Behold Musk: China just successfully tested a Hyperloop-like train system

The first in the world to do so.
Ameya Paleja
Supersonic train concept in China
Supersonic train concept in China

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group  

Researchers at the North University of China have successfully completed the test of a Hyperloop-like train system that runs trains in a low vacuum environment inside a tube, local news outlet, China Daily reported.

Hyperloop is the name given to a high-speed transit system that was popularized by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2012. A year later, Musk also released a white paper that conceptualized such a system running between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the U.S.

In theory, the system can be used for transporting people as well as goods and consists of long tubes that maintain a low vacuum to allow transport with minimal air resistance. The travel pods use magnetic levitation (maglev), a tried and tested technology for high-speed trains to deliver high-speed transportation.

China's progress in Hyperloop-like trains

China has made world history by reportedly completing the first "full-scale and full-process integrated test" of such a system when its maglev train recently ran at speeds of up to 80 miles (130 km) an hour. The test was carried out on a 1.25-mile (2 km) Datong Test line constructed in Shanxi province in north China.

According to the China Daily's report, the North University of China and the Third Research Institute of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., have jointly set up a laboratory for high-speed maglev vehicles operating in low-vacuum environments. Under this arrangement, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Datong test line was carried out in May last year.

Following the success of the preliminary test, the laboratory will now begin the construction of a full-scale 37-mile (60 km) test track to be completed in three phases. The full-scale track will allow the testing of trains at speeds up to 621 miles (1,000 km) an hour.

Musk's vision, China's execution

Although, Musk wasn't the first person to speak of transit systems inside sealed tubes, the Hyperloop version of the system is largely his brainchild. Musk's tunneling venture, The Boring Company, and his space company, SpaceX even built a test track to host a Hyperloop Pod Competition between 2015 and 2019.

Even though he could have done it himself, Musk stayed away from Hyperloop as a commercial venture, instead building Loop, where his electric cars could ferry people.

Virgin Hyperloop, a venture that actually took up the challenge of doing so, along with a handful of others, announced earlier this year that it would focus only on the cargo applications of the technology.

So, it does appear that even though Musk might claim the bragging rights to the concept, it is China that is making progress in actually making it a reality.

Elon Musk fans might point to his comment from February where he said that the Hyperloop was The Boring Company's plans "in the coming years." However, they know very well that Musk's solid deadlines can't really be trusted. So, vague projections don't even make it to the discussion table.

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