An initiative promoted by the Spanish Association for Standardisation (UNE) has created a new European committee that will develop standards to guarantee the interoperability and safety of this new means of transport in the EU.
In the last two years, Spain has positioned itself as a leader of the hyperloop project in Europe. The development of an ultra-high speed transportation system similar to a train but reaching speeds of over 1,000 kilometers per hour that is energy efficient, designed by the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk. These autonomous vehicles move by means of a floating, magnetic system through a network of low-pressure tubes that will connect cities and logistical centres.
What seems like science fiction is already taking place from various points on the continent. At present, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) have approved the creation of a committee that will develop certain standards to ensure the safety and interoperability of this new means of transport on the European continent. An initiative promoted by the Spanish Association for Standardisation (UNE) in collaboration with its Dutch counterpart NEN, together with the Spanish companies Zeleros, SEOPAN and ArcelorMittal
The idea of this committee, called CEN-CLC/JTC 20, is to address two major challenges from the outset. One is the interoperability and compatibility of the infrastructure across all EU countries. The other is that of security, where compliance requirements are being established to ensure the safe transport of passengers and goods.
Work has already begun
Several Spanish associations and companies are also collaborating in this project, and have been involved in the development of the infrastructure and the transport pipes. The first is the Administrator of Railway Infrastructures (ADIF), which in 2018 signed an alliance with the American company Virgin Hyperloop One, one of the companies involved in the initial project.
The first life-size capsule (32 meters long, five tons in weight, with capacity for about 40 passengers) has been manufactured by the Spanish aerospace firm Airtificial, located in Cadiz. Ninety per cent of the capsule is made of a material created specifically to resist high-speeds with a protective, double-layer based on carbon fibre, eight times more resistant than aluminium. These are the first parts that are being used to complete the route between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which could be the first Hyperloop route in the world.
The hyperloop project is well underway, in terms of design, manufacturing the capsules and defining the tubular structure. The idea is that it should be built on pillars or underground in order to avoid bad weather and environmental impacts.
The system works by means of linear electric motors located along the tube. It will only use energy that it can extract from sources available along the route, in order to make it carbon-free. Moreover, multiple techniques are being tested to ensure passenger safety and comfort. For example, to avoid noise, vibration and shock, or systems for immediate braking of the vehicle and transfer of passengers to evacuation points in case of emergency.
If everything goes according to plan, the first ‘steps’ of this new technology could be seen before 2025, and highly qualified specialists from all over the world are working on it, including those from Spain.