To encourage student innovation while revolutionizing terrestrial transportation within near-vacuum tubes, SpaceX announced the Hyperloop Pod Competition in 2015. Championed by SpaceX Founder Elon Musk, removing 99.9 percent of all air could theoretically allow vehicles to hit speeds of 1000 km/h, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).
Challenging university teams to develop and build the best transport pod, the first competitions were held in January and August 2017.
The event’s third installment, known as the 2018 Hyperloop Pod Competition, will kick off July 22, 2018, inviting new and returning students to apply. The self-propelled pods will be vying for a singular metric—maximum speed—through a 1.2-km, low-pressure tunnel.
Gearing up for the July deadline, the Hyperloop team at Delft University of Technology recently put their motor module through near-vacuum conditions at the ESA. Components such as the electric motor, battery, sensors, and brakes underwent performance analysis within the ESA vacuum chamber operated in 30-minute intervals.
“TU Delft has a long tradition of entering such engineering challenges,” says Delft team member Rico Hageman. “We’d already subjected individual elements to vacuum testing but the large size of this chamber lets us run everything at once.”
Combining an airless state with the high-power system presents certain design challenges. “In particular there are concerns about the possibility of electrical arcing at low pressure from our high voltage differential,” says Hageman.
“We also want to monitor the temperature of the motor controllers as they run, as well as the performance of the carbon fiber pressure housing around our lithium polymer batteries, which are very high-density batteries but not qualified to work at low pressure,” Hageman adds.
The Delft team submitted initial plans last year, and were one of the 20 qualifying designs allowed to compete in the 2018 competition. Although not the fastest pod, Delft University of Technology attained the highest overall score during the previous two-phase Hyperloop competition.
“Everything started from a blank sheet of paper, so it’s been an exciting—and busy—time for us all,” says Vlad Petrescu, the Delft team’s chief engineer. “We made a lot of tests of components and systems, and have iterated time and time again. In fact we’ll be returning in a few weeks to test our updated version of the system.”
You can view the Delft pod design in the image below.