Technology

Hyperloop Explained

A new transportation technology could zip you from Toronto to Montreal in 45 minutes. We took a peek under the hood

Rendering of what a TransPod might look like on Spadina Avenue in Toronto
An artist's rendering of TransPod on Spadina Avenue.

Tube transportation (also known as hyperloop) is an emerging technology that advocates say by 2030 will whisk streetcar-sized pods filled with cargo or people down metal tubes at almost the speed of sound. To make this happen, engineers had to figure out how to dramatically reduce two things inside the tube: friction and air resistance. Instead of rolling along a track, as a typical train does, TransPod, a Canadian company developing the technology, will use moving magnetic fields to levitate the vehicles. Ryan Janzen, a co-founder of TransPod, says magnetic engines at the bottom of each vehicle will interact with the tube guideway. The engines create moving magnetic fields to levitate the vehicle and push it forward, accelerating it to more than 1,000 km/h. This ability to levitate will maintain a smooth ride for passengers, and reduce wear on the tube and vehicles. To keep resistance to a minimum, the TransPod system will use vacuum pumps to remove most of the air from the tube.

The result is vehicles that can maintain a very high speed while using no fossil fuels.

A closer look

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Each of the numbers in the illustration above match the cutaways below. Illustrations by Chris Philpot.

It’s envisioned that vehicles will be able to arrive and depart from TransPod stations as often as every 90 seconds.
Spiral-welded tube segments will be supported at regular intervals by pylons, which are anchored into the ground.
Vacuum pumps remove most of the air in the tube. An axial compressor at the front of the vehicle draws in the little air that’s left over and sends it out the back.
The system can be elevated or built underground to reduce its impact on the landscape.
Each TransPod vehicle will carry 27 to 40 passengers – or 10 tons of cargo – at a speed of 1,000 km/h.
The system uses electricity from the local grid. This can be supplemented with power from a solar array on the top of the tube. No fossil fuels will be used on board.
The outside skin of the pods will use carbon fibre, similar to that covering a modern airplane fuselage.
Magnetic engines at the bottom of each vehicle interact with the tube guideway. The engines create moving magnetic fields that levitate the vehicle and push it forward.