A team of engineering students from UNSW are heading to California to compete in Elon Musk’s Hyperloop pod competition, drawing upon the University’s success in solar car design.
The UNSW Hyperloop team will be the only Australian team competing in the contest created by the head of Hyperloop and Tesla, Elon Musk, to create a concept pod for the proposed Hyperloop transport system.
Musk conceived of the Hyperloop transport system as a way of providing high-speed transport, through a system of dedicated underground tunnels.
Musk launched the Boring Company as a spin-off of SpaceX that would concentrate on developing the necessary technology to produce the underground transport loops and has sought to support the development the Hyperloop pod concept as an open source initiative.
At the time of its initial announcement on Twitter, Musk was able to generate significant interest in the Hyperloop concept, which has the potential to provide high-speed transportation between major cities
The UNSW Hyperloop team will compete against 19 other teams, drawn from Universities across North America, Europe and Asia, and Competitors will launch their own Hyperloop pod designs through SpaceX’s mile-long prototype loop, with entries judged on a single criterion, top speed.
“Hyperloop is basically a vacuum train where you hop in pods, and these would be shuttling you between major cities at the speed of sound,” UNSW Hyperloop team manager Harry Zhang said.
“So it has major implications for how we access work, how you think about travel and totally disrupts the urban transport supply chain.”
“It was quite gruelling because we had to apply to compete, then do several design packages over the summer and then finally get accepted in February to be invited to go to SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.”
“The people who do compete and make it through the multiple rounds of elimination are quite revered in engineering around the world,” Zhang added.
The UNSW has had significant success in other innovative transport competitions, including the World Solar Challenge, with the UNSW Hyperloop team intending to draw upon this success in the development of their Hyperloop pod concept.
“Electrically, we’re taking a lot of stuff off the shelf, and also developing stuff that has come from Sunswift, just taking it a step further,” UNSW Hyperloop technical manager Francs McDonald said.
The UNSW Sunswift team recently set a new record for the energy efficiency of a solar racing car, with the car completing a 4,100km journey across Australia in just six days.
The current world champions of the university hyperloop challenge are the Technical University of Munich, which last year set a record top speed of 467km/h per hour, almost halfway to the speed of sound.
The 2019 Hyperloop competition will be held on 21 July at the SpaceX headquarters in California.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.