Both the University of Glasgow and University of Strathclyde Hyperloop teams have made it into the top 52 teams of the competition. The Hyperloop, which was originally conceived by Elon Musk, is a new kind of bullet train that uses magnetic levitation and vacuum-sealed tubes to move at extreme speeds to the extent that it would be possible to get from Glasgow to London in 42 minutes. Students at the University of Glasgow and University of Strathclyde have competed to build prototype pods for the Hyperloop and if their final design package makes the cut in January, both teams will be building a three-meter-long prototype of their design to bring to SpaceX’s California headquarters for this year’s competition.
Cedra Al-Nahhas, the president and founder of Glasgow Hyperloop, described the announcement as “the best news we’ve ever gotten.” Al-Nahhas founded the team in January of this year when she sent out an email to Engineering students asking if they would be interested in participating.
The Glasgow team’s design focuses on what Al-Nahhas describes as the “realistic approach” with the goal of approximating what the Hyperloop will be like in the future, including magnetic levitation and the ability to carry a payload. Although acceleration is an important part of the competition due to the Hyperloop’s main draw being its speed, Al-Nahhas said that “the students want to get involved in the innovative side of it rather than the regular here to win the competition side.”
The University of Strathclyde’s team, known as StrathLoop has a similar story. Also founded this year, StrathLoop is comprised of engineering students from the University of Strathclyde. Jonathan Davies, a member of the Stabilization, Braking, and Levitation team for Strathloop, says that similar to Glasgow Hyperloop, the team is not just looking to win the competition. “I believe it’s us wanting to…actually [make] it into a full idea that other companies, bigger companies will adopt with us, and actually turn into a viable idea for transportation”, said Davies.
If their design is chosen for the competition in California, both teams will need funding. Although both teams are sponsored by their respective universities, they will be looking for sponsors in the coming weeks. Al-Nahhas says that sponsors have already donated software and that the team is currently in the process of contacting other potential sponsors.
One of the major areas in which the Hyperloop shines is its sustainability. Due to the technology being entirely powered by electricity, renewable energy could easily be used to power Hyperloop pods, unlike trains, aeroplanes, and buses, which inherently produce smoke and exhaust as a part of their functionality. “I think that this project works best when backed by renewable energy,” says Bradley. Davies also suggested that the use of renewable energy in hyperloop trains would be “cheaper than using oil and gas.”
The Hyperloop competition started in 2015 and has run three times already, with this year’s competition being labelled as Hyperloop Competition IV. The number of participants has increased each year. According to NBC, a test track of less than full scale has been built at SpaceX headquarters in California, where pods are tested for their acceleration and stability.
The final design packets from all teams in the competition are due on 11 January 2019, after which SpaceX will announce the 22 teams that will be heading to California next summer.