The hyperloop system, ContiTech claims, will allow for the transport of people and goods at speeds of more than 1,000 km/h – similar to those achieved by aircraft.
The advantage over air transport, according to ContiTech, is that the hyperloop is “much more environmentally-friendly and could be used like a subway”.
The technological concept is based on the principle of reducing the usual resistance of regular trains in tunnel-like tubes so that the vehicles can achieve much higher speeds.
Aerodynamic resistance in particular is reduced to almost zero. The air pressure in the tubes corresponds to only 1% of the usual atmospheric air pressure.
In addition, the hyperloop comes without wheels, which means that they are not there to cause friction. Instead, the capsule-shaped vehicles use magnetic levitation technology or air cushions to move.
According to professor Walter Neu, hyperloop expert at the Emden/Leer University of Applied Sciences, real hyperloop projects are conceivable in the near future and can unlock many new opportunities within the logistics industry.
“It will take another three to five years before the first Hyperloop is actually used for transporting goods,” said Neu.
“There are currently several test tracks under construction, such as in France and the United Arab Emirates, while a route between Vienna and Prague is also being discussed,” he added.
Continental’s contribution to such projects will be the supply of drive belts which meet hyperloop requirements.
“Continental recognised the potential of the technology at an early stage and is working together with talented young people in development work,” the company said.
The company's specific task for the SpaceX competition was to develop a hyperloop prototype with a drive system that can achieve high acceleration in a vacuum, can brake and has its own power supply.
The students met this challenge with an electric motor with an output of 170 kilowatts. This takes the 250kg prototype to a top speed of up to 500km/h.
For this, the project needed high torque and a very powerful belt for its drive system.
The lightweight belt supplied by ContiTech uses carbon cord and polyurethane, and is “extremely energy-efficient” and narrow, explained Alexander Behmann, application engineer at Continental.
“And these aspects – power, reliability and low weight – are precisely what a HyperPod needs,” he added.
The Emden/Leer University team has won a place among the top ten in the competition.