Hyperloop One, a magnetically propelled ultra high-speed transport pod, could traverse the entire Indian coastline in just six hours – connecting various ports and logistics hubs around the peninsula four times in a single day. Five Indian chief ministers have already consented to implement Hyperloop routes in their respective states. Its lean design, renewable energy source and low-maintenance requirements could make the seemingly futuristic model more cost-efficient than air and, even, rail transport. As the speed of freight movements increase, the efficiency with which cargo is packed, loaded and distributed will also change – thereby compounding India’s ongoing domino effect of supply chain consolidation over the next five years.
What is Hyperloop One?
Hyperloop One, the brainchild of Elon Musk, co-founded by Shervin Pishevar and Josh Giegel, is a 2013 formed company behind the pioneering Hyperloop concept. It made transportation history on 12 May after successfully completing its first full systems test; darting a pod at 112 kilometres per hour through the 100-meter length of the company’s test track in Nevada in just 5.3 seconds.
The svelte vehicle employs magnetic-levitation technology to rocket through pressure controlled tubes, consuming minimal energy and making little mechanical contact, thereby limiting both fuel and maintenance costs. Its lean infrastructure consumes little real estate. And, it is powered by renewable energy. The Hyperloop One is irrefutably the fastest, greenest and most efficient form of transport the world has ever witnessed.
Describing the pivotal test run, co-founders Josh Giegel and Shervin Pishevar write, “There was a half-second delay. A clench in the throat. Then, sure enough, the sledge shot off down the track, chased by the electromagnetic force from the stator. The wheel mounts rumbled along for a second, and then the rumbling stopped as the pod lifted off the track and glided for 3 seconds before coming to a halt on its own…History is made by people, not events, by hard work and persistence, and not by chance”.
When is Hyperloop One coming to India?
This recent and groundbreaking triumph will accelerate the company’s already mobilised global teams to implement the now evidently feasible technology in various nations, including India. In an interview held before the controlled propulsion and levitation test, the Head of Business Development, India for Hyperloop One, Naushad Oomer, contended that we would observe a “fully operational Hyperloop system in India by 2021”.
Addressing the Indian government’s focus to develop bullet trains, he added, “The fact that the Indian government is looking at bullet trains makes it obvious that they are comparing it with Hyperloop as well. This is mainly because bullet train projects are expensive, and of course, much slower to complete and deliver. Bullet trains projects shouldn’t be seen as a Hyperloop competitor. In fact, they both serve different purposes and can coexist.”
Hyperloops are also proposed to act as interconnectors to multi-modal logistics hubs. If a high-speed route between two cities already exists, the Hyperloop system can be built to fill in gaps and bolster existing transport networks.
How will Hylerloop One change Indian freight transport?
Since the investment required to develop operational Hyperloops is extremely high at the outset, authorities and businesses will seek to offset costs. It is, thus, likely that Hyperloops will initially transport, not passengers, but high volumes of high-value cargo. Therefore, the first new form of transportation to manifest in a century will first undisrupt freight movements rather than consumer travel around India.
Out of the seven Hyperloop tracks proposed for Asia, five would traverse India. At its promised potential speed of 1,200 kmph, the pod could connect every port on the Indian peninsula in just 6 hours*:
|Delhi-Mumbai||1422 kms||71 minutes|
|Bangalore-Thiruvananthapuram||738 kms||37 minutes|
|Chennai-Bangalore||346 kms||17 minutes|
|Mumbai-Chennai||1337 kms||67 minutes|
|*A port connector project||7517 kms||375 minutes|
As a comparison, it currently takes trains and trucks between 18 and 23 hours respectively to travel between Delhi and Mumbai. Drawing from these numbers, the Hyperloop could travel roughly 20 times faster than current road and rail transport. Furthermore, its heightened fuel efficiency and lean design combined with significantly increased capacity could make Hyperloops more cost-efficient than airlines and railways. While this means consignors and transporters can move twenty times as much cargo at fractional costs per kilo, it also means that cargo will need to be packaged, loaded, unloaded and distributed (from manufacturing plants to warehouses to Hyperloop stations) more quickly and effectively. To keep up with high-capacity, high speed, pods, companies will have to upgrade operations to ensure real-time supply chain visibility including:
- standardising packaging, storage and safety norms
- digitising databases and documentation systems
- automating inventory management and consignment tracking
The Hyperloop’s promise to undisrupt freight movements is not an exception. Everyday new strides in various forms of technological innovation makes first point of contact with logistics networks – the nervous system of emerging and developed nations alike. Transforming supply chains can transform entire economies. The process of emboldening and synchronising these intricate neurals is, therefore, perpetual and increasingly dynamic.
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