Can Hyperloop change the way Indians travel between cities, at speeds faster than flights?


Travel from Delhi to Mumbai can become less than a third —to 70 minutes — of what it takes in a flight, at costs cheaper than flight tickets.

The mode of transport is called a Hyperloop, a concept that was drawn maverick Tesla CEO and chief architect, Elon Musk on a white paper in 2013.

Hyperloop One is the only company that has built podcars (computerised capsules containers), which is a hybrid of a spaceship and a train, which will travel in nearly vacuum tunnel at over 1,000 kmph.

Its executives met government officials on Wednesday to discuss how to implement projects that will allow passengers and goods to travel between major cities, said Nick Earle, Sr. V-P of global field operations at Hyperloop One.


Distance between Mumbai and Chennai can be covered in 60 minutes and Chennai to Bangalore in 20 minutes.

But, to implement that in India will not be easy. Earle will need a bunch of safety clearances. “The regulator needs to give a safety certificate,” Earle said.

Then there are issues of laying the tunnel, which are almost five meter wide, and slightly raised from the ground, say about 20 meters. That would need would the central and state government to acquire land. Land acquisition has been a major problem in India, and has been a reason for many stalled projects.

It is also a costly affair. Earle said the company has secured $160 million, and is on its way to raise more capital. It would also need the Indian government to put in substantial amounts of money. Robert Puentes, director of Washington-based Eno Center for Transportation, told a British daily that such projects need “millions of dollars” to build engineering, the transport and infrastructure.

In the next two months Hyperloop One will do its first live demonstration in the desert of Nevada. Earle calls it’s the “kitty hawk moment”, taken from Wright Brothers’ first flight on December 17, 1903, when they flew the Flyer I four miles south of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.

In India, like elsewhere in the world, Earle said Hyperloop One will be a public transport, much cheaper than flight tickets, and maybe just as much as a Rajhdhani ticket costs. “This is not an executive transport… It will be a public transport, which will be cheaper than air travel,” said Earle. As per estimates, travel in a Hyperloop between Stockholm and Helsinki would cost 25 Euros, while a flight can be as much at 200-250 Euros.

According to Mineta Transportation Institute, the US-based think tank that researches on intermodal surface transportation in a report said the podcar concept has been around since 1950, when public transportation enthusiast Donn Fichter first talked about it, only five such projects have been started.

Reason why these concepts haven’t taken off is high cost and limited usage. Hyperloop One wants to solve those problems. The cost of travel will be reduced as it would not require fuel or continuous supply of electricity.