VOA Learning English

Hyperloop Center Aims to Develop Transport Technology

VOA Learning English • voa
March 31, 2024 4 minSource

A 420-meter white steel tube running alongside a railway line in the northern Netherlands could be the start of a new kind of transportation for people and goods.

The tube is the heart of the new European Hyperloop Center that opened recently in Veendam. Developers will be testing the changing technology there over the coming years.

Hyperloop technology was once supported by business leader Elon Musk. It involves capsules that float on magnetic fields that move at speeds of around 700 kilometers per hour through low-pressure tubes. Its supporters say it is far more efficient than short flights, high-speed rail, and trucks.

When Musk first presented the idea, he said it could transport people the nearly 645 kilometers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes. But since then, progress has been slow to get from an idea to the real world.

Sascha Lamme is the center’s director. He expects to have the first hyperloop route by 2030. He predicts it might be about five kilometers and will transport people. He said, “There’s already preparations being done for such routes in for example Italy or India.”

Not everybody shares such hopeful thoughts about Hyperloop’s future.

Robert Noland is a professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He told The Associated Press that policy makers chase after big ideas of the future but they should invest in simpler transportation structures.

He added, “It costs too much to build.”

Lamme said non-believers should come and take a look for themselves. He said, “We built the European Hyperloop Center and from what we have built, we know that we can be competitive with high-speed rail.” And he noted that they have not added all of the ways they can reduce costs over the next ten years.

The test center’s tube is made up of 34 separate sections mostly 2 and a half meters wide. A piece of equipment next to the tube removes air in the tube to reduce the pressure inside the tube. That reduces air resistance and permits capsules to travel at such high speeds.

A capsule built by Dutch hyperloop company Hardt Hyperloop will be tested next month. It receives financial support from private investments, local and national governments, and the European Commission.

The Veendam tube has a switch where it splits into two separate tubes that capsules can go through. Marinus van der Meijs is Hardt’s technology and engineering director. He said switching is very important for hyperloop because it permits capsules to travel anywhere on a real-life network.

While testing continues in Veendam, hyperloop developers hope that routes for their technology will be coming.

Lamme said the main difficulty is finding government approval to build routes. And he said finding new financial support to test and show the technology is what is needed to make this happen.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Mike Corder reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.

Words in This Story

capsule – n. a small pressurized compartment or vehicle (as for space flight)

efficient – adj. capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy

route – n. a way to get from one place to another place

section – n. one of the parts that form something

switch – adj. feeling that you are turning around in circles and are going to fall although you are standing still

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