The Hyperloop hype: Can it actually, really translate to reality in India?

Hyperloop One says it is confident of delivering an operational Hyperloop to any country by 2021.
The Hyperloop hype: Can it actually, really translate to reality in India?
The Hyperloop hype: Can it actually, really translate to reality in India?

Ever since Tesla CEO Elon musk floated the idea of Hyperloop, it has been touted as one of the most revolutionary ideas in transport. With increasing congestion of roads and a dire need of efficient public transportation – not just in India but in several other countries, the concept of Hyperloop travel has caught our imagination. Headlines scream, ‘Imagine being able to travel from Bengaluru to Chennai in 20 minutes!’

But how feasible is this idea, especially in a country like India? And will this hype actually translate into reality in the near future?

The News Minute spoke to Naushad Oomer, business analyst at Hyperloop One, which is currently the closest to proving the feasibility of the Hyperloop concept. Oomer says they have the capability to operationalize Hyperloop by 2021, in any country including India, but India comes with its own set of challenges.

The concept of Hyperloop is to eliminate air resistance and contact friction to increase the speed of travel. Simply put, the idea is to create a mode of transport in vacuum. While there are different teams across the world, and in India as well, which are working on a proof of concept, Hyperloop One is one of the first movers in this sector, having started working on it in 2014 in Los Angeles.

Hyperloop One uses a custom electric motor to accelerate or decelerate a levitated pod through a low-pressure tube. It tested its motor in May 2016 and has now built a 500-metre tube in Nevada where it will test the entire system in a month’s time.

Feasibility in India

In India, the railway ministry and the government has also announced Mission 350 Plus to introduce high-speed magnetic levitation trains in the country.

Oomer also says that of all the countries, a concept like Hyperloop can have the most impact in India. It has been engaging with the ministry of railways, the government and several stakeholders to bringing Hyperloop One’s technology to India. “We want to make this in India for India. We’re not a company that just wants to deploy technology. We want to work with the government and all stakeholders to actually make it a reality in India as soon as possible,” Oomer adds.

In fact, Hyperloop One says that it can deliver an operational Hyperloop to any country by 2021. But of course, it depends on which country can adopt and deploy the technology and infrastructure the fastest.

And what makes Oomer so confident is the fact that they’re the only Hyperloop company that is close to testing the entire unit very soon in Nevada. “We built a 500-meter track and put it all together in six months. There has been tremendous learning through in, especially with regards to the do’s and don’ts of Hyperloop. Once the trial is done, we will learn a lot more. This will make us faster and more efficient for future deployments,” he adds.

India, for Hyperloop One, is one of the most important markets. Oomer says that India is a very mature manufacturing market. The country, according to him, has great engineers and various skills that can be harboured towards making it a reality in India.

And what will also bode well for a price-sensitive market like India is how cost effective Hyperloop is. “There are a lot of variables that go into determining the final cost – both in building and the cost to consumers. But what we do know is that Hyperloop is two-thirds the cost of High Speed Rail – something India is seriously looking at,” Oomer says. And at two-thirds the cost, Hyperloop is 3-4 times faster than high speed rail, making it an attractive proposition to the Indian market.

“Moreover, India already well on its way to embracing and building the kind of technology required. The economy is booming here and we see this as a strategic opportunity for us,” Oomer adds.


But of course, it is not as simple as it sounds. Oomer too, acknowledges that. “It is not an easy task in India. It is known to have bureaucracy and long processes to get things done,” he says.

Even while engaging with various stakeholders, Oomer says, there have been many concerns raised over the feasibility of Hyperloop. Will it even work as a successful model? How far away is this from reality? These are some of the questions everyone asks Hyperloop One.

“But we are building the track and testing it to prove just that. We have invited various stakeholders from India and even across the world to come watch the trial in Nevada. It will give them an opportunity to touch and feel and experience Hyperloop,” Oomer says. Hyperloop One seems confident that it can convince people over its feasibility.

Apart from the cost factor, capacity is also something that determines its feasibility. Hyperloop One says that the capacity depends on the need. A pod can accommodate anywhere between 25-50 people. “Many people also wanted to know how the frequency will work especially in peak hours. Right now, we’re targeting 20 seconds. But we are working on improving on that as well. That is what will define how successful it is,” says Oomer.

Another challenge comes with the regulatory framework. For a concept as new as this, it has to be determined whether it comes under rail, air or will it require a completely new regulatory framework to be built around it. “We are discussing this with a group experts around the world including those involved with rail, high speed rail, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority to be able to come up with a regulatory certification process and certify Hyperloop,” Oomer says.

But according to Hyperloop One, it is happening faster than you think. It is currently developing routes in five countries, doing feasibility studies in Dubai and other countries. It has conducted at least 5-7 such studies. The goal is to be moving cargo by 2020 and passengers by 2021.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute