Over a year ago Mike wrote SpaceX to sponsor Hyperloop pod competition at 1-mile test track in 2016. It turns out to be early 2017, and out of a thousand submissions, thirty were chosen to show up in California with their test pods. This has nothing to do with the various companies that are trying to build Hyperloops in Dubai and elsewhere, but SpaceX says they are “interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype.”
The only Canadian entry is the Waterloop, created by engineering students at the University of Waterloo. Being Canadian, it doesn’t use magnetic levitation, but air levitation like an air hockey table. “Air levitation is significantly less expensive, less complex, and produces less drag than magnetic levitation. Although air caster technology has been in use for decades and is well understood, our levitation system will be first of its kind when used in the low pressure Hypertube at SpaceX next January 2017.”
It works too; not as spectacular a video as the California test of the magnetic Hyperloop we showed earlier, but pretty impressive.
It also has a very clever eddy current braking system, which uses “84 neodymium magnets arranged in a Halbach array. This arrangement doubles the magnetic strength on one side and cancels it out on the other. Braking force is achieved by exploiting the same drag produced in magnetic levitation - or when a permanent magnet is dropped down a copper tube.”- which I do not understand but you can watch the video here.
The pod shell is made with a "geodetic diagrid frame". "Although this style of framing has traditionally been considered more difficult to manufacture, this is quickly overcome with modern technology by precision modelling of the entire assembly in 3D, and the use of rapid fabrication technology including laser cutting and 3D printing."
While I love the idea of zipping to Montreal in half an hour, I have been dubious about Hyperloop from the start, and agree with Alison Arieff who described it as “transportation’s new girlfriend: mysterious, unencumbered, exciting, expensive.” But Yazan Obeidi, captain of the team building the Waterloo, takes it very seriously, telling Techvibes:
This will change how people live for the better. That’s what I want to be part of, something big, bigger than any other idea I’ve been around.
The enthusiasm is infectious.