of Virgin Hyperloop’s design was proposed by Elon Musk back in 2013, but has seen significant changes over the years. Even the XP-2, custom built for this test run, would be larger in its actual production, capable of seating up to 28 passengers.
One of the continuing points of scrutiny for the Hyperloop has been safety. The XP-2 vehicle addresses those by having undergone rigorous and exhaustive safety checks in line with commercial Hyperloop systems, featuring a state of the art control system that can detect off-nominal states and rapidly trigger appropriate emergency responses. BIG’s design of the XP-2 Pegasus, in collaboration with Kilo Design, too keeps occupant safety and comfort in mind, featuring modern, plush interiors and a hybrid industrial and futuristic aesthetic in its pill shaped exterior.
One end of the pod has steps carved within the floor for easy egress and ingress, while the other has the seating for two incorporated, lined with a circular window on either side for views of the tunnel. The extended shared armrest of the seats also doubles up as storage for safety equipment, oxygen tanks and lighting. Once the passengers were strapped in the Pegasus for the test, the several wheels on which it is mounted, retract, and the pod is slid into the Hyperloop semi vacuum tube through an airlock system. The test run lasted a total of 15 seconds covering the total length of the DevLoop (500m) at nearly 100 miles per hour. You can see the official footage of the Pegasus’s test run below.
“When we started in a garage over six years ago, the goal was simple – to transform the way people move,” Giegel was quoted saying in an official statement. “Today, we took one giant leap toward that ultimate dream, not only for me, but for all of us who are looking towards a moonshot right here on Earth.” Luchian, his co passenger in the Pegasus’ maiden run, stated that “Hyperloop is about so much more than the technology. It’s about what it enables. To me, the passenger experience ties it all together. And what better way to design the future than to actually experience it first-hand?”