Hyperloop: Container transportation by tube

Transporting containers through a tube using magnetic levitation technology – Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) and the US company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) are working to make this vision a reality someday. To that end, they established the joint venture “Hyperport Cargo Solutions” (HCS) in December 2018 to collaborate on the development of key components for a Hyperloop transport system. The new technology is to be marketed worldwide in the port and transport logistics sector.

Joint development work

However, the course ahead is still long. The initial plan is to design a product concept and the roadmap for a commercial prototype. For this, the partners aim to create a Hyperport mock-up, also known as a demonstrator, by October 2021 at HHLA’s Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA) in Hamburg. The aim of the demonstrator is to visualise the handling process in a Hyperport and to demonstrate its integration with autonomous vehicles, among other things.

By developing the Hyperloop transport system, HHLA is promoting novel logistical mobility solutions. As the “Gateway to the future”, the company’s goal is to help relieve the pressure on transport infrastructure with innovative solutions. Its partner HTT is already an expert in Hyperloop technology: its team of 800 engineers is developing Hyperloop concepts with 40 partners worldwide.

A new mode of transport that offers many benefits

The joint idea behind Hyperport Cargo Solutions: Hyperloop will complement rail and road as modes of hinterland transport. In theory, the further development of magnetic levitation technology has many benefits:

  • Extremely fast mode of transport
  • Secure transport of containers, as there are no external influences
  • Environmentally friendly transport with low emissions
  • New mode of transport relieves pressure on rail, road and air network
  • Energy efficient, even with large volumes: there is no energy consumption once levitation phase is reached; energy is recovered when brakes are applied

A convincing basic concept

Until now, the Hyperloop concept has been based on the idea of transporting people at high speed through a tube. Using magnetic levitation technology, transport capsules are sent through a tunnel with a partial vacuum. If people can be transported using the Hyperloop system – which is now feasible, as tests on trial routes have shown – it should also be possible to use the system to transport goods. And because containers are globally standardised, they are particularity suitable. Goods that have already been loaded into containers do not need to be reloaded for Hyperloop transport.

Unlike with the transportation of people, the focus of “Hyperport Cargo Solutions” is not on speed but rather on the greatest possible throughput (transport units per hour) and on low-energy transport.

By the way: Elon Musk is not involved

Tesla founder Elon Musk is involved neither with this project nor with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. However, he did come up with the basic idea of the Hyperloop. When Elon Musk published a white paper on this technology in August 2013, the concept entered the public domain and could be used by anyone. Since then, many independent project teams have been advancing the development and implementation of Hyperloop technology.