China's new hyperloop train completes first test runs successfully

The train will be the world's fastest ground-based transport technology if the project goes as planned.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Another Chinese company's hyperloop train.
Another Chinese company's hyperloop train.

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group  

An ultra-fast hyperloop train in China has completed its first test runs, according to a report by the South China Morning Post published on Thursday.

These consisted of three test runs at a superconducting maglev test line in Datong, Shanxi province that reached speeds of 31 miles/h (50 km per hour). The goal of the next-generation train is to eventually carry passengersi and cargo at a speed of 621 miles/h (1,000 km per hour) or faster in a near-vacuum tube.

The world's fastest ground-based transport technology

If the project goes as planned, the train will be the world's fastest ground-based transport technology. The facility where the train is being tested is built and run by the Defence contractor China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) which said that all went well during the first few trials.

However, the current tube available for trials measures only 1.24 miles (two km) in length. It is expected to be extended to 37 miles (60 km) over the next few years.

China has the noteworthy distinction of currently operating the world's largest high-speed rail network, with a total length exceeding 26,000 miles (42,000km). The government has ambitious plans to increase the maximum speed of its trains to 248 miles/h (400 km per hour) in the next two years.

As such, it has been investing heavily in hyperloop technology. In October of 2022, researchers at the North University of China successfully completed the test of a Hyperloop-like train system that runs trains in a low vacuum environment inside a tube.

The organization and the Third Research Institute of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. jointly set up a laboratory for high-speed maglev vehicles operating in low-vacuum environments. Under this arrangement, the ceremony for the test line was carried out in May of last year in Datong where the trials are now once again taking place.

In October, the line made world history by allowing for the first "full-scale and full-process integrated test" of such a hyperloop system when a maglev train ran at speeds of up to 81m/h (130 km per hour).

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Following this success, the laboratory then began the construction of a full-scale 37 miles (60 km) test track to be completed in three phases. The purpose of the full-scale track was reported at the time as to allow the testing of trains at speeds up to 621 miles/h (1,000 km per hour) which seems to be slowly becoming a reality.

An idea that has been around since 2012

SpaceX founder Elon Musk first introduced the idea of a "hyperloop" tube train back in 2012 and developed The Boring Company to bring the idea to fruition. This saw Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, chime in with his own hyperloop company Hyperloop One. 

Since then, both these companies have, however, been plagued by technical challenges and financial burdens. Does that mean that China may soon become the leader in the technology, achieving a historic world first? Only time will tell.

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