The last time we checked in with the Hyperloop project, billionaire Elon Musk’s currently conceptual high-speed transportation system, the building of a test track in California had just been confirmed. But Central Europe has stolen a march on Silicon Valley and it may be Slovakia and not California that may actually see the first deployment of the system that aims to reach speeds of up to 760mph (1,223kph). Dirk Ahlborn, chief executive officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), announced that they have reached an agreement with the Slovakian government to explore building a local Hyperloop system. If successful, the world’s first Hyperloop route would link Slovakia’s capital Bratislava with Vienna and Budapest.
First launched in August 2013, for those unsure, the Hyperloop design incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on a cushion of air that is driven by a combination of linear electric motors in a partial vacuum. Solar panels on top of the tube will provide the power.
Dirk Ahlborn on the announcement; “Slovakia is a technological leader in the automotive, material science, and energy industries, many of the areas that are integral to the Hyperloop system. Having a European Hyperloop presence will incentivize collaboration and innovation within Slovkia and throughout Europe.” Slovakian newspaper Pravda confirmed the proposal with the Ministry of Economy, stating that the government and HTT agreed to meet within the next 270 days to continue these discussions. Slovakia’s Hyperloop is likely to cost between $200m to $300m and be completed by 2020.
So what’s happened to California? Well, the plans are still going ahead to build the test track in the Golden State and the stated aims of covering the 354-mile (570 km) distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just 35 minutes remain. But there are significant barriers to overcome. The acquisition of the land needed is expensive and often complex. Plus anyone following the ongoing wrangling ("California's High Speed Rail System Just Isn't Economic: Kill It, Kill It Now") over the state’s High-Speed rail plans can confirm it is not always the easiest place to get these kind of innovations off the ground. And this is without considering the effect that earthquakes may have on an unproven technology.
And for all these reasons, it may be the good people of Slovakia who are first to enjoy this technology. Maybe.
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