Europe’s longest hyperloop test track opens in the Netherlands

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Europe’s longest hyperloop test track, with a length of 420 meters (1,380 feet), opened recently in the Netherlands.

The sleek Y-shaped system was built by Hardt, a European hyperloop technology company headquartered in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, at the European Hyperloop Center (EHC) near Veendam, north of the country. The latter was once a disused railway center but it has now been transformed into a hub for exploring and validating cutting-edge innovations in transportation.

The hyperloop test track is made up of a total of 34 interconnected pipes with a width of approximately 2.5 meters each. It is reportedly equipped to demonstrate all essential hyperloop technologies, including “lane-switch” the world’s first of its technology that shall allow scientists to test what happens when a vehicle changes course at high speed, in this case between 47 and 62mph (75-100km/h).

Speaking on the project, the European Hyperloop Center director Sascha Lamme said that lane switch is important in the creation of a network acting as a diverging part of the infrastructure so that one part goes for example to Paris and another one to Berlin.

Following the announcement of the completion of its hyperloop test infrastructure, the European Hyperloop Center (EHC), which will also be operated by Hardt, is set to commence its inaugural testing phase in the coming weeks. Companies developing any aspect of hyperloop technology are reportedly free to use this infrastructure to test their technologies.

Hyperloop technology development

Hyperloop is a proposed high-speed transportation system for both passengers and freight that was first brought into the limelight by Elon Musk back in 2013 when he published a paper proposing a “fifth mode of transport” connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. According to Musk, the Hyperloop system could link the two cities in approximately 30 minutes, compared to up to six hours by road or one hour by plane.

Since then, several cities and companies around the world have toyed with the idea but the technology is still yet to get off the ground. Scientists admit that there is still a long way to go before the technology is completely ready. According to the European Hyperloop Center director, full-scale passenger operations are expected sometime in 2030 but on a short route of approximately five kilometres.

Once operational, Hyperloop technology is expected to be a game changer in the transport industry as it produces no pollution, and no noise, and it blends easily in urban and countryside environments.

Marinus Van der Meijs, technology and engineering director at Hardt Hyperloop described the technology as a cheaper option compared to other modes of transportation. Its energy needs are also 10 times less than cars and planes, providing an energy-efficient solution for the growing transportation needs as a result. In addition, the 33-year-old said that the system requires less space to operate as the tubes can easily be placed underground or elevated thus lowering its infrastructure footprint.

Aerial view of European Hyperloop Center (EHC) hyperloop testing system

The technology, however, doesn’t go without critics some calling it a pie in the sky and questioning the passenger experience of being fired through a narrow tunnel at close to the speed of sound.

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