Dutch Railway Operator Invests in Europe’s First Hyperloop Company

A Dutch train passes a railway crossing. Soon at 1000 kilometres per hour? Photo: DutchScenery / Shutterstock
A Dutch train passes a railway crossing. Soon at 1000 kilometres per hour? Photo: DutchScenery / Shutterstock

A railway operator famous for running its trains on 100 per cent renewable electricity is investing in the winners of Elon Musk’s hyperloop competition.

NS, the main Dutch passenger railway operator, is one of the investors behind Hardt , a company founded by students at Delft University of Technology.

According to the university, Hardt is the first European company that aims to commercialise hyperloop technology. The startup is set to compete with the two American hyperloop businesses that opened research facilities in France and the Czech Republic last year.

The potentially highly sustainable technology could see passengers travel in renewables-powered pods that levitate through low-pressure tubes at more than 1000 kilometres per hour.

NS made international headlines recently when it announced it is now powering all its electric trains in the Netherlands – carrying 600,000 passengers per day – with wind energy. Now, NS and EU-supported investment fund UNIIQ are investing €600,000 in the startup.

European Success

The Dutch team won the main prize at the international hyperloop competition organised by SpaceX in California last month (January 2017), securing the most points in total across all judging categories.

Out of a total of 27 teams from the United States and around the world, the students from Delft were among the only three teams to complete test runs in a 1.25-kilometre Hyperloop tube with their scaled-down prototype pods.

Students from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) in Spain, who are still building their prototype, were also asked to be present at the event in January and hope to soon test their pod at the SpaceX campus as well.

One of the other teams to already try out their pod hails from TU Munich in Germany and won the award for the fastest Hyperloop pod. The Dutch and German teams defeated competition from universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tokyo’s Keio University.

The European universities participating in the event collaborate in the European Union’s climate innovation partnership, Climate-KIC.

1000 Kilometres Per Hour

One of the defining features of the Dutch pod is a state of the art stabilisation and braking mechanism. The team explains this is needed to ensure a smooth ride free of vibrations because 1000 kilometres per hour is “not the speed our bodies are used to.”

The carbon-fibre pod is “as fast as a plane” and “as convenient as a train,” according to the team’s website.

A full-scale version of their pod could include virtual windows to offer simulated 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape “to make the experience more enjoyable and calming while traveling through a tube without windows.”

With the Dutch railway company on board, the team is now one step closer to its goal of making the world “cleaner, faster and more efficient.”

Also want to make the world cleaner, faster and more efficient? Find out how Climate-KIC could help you accelerate your technology.

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