A team of students from Germany sent a carbon-plastic pod whizzing through a tube at 201 mph (324 km/h) last weekend, securing the top spot in Elon Musk’s second Hyperloop competition.
Musk, the founder of SpaceX, Tesla and brain-interface company Neuralink, aims to revolutionize transportation with his Hyperloop concept, which he envisions as a series of underground vacuum tubes through which transportation pods levitated by air would zoom at nearly the speed of sound.
In January, SpaceX held its first Hyperloop Competition for students to test prototypes of pods. The winning team, WARR Hyperloop from the Technical University of Munich, again took top prize in the second Hyperloop Pod Competition, which was held between Aug. 25 and 27. The team’s pod was one of only three that met the technical criteria for testing inside the 0.8-mile (1.28 km) tube at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. [Hyperloop, Jetpacks & More: 9 Futuristic Transit Ideas]
The WARR Hyperloop pod was a complete redesign of the team’s first winning structure, the student engineers wrote on their website. Made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, the pod weighs only 176 lbs. (80 kilograms) and can accelerate from zero to 217 mph (350 km/h) in just 12 seconds.
The pod is a prototype, as SpaceX’s test tube is a mere 6 feet (1.8 meters) in diameter. But Musk envisions tunnels that can accommodate 6,800-lb. (3,100 kg) pods holding up to 28 people each, as he wrote in a white paper introducing the concept in 2014. Musk’s vision is that the Hyperloop would provide fast transportation between cities less than about 900 miles (1,500 kilometers) apart. He claims the Hyperloop system could whisk people from San Francisco to Los Angeles, or from Munich to Berlin, in about 30 minutes. That would require speeds of about 760 mph (1,220 km/h).
Hyperloop pod run by team WARR pic.twitter.com/ntaMsoxkZE
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 28, 2017
The WARR team’s winning pod is powered by an electric motor and lithium-polymer batteries. Pneumatic brakes provide stopping power and stabilizers dampen vibrations at high speeds. In the SpaceX testing, the brakes decelerated the pod from its peak 201-mph speed in 3 seconds. On Twitter, Musk noted that fast accelerations and decelerations are necessary because of the test tube’s short length, but a real system would spread the speed changes over miles, “so no spilt drinks,” he said. Musk’s plans include making the systems entirely self-powered by…