A team from India is busy building the most well-designed and high-speed vehicle called the 'Pod' that can travel through the Hyperloop tube. Hyperloop India is one of the 24 teams from across the world and the only one from India that will be competing to create a new mode of transportation to enable travel between cities at speeds of over 700 miles per hour.
They will be competing with each other in the last week of August in California.
Sibesh Kar with his 70-member team is currently on the last leg of building the pod that they call the OrcaPod in Bengaluru, which can reach speeds of up to 460 km/hr.
For Hyperloop India, which is being sponsored by Hindustan University among others, the process started a year and a half ago when the challenge was thrown open. After working on the design for one and a half years, going through a series of design reviews, it made it to the finals in February. Thatâ€™s when they had to come back to India and built the pod they had designed.
Having started working on building the OrcaPod in May, the team has completed 70% of the building. What is left now is testing the electronics, assembling the breaking and levitating model and some final touches like anodizing and painting.
While most of the parts were available in India itself, a few components have been imported such as magnets from China, Dampers from Germany and laser triangulation sensor â€“ its single most expensive component â€“ from the US.
Prithvi Sankar, who is a part of the business development team at Hyperloop India says that the pod should be ready for unveiling by the beginning of August.
There are 24 teams building the same thing across the world. So how are we, the Indian team, different from the rest?
For starters, Prithvi says that one of the biggest advantages for Hyperloop India is that it has formed a business team that is simultaneously working on the feasibility of the idea. That way, they are well aware of challenges of full-scale developed.
â€śInstead of focusing on building the lightest pod, we have kept scalability in mind as a factor. Cost benefit has also been taken into account,â€ť he adds.
OrcaPod is also the cheapest pod compared to all rivals. And how did Hyperloop manage to cut costs?
While other teams are using carbon fibre as the building material, Hyperloop India decided to use space grade aluminium. While this makes its pod heavier by about 20 kilogrammes, it is a lot cheaper than using carbon fibre. The 20 kilogrammes of extra weight doesnâ€™t make much of a difference overall, Prithvi says.
As against other teams that have an overall budget of about Rs 2 crore, Hyperloop Indiaâ€™s budget is 50% lesser at one crore rupees.
Hyperloop India managed to keep its costs low by strategically partnering with corporates and manufacturers who have services and parts readily available. This gave the team access to a number of components.
In terms of the design, the OrcaPod has a unique nose operating mechanism. Instead of a side opening mechanism, the OrcaPod opens from the front and back.
The pods are designed to hold modules within the pod and the modules are what hold passengers or cargo inside the pod.
â€śThe modules can be designed such that they can cater either to cargo or passengers. So with a front and back opening, we can accommodate different types of modules. For example, if the passenger demand is less, we can add more cargo modules to cater to that demand and vice versa. That way it is flexible to balance supply and demand,â€ť Prithvi says.
While building the pod, Hyperloop India is also taking into account the factor of aerodynamic drag inside the Hyperloop tube keeping in mind future speeds.
Drag is the force of the wind or air resistance that pushes in the opposite direction to the motion of an object
With the process, nearly 70% complete the journey for Hyperloop India has not been easy. From a lack of funds and with limited time in hand, it is battling major challenges to make it to California.
Lack of reference
While it is exciting to be part of a challenge never seen before, it is also challenging because there is no proven technology to refer to and seek answers from.
â€śThe only thing certain here is the description of the track and we are required to build the pod accordingly. So for every decision that we make, we had to break down the problem down to fundamentals and ask questions without blindly following any existing procedures. That way learning curve has been great but it has also been extremely challenging,â€ť Prithvi says.
Lack of time
While other teams started working on the pod back in March itself, the team had to wait till they finished college in May and then begin building the pod.
Being from different college campuses, they decided to come together in Bengaluru and are building the pod at Ripple Technologiesâ€™ space in the city.
Lack of Funds
Hyperloop India may be building the cheapest pod, but even that one crore rupees has been tough to raise.
The team decided to raise about Rs 60-70 lakh through corporate and strategic tie ups and the rest of the Rs 20-30 lakh from crowd funding.
However, the crowd funding drive has not taken off as expected. With a few weeks left to finish building the pod, the team has only managed to raise Rs 8 lakh and continues to reach out to people through various activities for funding.
The one crore rupees consists of building the pod, transporting it to California and the teamâ€™s travel to the competition. The OrcaPod in itself has cost Rs 60 lakhs to make.
Of the money raised through tie ups, Chennai-based Hindustan University has inked a sponsorship deal with Hyperloop India. It will be providing the team with an assistance of Rs 11.5 lakh.
With 17 days left for the OrcaPod to be built, the team is no doubt elated. The pod will be unveiled in the beginning of August and will fly to California after the first week of August. The team will then fly to California on August 15.
Once there, the designs will be vetted by SpaceX and post preliminary tests, Hyperloop India will race its pod in what is the most awaited and unique contests of all times.
If they are successful and manage to scale this up. You will soon be able to travel from Chennai to Bengaluru in 30 minutes or from Delhi to Mumbai in just 80 minutes.
The News Minute is Hyperloop India's media partner