Virgin Hyperloop completes first passenger tests

Virgin Hyperloop – one of the companies working on the commercialisation of the hyperloop vacuum tube transport concept – has carried out its first passenger trials at a test site in the Nevada desert.

During the test run, two passengers – the company’s CTO Josh Giegel, and its director of passenger experience Sara Luchian – travelled at speeds of up to 172.8km/h in a specially developed pod aboard along the firm’s 500m long test site in Las Vegas.

Virgin Hyperloop
Image: Virgin Hyperloop

The company’s technology uses electric propulsion and electromagnetic levitation to accelerate pods through a low pressure tube. It estimates that commercial hyperloop systems could be capable of top speeds of around 1080km/h.

Whilst the ultimate aim is produce vehicles with a capacity of up to 28 passengers, Giegel and Luchian made their maiden voyage on the small two seater demonstrator vehicle – the XP-2 – which was built to demonstrate the safety case for the system, and to test a state of the art control system able to detect “off-nominal states” and rapidly trigger appropriate emergency responses.

The testing campaign – which has also included over 400 unoccupied tests – is being overseen by the industry-recognised Independent Safety Assessor (ISA) Certifer.

“I can’t tell you how often I get asked ‘is hyperloop safe?,’” said Virgin Hyperloop CEO Jay Walder. “With today’s passenger testing, we have successfully answered this question, demonstrating that not only can Virgin Hyperloop safely put a person in a pod in a vacuum environment, but that the company has a thoughtful approach to safety which has been validated by an independent third party.”

Virgin Hyperloop
Giegel and Luchian aboard the XP-2 test vehicle. Image: Virgin Hyperloop

The latest news follows progress on the regulatory environment. Last month, Virgin Hyperloop unveiled West Virginia as the location for the Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC). In July 2020, the US Department of Transportation unveiled a  guidance document on a clear regulatory framework for hyperloop in the United States.

“When we started in a garage over six years ago, the goal was simple – to transform the way people move,” said Giegel, “Today, we took one giant leap toward that ultimate dream, not only for me, but for all of us who are looking towards a moonshot right here on Earth.”