Cleveland to Chicago in a half hour? Feasibility study continues to look at hyperloop possibility

Posted at 4:44 PM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-25 15:26:31-05

CLEVELAND — Next month marks a year since plans were announced to study the possibility of a Hyperloop that would make it possible for people to travel from Cleveland to Chicago in half an hour.

A Hyperloop is essentially a train in a tube with each car stretching around a hundred feet and holding 28-40 passengers. The cars essentially levitate on magnetic fields and in the vacuum tubes. They are capable of reaching speeds of over 700 miles an hour.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is the company behind the project. The $1.2 million price tag for the study was approved in June and is being split between the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Ageny (NOACA) and HTT. The study is looking at route options, demand, cost and environmental impacts among other things.

“We at NOACA are very excited at the prospect of a hyperloop route initially connecting Cleveland and Chicago,” spokesperson Jocelynn Clemings told News 5. “Hyperloop has the potential to change the way we move, the way we deliver freight, and ultimately our economy. The feasibility study that is currently underway is anticipated to be complete later this year and we expect that it will answer so many yet-unanswered questions. We look forward to sharing those results as soon as they are available.”

As they wait for those answers, HTT is further along in the process in several other countries, most notably in Abu Dhabi where construction is underway on a hyperloop system, part of which will be commercially operational in 2020. HTT Founder & CEO Dirk Ahlborn told CNBC from Davos, Spain this week that one of the biggest hurdles remains setting the regulatory process for a new form of transportation.

“Hyperloop is something completely new, it doesn't exist today so it's not an airplane and it's not a train so there are no laws that regulate it,” Ahlborn told CNBC. “In order to have worldwide adoption and in order to be able to use the systems you need the regulation in place."

The tubes would run above ground on pylons and while construction costs would be part of what the feasibility study would look at, Ahlborn told News 5 at the February announcement it could pay for itself over time because it uses less energy than it produces.

“We’re using very little energy because we’re inside a very low pressure environment, so the capsule doesn’t encounter any resistance and maintaining that environment is very inexpensive. The latest vacuum technology is very efficient, so we have a cost of probably 25 kilowatt hours per each 10 kilometers, that roughly $3 of energy cost to maintain the vacuum. So operational costs are very minimum,” Ahlborn said.

"Everything that we have seen so far, the studies that we have done show a return of investment from 8 to12 years which is something incredible, it's something that in transportation so really hasn't been seen."
Ahlborn adds since the Hyperloop concept is testing the way transportation itself is looked at, it should also consider transforming the way it’s funded.

“We want to push it a little further, I believe that the way that we monetize transportation today is wrong. Ideally it would be something that’s free. We would change the way that we monetize, you know monetize more on the time making it an experience rather than just asking for a ticket,” Ahlborn said.