Hyperloop startup eyes test facility in Alberta
Site near Calgary could see 10-kilometre piece of track operational by 2020
A Toronto startup that aims to have an operating hyperloop system in Canada as early as 2025 wants to build a test track in Alberta, and is interested in one day building an Edmonton-Calgary link.
The technology would allow passengers to travel in a bullet-shaped craft through a tube at speeds of around 1,000 kilometres per hour, four times faster than high-speed rail.
TransPod is bidding for provincial and city support for a four- to 10-kilometre-long test track on public land near Calgary.
If granted and sufficient funds are raised, TransPod CEO Sebastien Gendron said the track could be operational by 2020, the technology could be finalized by 2022 and the first commercial system could be in place between 2025 and 2030.
Hyperloop is a technology promoted by Tesla founder Elon Musk which would place passengers and cargo in a cylindrical vehicle that accelerates via electric propulsion through a low-air-pressure tube, suspended above the track using magnetic levitation. The vehicles are expected to glide at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
Gendron is confident the public will embrace the technology.
“We already travel at that speed with an aircraft and the main difference with our system is we are on the ground,” he said. “And it’s safer to be on the ground than in the air.”
He added TransPod is talking with the federal transportation department to ensure safety regulations are in place for when the technology is ready to be implemented.
A Toronto-Montreal route was the only Canadian winner among 10 entries chosen from hundreds in an international competition sponsored by Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One, which has a working hyperloop test system in the Nevada desert.
It could cut travel time between the cities from five hours to just 39 minutes.
Hyperloop One’s nine other winning entries included four in the United States, two in each of the United Kingdom and India, and one in Mexico. All are now being studied to determine commercial viability.
Gendron said he agrees the Toronto-Montreal corridor is suitable for a system because traffic is heavy and there is no existing highspeed ground travel alternative for travellers.
But he said TransPod is also interested in the Calgary-Edmonton corridor.
A hyperloop ticket from Edmonton to Calgary would cost $60 to $80, one way.
He estimates it would cost $25 million to $29 million to build a kilometre of TransPod track, about half of the cost of a highspeed rail line.
The winning Hyperloop One contest route as proposed by the Canadian arm of U.S. engineering firm AECOM would include a stop in Ottawa.
The proposal suggests a trip from Toronto to Ottawa would take 27 minutes and the Ottawa-Montreal leg would take another 12 minutes.
It says the next logical step would be to extend the hyperloop system into the U.S., west to Detroit from Windsor, Ont., and east from Quebec to Niagara Falls and Buffalo and on toward Chicago, New York and Boston.