Virgin Hyperloop: First New Mass Transport in 100 Years?

March 2, 2021
Virgin Hyperloop: First New Mass Transport in 100 Years?

Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop, is in the news again, this time pitching the idea of a 43-minute commute from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

A new concept video accompanies images of what customers of the future can expect.  Walder envisions this technology being used primarily for “short haul” routes for both passengers and cargo, and touts it as the first new form of mass transportation in 100 years.

Video Spotlight: 

This post is based on the Fox Business article, Virgin Hyperloop reveals passenger experience on high-speed trains, by Ann Schmidt, February 3, 2021, and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: Amy Johansson/Shutterstock

Discussion Questions:

1.  In what phase of the product life cycle are hyperloops?

Guidance: Hyperloop technology is in the earliest introductory phase. This is a time when a lot of money needs to be invested in developing the product, introducing it and its uses, and marketing its potential.

A number of different companies and business leaders are in a race to be the first to bring this innovative approach to fruition, and Virgin Hyperloop has emerged as an early leader in that race.  This most recent concept video and media pitch is part of the process of education and marketing that takes place to attract attention and interest in the early stages of the product life cycle.

2.  What does the working prototype of the Hyperloop look like thus far?

Guidance: One prototype was tested in Las Vegas in November 2020, traveling at speeds of 107 mph.  In the newest videos, the concept vehicle is a 28-person pod with recessed seat wells and a raised aisle.  The video suggests a number of pods can move simultaneously through the hyperloop tubes. Also depicted is the sleek and modern station from which the pods would depart.

3. One major development is the new certification center in West Virginia, set to begin construction in 2022.  What will happen there?

Guidance: West Virginia is the newly selected site for Virgin Hyperloop’s 500 million dollar safety certification center.  A six-mile tubing system will be constructed.  The project will bring together about 150 to 200 engineers and technicians as well as 13,000 other workers in the fields of construction, manufacturing, and maintenance.

Construction of this center is a “project”, meaning it is unique set of activities with a defined starting and stopping time.  Keeping the project on track and on schedule is one of the main jobs of the project manager.   Virgin Hyperloop’s target date for safety certification is 2025.  The company is among the front-runners in the race to develop this new and exciting technology.  Making sure that development and testing take place in a timely way will also be part of the larger project of moving the hyperloop from concept to reality, which it hopes to do by 2030.

4. How might the hyperloop affect supply chain issues and matters related to sustainability?

Guidance: The hyperloop blends components of train and air travel with new and innovative technologies.  Using battery powered, magnetic levitation allows for an almost silent as well as non-polluting, sustainable transportation mode.  Decreased fuel emissions, noise pollution, and the need for other types of commuter vehicles could result if hyperloops are a success.  Walder sees the hyperloop transporting both passengers and cargo simultaneously as well as on demand, rather than on set schedules as used in commuter train systems.

With the increased familiarity with and enjoyment of working from home brought on by the pandemic, work commutes or traveling for meetings may become less prevalent than they have been in the past, once the pandemic passes.  Nevertheless, workers as well as leisure travelers may come to appreciate and enjoy the speed, comfort and environmental friendliness the 670 mph hyperloop promises.  For cargo deliveries, hyperloop could offer an alternative to current transportation modes as well as newer and more invasive technologies such as drones or self-driving vehicles and autonomous robots.  Extremely fast delivery times could mean reduced levels of inventories and less space dedicated to carrying the inventory that remains


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