A Green Way to TravelJanuary 4, 2020
Although hyperloop technology is still being developed, people already have questions regarding its impact on the environment. They want to know if there is more to this means of transport other than its great speed.
The companies and students working on hyperloop have already stumbled across this topic while designing their prototypes. Technical University of Munich student Gabriele Semino, who is a team manager of TUM Hyperloop, said that young engineers are not even considering fossil fuels as an option when designing their systems. The same goes for Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, who says that his team is considering placing solar panels along hyperloop tubes and elevated routes. In addition to that the company is trying to implement other renewable energy sources. They are thinking of using the speeding train in order to produce energy. This would be possible through regenerative braking. Another idea is adding wind turbines on unused land and using them as an additional source of power.
This approach seems to be supported by some calculations already made by researchers at the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg. They calculated the effects on road traffic if they were to build a 300km hyperloop in northern Germany dedicated to freight. You can read it here.
The team concluded that even if solar power would not be enough and another way of gathering energy was implemented, they could still avoid emitting up to 140.000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. In addition to that, hyperloop could be able to produce up to €900 million of value in reduced pollution, accidents and congestion each year which is equal to a third of its estimated €2.7 billion initial investment.
Virgin Hyperloop One also made some calculations and deduced that worldwide flights alone produced 859 million metric tons (946 million tons) of CO2 in 2017. When faced with this outcome, hyperloop seems like a great option when dealing with this problem. It could be possible to reduce fossil fuel emissions created by planes by 58 percent if every passenger flight between 500 and 1.500 kilometres (about 310 to 930 miles) worldwide was replaced with hyperloop. The one that runs off renewable electricity, of course.
According to Hardt Hyperloop, their project can combine the best qualities of all the means of transport available now and even surpass their good qualities. Hyperloop’s speed could be greater than plane’s, by roughly 250 kilometres per hour, and its energy consumption could be lower than what high speed trains offer.
Noise pollution is another aspect engineers are looking into. Some data can be gathered from pod competition held by SpaceX. As one of the contestants said, the pod’s “woosh” sound was dampened by the surrounding tube. Helmut Schmidt Universitys researchers claim that the closed system generates almost no internal noise. They state that the only element creating noise might be the air cushion pressing against the tube’s interiors wall. However, there are small chances of that kind of noise to be damaging and it could easily be minimalized by adjusting the tubes.
There would also be a less significant impact on the land when compared to motorways. The hyperloop system would be elevated. This would keep the structure above the existing roads, freeing the surrounding land.
It seems as even though the full hyperloop system is not developed yet, it has great chances of becoming the greenest means of transport we can have.