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Hyperloop Startup Says Its Tech Is Safer, Cheaper Than High-Speed Trains

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, one of several companies trying to build a futuristic transportation system that can hurtle people and cargo in pods at over 700 miles an hour, says it has licensed technology that is safer and cheaper than what conventional high-speed trains use.

The announcement comes a day ahead of a planned May 10 event in Nevada by rival and similarly named Hyperloop Technologies.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, or HTT, says the base technology of its proposed high-speed transportation system is passive magnetic levitation originally developed by Dr. Richard Post and his team at Lawrence Livermore National Labs. The startup has worked with the national lab over the past year to develop and build test systems using the technology, according to HTT.

Using a passive magnetic levitation system—and not an active magnetic levitation system—would eliminate the need for power stations along the hyperloop track, Bibop Gresta, the chief operating officer for Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, said in a statement. The magnetic levitation, or maglev as its known in the industry, enables the Shanghai high-speed Transrapid train to reach top speeds of about 270 mph.

Keep in mind, that Hyperloop is still theoretical in many respects, even if aspects of the underlying technology has been tested. It’s impossible to validate the “safer” and “cheaper” claims until the Hyperloop is built and tested, if ever.

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As illustrated in the video below, a passive magnetic levitation system places an permanent magnets in the hyperloop train pod. A linear motor propels the pod initially, and then the magnets interact with packed coils of insulated wire on the track, which causes the pod to levitate and accelerate to the super-fast cruising speed of 760 mph.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPAtHvyvV7k&w=560&h=315]

“From a safety aspect, the system has huge advantages, levitation occurs purely through movement, therefore if any type of power failure occurs, Hyperloop pods would continue to levitate and only after reaching minimal speeds touch the ground,” Gresta said.

The idea of a hyperloop was first floated by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2013. Instead of building the system, he challenged others to pursue and potentially develop the concept.

The idea has fascinated and inspired a group of startups to try to develop the idea—or at least invest in it. HTT and Hyperloop Technology premiered soon after, followed by a SpaceX-sponsored pod design competition in January. SpaceX is now building a track to test pods created by winners of its design competition. Even U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has expressed interest and indicated his agency could make research funding available.

The race between HTT and Hyperloop Tech, which is also using levitation technology, has heated up in recent months. HTT, which is a crowdsourced effort, is building a five-mile test track in California. In March, HTT said it reached an agreement with Slovakia for a possible Hyperloop system to be built in that country.

Meanwhile, Hyperloop Tech received approval to receive $9.2 million in tax incentives to create a testing facility in North Las Vegas, the same location where electric car startup Faraday Future is building its factory.

Hyperloop Tech is planning a demonstration Tuesday of its project along with some big announcements, the company tweeted.