Study: hyperloop opens up opportunities for the Netherlands

Today, Minister Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment) presented a feasibility study into hyperloops to the House of Representatives. The report identifies opportunities for a hyperloop test track in the Netherlands. The hyperloop technology, conceived by Tesla founder Elon Musk, will eventually enable passenger and freight transportation through vacuum tubes at speeds of up to 1200 kilometres an hour.

The report entitled “Hyperloop in the Netherlands”, drawn up by TNO, BCI, VINU, and Arup, paints a positive picture of the societal and economic value of a test track, and proposes the construction of a track with a total length of five kilometres. After assessing various locations with respect to factors such as availability, vital infrastructure junction, and situation, the report suggests the Vogelweg in Flevoland as the most appropriate location. The Netherlands is seeking the global limelight when it comes to self-driving vehicles, truck platooning, and drones; the hyperloop may become a new chapter in this focus on new forms of mobility.

Developments surrounding the hyperloop have boomed since the concept was launched in 2013. Two hyperloop companies – Hardt from Delft and Hyperloop One from the United States – have indicated that they are looking for a location to field-test the hyperloop concept and have it certified for passenger and freight transport. With a view to these plans, Minister Schultz has commissioned a study to find out whether and why the construction of a test track may be worthwhile for the Netherlands.

Positive contribution to the economy

In addition to the hundreds of new job opportunities that will open up when the two hyperloop parties start testing, knowledge will be generated about hyperloop technology. Companies may secure this knowledge in (partially Dutch) intellectual property rights. In addition, Dutch companies may capitalise on the knowledge and expertise gained in a test phase when the companies involved eventually construct a hyperloop for commercial purposes.

Commercial feasibility

The tests should provide more clarity regarding the commercial viability of a hyperloop. Among other things, the test facility needs to explore optimum designs for high speed switches, pods, and stations. It should also demonstrate whether the system can provide sufficient safety, capacity, and comfort, and how the costs will develop. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that standardisation, collaboration, and certification are up to par, at the European level as well. According to the report, in this phase it is still too early to make decisions on commercial routes in the Netherlands.

In the time ahead, further studies will be conducted in collaboration with the two hyperloop companies to explore what is needed to realise a test route in the Netherlands. The choice in this regard ultimately lies with the new Cabinet.

What is a hyperloop?

The hyperloop is an innovative mobility concept for the transportation of freight and passengers. It was conceived in 2013 by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX. Several commercial parties have since been involved in the development of the concept. A hyperloop uses nearly evacuated tubes. These tubes form a maglev train, enabling pods with passengers and/or goods to travel at a maximum speed of approx. 1200 kilometres per hour. The maglev train is driven by an electromotor.