The Hyperloop — high-speed travel in pods inside a partial-vacuum tube — is the brainchild of Tesla founder Elon Musk, who opensourced the basic design in 2013.
BENGALURU: For the past two weeks, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has had a piece of paper on his desk, waiting for a signature that could lead to people being able to travel from Chennai to Bengaluru in 30 minutes — for a fraction of the cost of an airplane ticket.
The paper is a Letter of Intent (LoI) from Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), a US startup which is hoping to revolutionise travel. The Hyperloop — high-speed travel in pods inside a partial-vacuum tube — is the brainchild of Tesla founder Elon Musk, who opensourced the basic design in 2013 in the form of a white paper.
“It’s in his (Gadkari’s) hand to sign. There is no pressure but he said publicly that he wants to give us the land. We are very happy to address a country like India that has the right amount of density, lack of infrastructure NSE 2.78% and the willingness for innovation,” Bibop Gresta, chairman of HTT, told ET.
Gresta said he found the Indian government very interested. “If they put their money where their mouth is then we could see very quickly a Hyperloop in this country.” The company has already signed deals to build a Hyperloop between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.
The Indian government has been focussed on improving the infrastructure in the country. PM Narendra Modi, in particular, has talked about bringing bullet trains to India.
The first bullet train is expected to run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad and is expected to be built by 2023 at a cost of about $12 billion. But Gresta thinks bullet trains pale in comparison to the Hyperloop system.
“I think it (bullet trains) would be a big mistake for India. India has the potential to really embrace new technologies. Put $1 billion in Hyperloop. And you have a faster, more efficient way to transport people,” Gresta said.
He added that once the LoI was signed it was technically feasible to have the Hyperloop up and running in as little as 38 months, assuming all clearances and land use rights were easy to get.
HTT uses a crowd-collaboration approach by roping in about 800 engineers and companies who are working for stock options. There are about 25 people from India working on the technology, Gresta said.
The company has raised $30 million in cash and an additional $70 million of land rights and services. About 15 large companies including vacuum tube pioneers Leybold and engineering company AECOM are working with HTT. Two Indian engineering companies are also working with HTT, said Gresta, even though he declined to name them.
POWERED BY RENEWABLE ENERGY
“The Hyperloop will run on renewable energy. There will be solar panels on the top of the tube, wind turbines in the pylons. We will generate more energy than we need. It would be like having a power plant that also transports people. That and advertising means you can run a profitable business,” Gresta said.
Gresta added that some slots on the transport system could even be given free to people.
Industry watchers though are cautious. “It all boils down to cost economics of the situation. Prima facie, it seems like this Hyperloop will be more expensive per customer basis as compared to the bullet train project in India,” said Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman, Feedback Infra.
HTT says it will rely heavily on renewable and kinetic energy and keep costs low by using medians for the pylons.
It estimates that a single tube could carry 1.44 lakh passengers daily at 40-second intervals. Over a distance of 500 km, it is aiming for ticket price under $30, or Rs 200.
Since the idea of Hyperloop was mooted by Musk in 2013, two companies — HTT and Hyperloop One, backed among others by GE Ventures and Khosla Ventures — have taken the lead in building what they hope will be commercially successful transportation companies based the technology.
Source: The Economic Times
Author: Aritra Sarkhel, Jochelle Mendonca, ET Bureau