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Hardt Hyperloop has plans to build a 2.7km test track by 2023 and its first route by the end of the decade

EU invests in hyperloop for the first time

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Karl Tomusk

A Dutch company working on the development of hyperloop has received €15m from the European Commission – the first time the bloc has funded a hyperloop project.

Hardt Hyperloop was one of 63 startups and SMEs selected by the Commission’s European Innovation Council to receive €363m of funding for “breakthrough innovations”.

Hailing the grant as a “major breakthrough” for next-generation transport in Europe, Hardt said the funding will boost ongoing development, including at the European Hyperloop Center in Groningen, Netherlands, which has plans to open a 2.7km test track by 2023.

The EHC is also looking into a pilot project involving freight transport between the busiest freight hubs in the Netherlands – Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Tim Houter, co-founder of Hardt Hyperloop, said that establishing a route in the Netherlands within this decade would mean Europe is on track to save 160 megatonnes of carbon emissions every year.

In December, the EU included hyperloop in its mobility strategy in the hopes that it will offer a low-carbon form of transport in the future. In theory, hyperloop vehicles will move through low-pressure tubes powered by an electromagnetic propulsion system, making its operation potentially carbon neutral.

Houter said: “It’s great to have now gained the trust of the European Commission.

“Their support will help to accelerate the development of a European hyperloop network, bringing us much closer to significant CO2 savings. European cities will be connected smarter, faster and cheaper.”

Hyperloop switches lanes

Hardt is working with a number of public and private partners, including Dutch Railways, Royal Schiphol Group, Tata Steel and construction company Royal BAM Group, on ways to integrate hyperloop with existing transport options.

One priority is the development of ‘lane switching’ technology, which will allow hyperloop pods to switch routes while maintaining high speeds.

Previously, Mars Geuze, chief commercial officer at Hardt, said: “Back in 2017, we deviated from the initial hyperloop concept by creating a system in which the rails are placed in the top of the tube and the vehicle levitates towards it. This allowed us to develop and demonstrate a hyperloop lane-switch.

“Without the possibility of reliable lane-switching at high speed, it would not be possible to create a European network that could function as a competitive alternative to air travel. We’re seeing other developers converging towards this system as well, a development that we very much applaud as it is essential in the context of interoperability.”

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It is about time that someone has acknowledged that high speed switching in a tube is a serious challenge.

By Waldemar Kissel