Hyperloop prototype track unveiled in Switzerland

The EPFL Hyperloop track being constructed in Lausanne. EPFL

Engineers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) say they have built Europe’s “first operational model Hyperloop” to test a new-generation high-speed transport system.

This content was published on July 23, 2021 - 16:27

The 120-metre test track is a circular construction so it can simulate long travel distances using different sized pods. The 3D-printed track was built in collaboration with EPFL spin-off company Swisspod and was funded with a grant from the Swiss research agency Innosuisse.

“Hyperloops, viewed by some as the fifth mode of transport, stand to revolutionise long-distance travel. They offer a cleaner alternative to planes and are faster than trains,” read a press release on FridayExternal link.

“With this reduced-scale test track, we will be able to study the fundamental aspects of our pod’s electromagnetic propulsion and levitation system,” says Mario Paolone, head of EPFL’s Distributed Electrical Systems Laboratory (DESL). “We’ll use the results to enhance the pod design and make the loop operate more efficiently.”

The target is to achieve a power consumption of 10–50 Wh/km per passenger, compared with 97–100 Wh/km for electric cars and 515–600 Wh/km for planes.

To keep costs down, EPFL intends to design pods propelled by low-power linear induction motors rather than generate energy in the track.

Global interest

The futuristic Hyperloop transport system has spawned multiple projects around the world and has attracted the attention of Tesla founder Elon Musk and Virgin’s Richard Branson.

EPFL claims to have taken a lead of European rivals, including projects in Hamburg and Toulouse.

A proposal to build ultra-fast levitation trains was once put forward in Switzerland as early as 1979, but the Swissmetro project was abandoned in 2009.

Hyperloop has reinvigorated interest in the concept with Swisspod working on a capsule prototype for 25 passengers, which it hopes will be ready for the global market by 2025.

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