Canadians dreaming of a future Hyperloop system that will shoot them across the 500 km from Toronto to Montreal in less than an hour can also take comfort in knowing that ride won’t be too hot, according to TransPod.
The Toronto-based startup that formed to meet Elon Musk’s challenge to create a half-scale model Hyperloop concept, but now is skipping ahead to developing the full-scale real deal, announced that it’s made a new partnership to keep its Hyperloop cars running nice and cool. Mersen, an engineering firm with expertise in electrical power and working with advanced materials, will work with TransPod to develop a cooling technology that works well in the Hyperloop’s unique vacuum-tube environment.
“One of the main technical challenges we have is to deal with the heat coming from the engines,” says Sebastien Gendron, founder and CEO of TransPod. “It’s a combination of the low-pressure vacuum environment and the fact we’re using high voltage.”
Part of the TransPod design for its Hyperloop vessel involves linear induction motors being powered by an electrical engine to glide through the frictionless vacuum-tube environment. This creates a lot of residual heat, which might dissipate in a normal environment full of air, but since that won’t be available, another solution is required in order to keep the engine running and avoid overheating.
Then there’s the matter of the cabin where the passengers will be sitting. These travellers will probably want to avoid sweating and also continue to breathe. That’s another problem to solve in a vacuum-tube environment, and using technology from airplane cabins won’t do it because those just capture air from outside the vessel.
So Gendron is looking elsewhere for a solution.
“We could use a similar system to the International Space System or what submarines are using as well,” he says. “We want a comfortable ride.”
Such a system would recirculate a finite amount of air, he says, which could be brought on board as passengers board the Hyperloop. Since the trip is only one hour, you wouldn’t need that much air to last the voyage.
“If a pod has a technical problem and is stuck in the tube, we always have the possibility to pressurize the tube and get enough air for the passengers,” he says.
While TransPod was first focused on Musk’s challenge to test a concept on a track near the SpaceX headquarters in California, the terms of that competition pivoted to focus on student teams. Now TransPod has pivoted its sights as well, looking to develop a full-scale concept in time to be demonstrated at the InnoTrans Rail show in Berlin this September.
Visitors to the show will be able to get a sense of what the TransPod experience will be like through virtual reality, Gendron says.