Swisspod promotes Zurich – Geneva Hyperloop route and starts recruiting

Swisspod promotes Zurich – Geneva Hyperloop route and starts recruiting

April 2, 2019 1 By The Tubist

Envisioning future passenger connections is popular among many Hyperloop companies. Presenting very short travel times between frequently visited cities awakens people’s imagination. That’s obviously an easy PR trick to gain the publicity but may also drive many more tech-savy people away from the concept. This time Swisspod presented a route studied many years ago by the SwissMetro – Geneva – Zurich.

Geneva – Bern – Zürich is one of the most important passenger routes in Switzerland. It covers the main communication corridor (East-West) as this is the only relatively flat part of the country and at the same time the most populated one. The current railway infrastructure which serves this route is nearly saturated, since many people use it for daily commute. Railway transportation in Switzerland is very popular and is known for its punctuality. In fact Switzerland has the most dense railway network in the world despite the Alps covering nearly 60% of its surface.

According to the Swisspod’s estimates, the Hyperloop travel time on the Geneva -Zurich route would be a mere 15 min with a ticket cost of around $5. Unfortunately, no further details were shared about either the technology, or the methodology used to obtain these numbers.

Since, the Swiss public seems to be very enthusiastic about the project, we decided to see what exactly would need to happen to be able to hop on a Hyperloop capsule in Zurich and just 15 minutes later be in the city centre of Geneva at Gare Cornavin.

According to our quick analysis, the Geneva-Zurich route is roughly 230 kms. Therefore, in order to cover that distance in 15 minutes a pod would need to travel at an average speed of 920 km/h. Given the maximum acceleration and braking rate of 0.5 G (2x of what is allowed in aircrafts) a pod would need to reach the velocity of 1000 km/h and keep it constant until braking again for an entire journey.

Is it possible ?

Given that the route is almost 100% straight, which is only possible when going completely underground and not stopping along the way one can believe that this would be possible. However, so far this kind of velocities were only achieved by rocket cars beating land speed records. Additionally, not stopping along the way means fewer passengers, unless some track switching technology gets developed which allows for very high-speed transitions between different routes.

What about cost ?

Switzerland is well-known for having an extensive network of tunnels throughout the country. In fact their recent tunnel The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the longest one in the world at 57 kms. The construction cost was $12.3bn and it took 17 years to complete. This gives us a rough cost of $216m per km. The same tunnel between Geneva and Zurich would cost then a little under 50 bln$. Swisspod in their press info mentions a ticket price of 5$ for this route. It would take then 10 bln passenger journeys to pay back just for the tunnel, assuming that its cost is the same despite the need to install vacuum pumps, magnetic levitation guidance, linear motors and keep it airtight. On the other hand, the tunnel wouldn’t be as deep as in case of the Gotthard one and this may bring some savings.

Is 10 bln passenger a lot ? The theoretical capacity of Hyperloop was found to be 25 mln passenger per year, which means it would take 400 years to move 10 bln people. Even assuming the industry best Japanese Shinkansen capacity of 159 mln passenger per year it would take 63 years to reach that number. More than the average maximum life-cycle of a train which is assumed to be 40 years.

It looks like Swisspod wants to take Professor Marcel Jufer vision to the next level and promises capsules travelling at speeds well over twice of what he envisioned. Last time SwissMetro was cut off funds due to the public putting priority on The Gotthard Base Tunnel. This time it might be the Hyperloop turn, however, the bill will be way bigger.

If you want to help make the Swisspod vision a reality they just started recruiting. Check-out the open positions on their website.

Swisspod Technologies is currently hiring for the following positions (…):

– Physicist: magnetic fields, aerodynamics, thermodynamics

– Mechanical Engineers: mechanical design, kinetics, thermodynamics

– Electrical Engineers: energy storage systems, electrical machines

– Civil Engineers: design, tunneling

– Chief Marketing Officer

– Strategy Business Developer