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German students push Hyperloop top speed to 201mph

Amit Katwala

(Credit: WARR Hyperloop)
(Credit: WARR Hyperloop)

​A prototype Hyperloop pod built by a team of German students hit a record speed of 201mph during a test run.

The team, named WARR Hyperloop, was one of three finalists taking part in a competition run by Elon Musk’s SpaceX at the company’s 1.2km test track in Hawthorne, California on Sunday. 

Musk has popularised the high-speed Hyperloop concept as a way of moving people and goods quickly between cities using sealed pods propelled through low-friction vacuum tubes.

He posted a video of WARR’s lightweight, carbon-fibre pod, which beat more than 20 entries from all over the world, and broke the previous record of 192mph. The pod is powered by a 50kW electric motor, and can slow to a stop in less than five seconds using four pneumatic friction brakes.

“Might be possible to go supersonic in our test Hyperloop tube, even though it’s only 0.8 miles long,” wrote Musk in a tweet. “Very high acceleration/deceleration needed.” He added that the acceleration would not be so sharp and sudden during a real Hyperloop journey as the pod would have much longer to get up to speed.

The WARR team, which is made up of 30 students from Munich Technical University, retained their crown from the first Hyperloop Pod competition in January. Back then, its prototype reached a speed of 58mph, so progress has been rapid.

“We've had many ups and downs during the last weeks which made it even more incredible to see the result of today's run,” said the team in a Facebook post. “At the very end, we decided to risk it all and pushed the pod to its limit. We reached a top speed of 324km/h, which made us the fastest Hyperloop pod prototype ever and the winner of the second SpaceX Pod Competition.”

HYPED, from the University of Edinburgh was the only British entry to the competition. They didn't make the final, but team president Adam Anyszewski told Professional Engineering they were pleased with their efforts. "The judges were really impressed with our design," he said. "Some of the teams, like the winning team, they didn't really meet the objectives of the competition. They didn't make a Hyperloop, they just made a superfast car that was pulling itself along the rails. It didn't levitate, it didn't have a dummy inside. We were really happy that we actually made a prototype with a 70kg dummy, with a fully levitating system in both directions."

Hyperloop could dramatically cut journey times, with routes such as Edinburgh to London taking as little as 35 minutes. But there is still a lot of work needed to make it viable. “From the information available and as an engineer, there still seems to be more work needed in communicating how the system will mitigate the risks… when operating at speeds of 700mph (1,126km/h),” Philippa Oldham, head of transport at IMechE, told Professional Engineering last month.

“Travelling at those speeds means that any fault in the system would mean everyone on board would die – just as you would at 60,000m if you were rapidly decompressed. The safety systems will be critical to this technology ever being viable.”

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