By Kathleen Berger
Los Angeles-based Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO) announced plans for a national certification center with a full-scale test track. The company is seeking backing and is now asking states to submit proposals to support and host the development of a center to advance its futuristic super high-speed travel plans by testing and validating the technology.
“We’re looking at different locations throughout the U.S. that can host this,” said Diana Zhou, director of project strategy at VHO. “We’ve got a lot of interest so far.”
VHO’s system uses a proprietary magnetic levitation system that could make speeds up to 700 miles per hour possible and reduce time to travel. The technology electronically shoots a pod through a low-pressure tube. With magnets lining the tube, the pod glides above track through magnetic levitation at airline speeds. The lack of air and friction allow the pod to quickly reach high speeds.
Missouri’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop conducted a study spanning months, releasing a 176-page report that strongly advocates winning a bid for a 12 to 15 mile “national certification track”.
According to the report, “The National Certification Track would serve as the natural center for research and development of the technology and should be supported by a robust ecosystem of academic and industry partners led by the University of Missouri system.
“Before we can start building between cities, we’ve got to have about a 12 to 15 mile, full-size route where the system can reach full speed and where it can be certified for human safety and where we can build a regulatory regime for it,” said Andrew Smith, vice-chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop. “And we’re hoping that happens in Missouri.”
Missouri is the first state to completea hyperloop feasibility study. That was followed by the formation of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop headed by Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe. The bipartisan panel’s 176-report explored the specific steps and funding mechanisms for the Missouri Hyperloop project. The report strongly makes a case for the nation’s first hyperloop route to be built through the I-70 corridor.
A hyperloop trip between St. Louis to Kansas City would be within 30 minutes; traveling 670 miles per hour, exactly 28 minutes. A trip to Columbia from St. Louis or Kansas City would take 15 minutes.
“Seven years is the timetable we’re looking at for commercial routes, but a decision on where to build the certification track in the United States I think will come in early 2020,” said Smith.
The Panel investigated the steps that would help Missouri become “the global epicenter for the research, development, and commercialization of tubed transport technology”.
The reports states the “Missouri Hyperloop” would become the first hyperloop system in the U.S., connecting three Missouri metro areas and the University of Missouri System into a “hyper-connected economic mega-region”.
The Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop’s report detailed how building the system in Missouri will cost anywhere from $7.3 billion to $10.4 billion dollars. Based on findings described in the report, it’s believed the project can be achieved with private investments through a public-private partnership.
The reports listed many benefits economic, social and educational benefits for the state:
- An estimated annual economic impact of $1.67 to $3.68 billion
- The creation of between 7,600 and 17,200 new jobs
- Increased real estate values around portal locations
- A significant strengthening of key industry clusters, including; automotive, chemical products, business services, tech, transportation and logistics, and aerospace
- Increased tax revenues for state and local jurisdictions
- A reduction of over 530,000 metric tons of CO emissions
The report concluded a reduction of 847 to 1,564 traffic accidents per year, saving societal and economic costs of approximately $95 million to $176 million each year.