The Technical University of Munich's (TUM) Hyperloop test track is ready for its first passenger rides. The 24-meter-long test tube at TUM's Ottobrunn/Taufkirchen campus near Munich is Europe's first full-scale Hyperloop test track and was officially opened by Bavarian Minister-President Dr. Markus Söder and Bavarian Minister of Science and Art Markus Blume after less than a year of construction. The Hyperloop pod is fully certified for passenger operation. The research group will now focus on the propulsion system, levitation technology and vacuum behavior.
Transporting passengers from point A to point B at more than 800 kilometers per hour: A lofty goal that researchers at TUM can now pursue under the best of conditions. The TUM Hyperloop Research Group was founded in 2020 as a former student initiative. Since then, the group has been working on a new, low-emission and, above all, faster means of transportation. After less than a year of construction, the 24-meter-long test track now consists of a concrete vacuum tube, a passenger pod, and the subsystems necessary for operation. All components are ready for empirical research on Hyperloop technology. "Now we're able to show the public what future Hyperloop systems could look like. The transition from model scale to realistic dimensions, and in particular the first European passenger test under vacuum conditions, are important milestones on the way to scaling up the technology and testing it with longer segments," says Gabriele Semino, project leader at TUM Hyperloop.
First test with passengers successful
Researchers have already demonstrated that the TUM Hyperloop test segment is fully functional in a first test run. The first ride with a passenger capsule in the vacuum of the test tube took place on July 10, 2023. Before it could begin carrying passengers, the demonstrator had to be certified for passenger transportation by TÜV Süd. The agency's inspection ensures the safe operation of the equipment and paves the way for TUM Hyperloop to thoroughly test its systems.
Passenger capsule and concrete tube tested
The TUM Hyperloop Demonstrator consists of three separate elements. The most visible part is the test track itself, a 24-meter-long concrete tube. About four meters in diameter, it contains a boarding platform and some of the technical equipment needed to levitate and propel the passenger pod. The pod has a comfortable, fully functional interior that provides a pleasant ride for up to five passengers. The passenger module is optimized for operation in a vacuum. The third part of the unit is the operations control center, which controls the demonstrator and also contains components such as a high-performance vacuum pump. "As a fully functional Hyperloop segment, our system allows us to specifically study the propulsion, the technical levitation system and the behavior of the capsule in a vacuum, as well as safety factors," says project manager Semino.
Hyperloop from city to city
Hyperloop systems envision transport and passenger pods traveling through tubes in a near-total vacuum. The vacuum allows the pods to move with virtually no aerodynamic drag, making enormous speeds possible. TUM Hyperloop is focused on using the technology as a sustainable mobility concept for rapid passenger transportation.
Hyperloop is part of the Hightech Agenda Bayern
The TUM Hyperloop program has been part of the Hightech Agenda Bayern since 2020 and is partially funded by the Free State of Bavaria. As part of the Department of Aerospace and Geodesy at the TUM School of Engineering and Design, TUM Hyperloop has access to extensive expertise and resources. A large number of TUM professors and students as well as external partners are involved in the project.
Since 2015, TUM has been working on the vision of making mobility more sustainable and, above all, faster than before. The student initiative was founded to take part in the SpaceX Hyperloop pod competitions launched by Elon Musk's space travel company. The TUM team won first place in all four competitions. Based on this validation, the student project became what is now the TUM Hyperloop Research Group. The goal of the project is to construct a reference segment for the Hyperloop system by the end of the decade, in which passengers can be transported at speeds of more than 800 kilometers per hour.