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Is Hyperloop a Hyped Dream or Practical Design? ANSYS Weighs In

ANSYS' simulation of the Hyperloop design concept based on artist rendering.

Airflow study based on current Hyperloop design, conducted in ANSYS software.

If Hyperloop becomes a reality, I can go from my home office in San Francisco to Los Angeles in roughly half hour. (Lunch in Hollywood, anyone?)

The idea for a hyper-speed train (roughly 600-750 MPH) first began as a crowd-sourced project on JumpStartFund. The concept is backed by, among others, Elon Musk, CEO of TESLA Motors.

“The Hyperloop (or something similar) is, in my opinion, the right solution for the specific case of high traffic city pairs that are less than about 1500 km or 900 miles apart,” he wrote in TESLA’s blog on August 12, 2013.

Another famous name attached to the project is Marco Villa, former director of SpaceX. He joined the project soon after the crowd-sourced design became public. Today, the project is driven by a foundation dedicated to it.

Is it possible to make Hyperloop a mass-commute reality? Dr. Sandeep Sovani, ANSYS’ director of global automotive strategy, believes it is possible, with some modification. His confidence is based on insights from a digital simulation of the initial open-source design.

Blogging about the findings, Sovani wrote, “It sounds like something out of Star Trek or Buck Rogers, but the notion of a super-fast (think speed of sound or faster) ground-based transportation system isn’t science fiction … The Hyperloop will indeed work – with some tweaks.”

In my conversation with him, Sovani identified two critical engineering issues to resolve: “The first is the aerodynamic of the capsule, and the second is how to suspend the capsule inside the tube.”

Based on the digital simulation he’s done, Sovani believed the capsule should be more asymmetrical. Beside insights from the simulation, Sovani also thinks it’s a good idea to “put some air bearings, wheels, or some type of suspension on the upper side of the capsule as well. That’s to prevent it from bumping up against the tube due to instability.”

ANSYS plans to share its findings from the simulation as open-source data, in alignment with the project’s character. For my complete interview with Sovani, listen to the podcast below.

On a personal note, I happen to have quite a few former classmates and good friends in LA I’d like to see on a more regular basis, if I can do so without dealing with the unpredictability, claustrophobia, and long delays associated with air travel. So I have a good reason to keep a close eye on Hyperloop’s development.

I’d like to have breakfast in San Francisco and lunch in LA. Is that too much to ask for?


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About Kenneth

Kenneth Wong has been a regular contributor to the CAD industry press since 2000, first an an editor, later as a columnist and freelance writer for various publications. During his nine-year tenure, he has closely followed the migration from 2D to 3D, the growth of PLM (product lifecycle management), and the impact of globalization on manufacturing. His writings have appeared in Cadalyst, Computer Graphics World, and Manufacturing Business Technology, among others.

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