SpaceX’s returning Hyperloop champion prepares to hit 372 mph on July 21 competition

(Photo: TUM Hyperloop)

For the fourth year in a row, SpaceX will be holding its Hyperloop Pod Competition. The event, which features teams of students from universities across the globe, is expected to raise the game this year, with returning champion TUM Hyperloop (formerly WARR Hyperloop) from the Technical University of Munich looking to hit half the speed of sound with its upgraded pod. 

TUM has been competing in SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod Competitions since the first tournament was held in 2015. The team has created a reputation for creating incredibly quick pods over the years, even beating the 240 mph record set by Virgin Hyperloop in 2018 with an impressive 290 mph run. Even more notable was that TUM was able to accomplish this feat at SpaceX’s Hyperloop test track, which is only 0.8 miles long. 

Inasmuch as this was impressive, the student team from Munich is not resting on their laurels this year. SpaceX requires returning participants to the Hyperloop Pod Competition to introduce upgrades and revisions to their past pod designs, and that is exactly what TUM did. The new pod, christened simply as Pod IV, is almost 1.70 meters (5.57 feet) long, 50 cm (19.6 inches) wide and weighs approximately 70 kg (154 lbs), almost 8 kg (17.6 lbs) lighter than 2018’s Pod III, which hit a record-setting speed of 290 mph the previous year.

In a press release, TUM Hyperloop Team Manager Toni Jukic stated that the team is looking to hit a highly ambitious goal this year.  “This year we plan to reach at least half the speed of sound, over 600 kilometers per hour (372 mph),” he said. Putting that figure into perspective, Pod IV would have to go 40% faster than its pod last year, hitting 372 mph and decelerating to zero in 0.8 miles. 

Ambitious goal aside, this year will likely not be easy for TUM Hyperloop, especially considering that among its competitors is the UNSW Hyperloop team from Australia, which has a pretty unique experience in terms of rapid sustainable transportation. The UNSW has seen success in other innovative transport solutions, with students from the university’s Sunswift team setting a new efficiency record at the World Solar Challenge using a solar racing car that completed a 4,100 km (2,500 mile) journey across Australia in just six days. 

In a statement to The Driven, UNSW Hyperloop team manager Harry Zhang noted that the team had to work really hard to make it to SpaceX’s competition. “It was quite grueling 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,” he said. 

Another team that TUM Hyperloop would likely need to watch out for is Team Delft from the Netherlands. Delft won the coveted overall best pod award in SpaceX’s first Hyperloop Competition, and it was able to reach the finals last year together with TUM (then called Team WARR) and Team EPFLoop from Switzerland. Unfortunately, Delft experienced major issues in the finals, resulting in the team’s pod reaching speeds of only 88 mph before stalling. With a chance at redemption this year with a new, improved pod, Delft Hyperloop could be returning to the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition with a purpose. 

The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition is scheduled to be held on July 21, 2019 at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. Similar to last year’s competition, participants for this year’s tournament will be judged on one key metric: top speed.

"Simon Alvarez : @https://twitter.com/ResidentSponge Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.."
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