Apr 17, 2020 - Economy

A commercial hyperloop is still at least 20 years in the future

A train tunnel.

Photo: Virgin Hyperloop One

A new research report says a hyperloop, the high-speed travel concept, is at least 20 years away from commercialization.

The big picture: Climate change has fueled interest in finding low-carbon alternatives to conventional rail and air travel. An electric hyperloop is one solution, because it operates in a vacuum system that reduces aerodynamic drag, enabling higher speeds and greater energy efficiency.

  • Passengers would ride in levitating pods inside a narrow tube at speeds well above 500 mph.
  • Virgin Hyperloop One explains the technology in this video.

Yes, but: A new report from Lux Research says while the concept is technically feasible, it will require significant development to become cost-effective.

  • "Despite the considerable amount of hype and attention hyperloop has received and the potentially important role it could play in decarbonizing long-range transit, the concept remains more or less unproven, and serious questions remain about its economic feasibility," says Lux Research Senior Analyst Christopher Robinson.

The bottom line, via Lux Research: the first passenger-carrying high-speed hyperloop systems won't begin operation before 2040 at the earliest.

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