India’s Lone Pod Ready To Zoom In SpaceX’s Hyperloop Competition
A contest to showcase the fastest Hyperloop pod on SpaceX’s track in the U.S. later this month has charged up a team of young engineers from India.
Hyperloop India, an entity of 60-odd students from eight colleges, is the only finalist from India and the second team from Asia to build a Hyperloop pod for the competition in California. Christened Orcapod, the 4-metre-long and 300 kg capsule was built from scratch in four months in Bengaluru.
Hyperloop is a futuristic transit system capable of moving commuters through a tube at speeds of over 1,000 km per hour, an idea first proposed by Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk.
Inspired by Musk’s white paper on the technology, Sibesh Kar founded Hyperloop India, a multi-disciplinary multi-university think tank. “The first competition was announced in 2015 and we were disappointed that there was no Indian team in it, and Hyperloop India is a result of that,” Kar told BloombergQuint.
Aircraft-grade aluminium, which costs one-fourth of carbon fiber, was used to build the pod, said Prithvi Sankar, business development head at Hyperloop India. The team expects to clock nearly 400 km per hour at the Space X facility.
Hyperloop India will compete with 23 other teams between August 25 and 27 at Space X’s mile-long vacuum tube, where speed is the only criteria. Founded by Musk, SpaceX aims to revolutionise terrestrial transportation through Hyperloop transportation services.
At Rs 70 lakh, the Indian competitor is the cheapest pod, said Sankar. Half the money was raised through corporate and strategic tie-ups and the rest came from crowdfunding, he said.
Support also came in different forms and sources to help the engineers give shape to their long-nosed vehicle. WorkbenchProjects provided co-working space to the team members, Ripple Technologies gave space for building the pod, while Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation offered space for testing.
Kar said they are well aware that the competition is about building the fastest pod. Their focus has been on building a pod that can be scaled. This is one of the reasons it is the biggest and the cheapest, he said. “We are thinking beyond the competition and how it can be scaled and used in a country like India,” said Kar.
The team is also working with Hyperloop One, a company that is looking to commercialise Hyperloop, and is doing a case study to find out if the technology can be used in India. Kar said they plan to build a tube in India to test the pod.
Indian transportation needs a radical leapfrog, he said. “Hyperloop is the most energy efficient solution, at least in theory.” He stressed that issues like last-mile and first-mile connectivity need to be addressed first before such a technology is brought to the country.