With its magnetic levitation technology and rocket-fast speeds, the hyperloop can often seem more like a futuristic dream than a real transportation option.
Local leaders want to change that by bringing the technology here to show Kansas City how close they are to actually bringing the idea to life.
“My goal is that when people see this, it’s believing,” said Ryan Weber, CEO of the KC Tech Council. “We’ve got to see this technology. And that will help believe this is going to be something real, this is going to happen.”
Virgin Hyperloop One is displaying its XP-1 pod at the American Royal World Series of Barbecue this weekend at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. The pod is the same one tested in Las Vegas where it reached historic speeds topping 240 miles per hour.
Missouri leaders want to run a 250-mile hyperloop route that would link Kansas city to St. Louis in a 30-minute trip along Interstate 70. The route is considered among the best possibilities in the country because it’s flat, and much of the right-of-way is already owned by the state — although the project still has a long way to go.
The hyperloop works by electronically shooting a pod through a depressurized tube. Magnets line the tube and levitate the pod like an air hockey puck. The lack of air or friction allows it to reach an incredible speed quickly and sustain it with minimal energy.
“This is a whole new transportation system,” Weber said.
This spring, Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr convened a “Blue Ribbon Panel” to find ways to speed the state’s hyperloop route into reality. Members include lawmakers and business leaders in the state. That group is expected to report its findings in the coming weeks, Weber said.
Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Jay Walder said the hyperloop technology is nearly ready for deployment. It’s been tested more than 400 times in Nevada and the company plans to name a location for the first real-world site soon. The test pod wasn’t designed for passengers, but the next prototype will likely hold 28 people, Walder said.
“We’re right on the cusp right now,” he said.
The company is in talks with nine states and several countries interested in a hyperloop route. But Walder said Missouri is well positioned in that competition.
“What’s exciting about it is you’re seeing the government, the private sector, educational-academic institutions all coming together with a creativity about how this could be done,” he said. “We’re doing a first-of-its kind thing. So there is no playbook.”
Greg Kratofil Jr., chairman of the technology transactions and data privacy group at Polsinelli law firm, said the hyperloop would create a ripple through the local economy. It’s projected to cost upward of $10 billion, though no funding source has been determined.
“While putting this in is going to be a costly endeavor it will have a substantial economic impact because of the infrastructure that will need to be put into place,” he said.
Kratofil, who works with the KC Tech Council, noted that the route is likely to start on Kansas City’s east side — an area in need of an economic boost. Additionally, he thinks a Missouri route would become a destination in and of itself. It would link sports fans in Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis and become its own tourism draw.
“We’ll have swagger,” he said. “We have something that everybody in the country if not the world wants to see.”