The battle to bring Hyperloop, Elon Musk's vision for zipping around the country in something akin to pneumatic tubes, encourages aggressive timelines. If the companies developing the high-speed system are to be believed, you'll see test tracks and working prototypes within a year, and lines running by the end of the decade.
Not everyone is in such a rush. Sebastien Gendron sees Hyperloop—in which levitating pods shoot through near-vacuum tubes at hundreds of miles per hour—as the next evolution of the high-speed train.
Hyperloop in Brief
If you (somehow) haven't heard, the Hyperloop is a proposed long-distance, high-speed transportation system, first floated by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in 2012. Cargo or passengers would ride in pods (size TBD) that run through large tubes (above or underground) with close to zero air inside. The lack of air minimizes resistance, and the pods would levitate above the floor of the tube, doing away with just about all the friction. Propelled up to 700 mph or more, they could cover the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco in just 30 minutes—a tantalizing alternative to an expensive flight or day-long slog through highway traffic. You can read way more about how the system works and the competing efforts to make it happen right here.
But as a veteran of the aviation and railroad industries, he knows anything that involves new technology, infrastructure, and human passengers takes years, if not decades to implement.
Gendron is the CEO of Transpod, a Toronto startup stepping into the Hyperloop game. While competitors like Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies plan to develop the entire system, Transpod and its 30 employees concentrate only on the pod that will shoot through the tubes at 700 mph or more. "We're not designing an entire airplane here," he says.
Last month, at the InnoTrans trade show in Berlin, Gendron revealed what remains very much a concept of the Transpod. Renderings reveal a 10-ton vehicle 82 feet long, capable of carrying 10 tons of passengers or freight. A compressor at the front draws what little air remains in the near-vacuum of the Hyperloop tube, and pumps it to the back of the pod, keeping drag to a minimum.