Transportation is heavily challenged by global phenomena such as population growth, urbanization and climate change which led to contrasting needs of providing more frequent and faster connections while simultaneous reducing emissions. In the European Union especially, transport systems play a vital role as they enable the free movement of goods and services and therefore the generation of economic wealth across all member states. In short, the transport sector and its infrastructure form one of the backbones of the single European Economic Area. As a complex network, transport infrastructure connects cities and accommodates human activities coupling social, economic and environmental systems with urbanization and population growth. The transport network also contributes to the socio-economic development and increased quality of life by the creation of inter- and intra-city connections during urbanization by promoting the accessibility and connectivity between economic centers and areas of interest. In detail, transport infrastructure among cities leads to urban aggregation and diffusion, greatly boosting the regional and national economic development.
Technological progress in vehicles, in infrastructures and in ICT solutions have facilitated the globalization of the world economy, reduced travel times and provided more comfort at a lower cost. However, it has become apparent that contemporary transport systems also have severe drawbacks related to increased air pollution, noise nuisance and traffic congestion that can deteriorate the quality of life that they are meant to support instead. One possible way to address these concerns in the long term is to develop new and advanced modes of transport that satisfy environmental compatibility through minimal carbon footprints on the one hand, while on the other hand accommodate possible high-capacity and high-speed throughput to support society’s future needs.
Regarding this urge for change, there is an increased dynamic of innovations in the transport sector, both from the technological and business model perspective, with the potential to disrupt the industry as it is nowadays. Among the new transport modes proposed, the Hyperloop is an emerging concept for mid/long-distance travels as a carbon-free alternative to airplanes and as a complement to the railway network both in preserving investments already completed and planned while unlocking the full economic and social development of the areas not yet served by premium transport modes. The Hyperloop is a guided mode of transport that operates magnetically levitating vehicles running at up to sonic speed within a low-pressure tube. Such a concept is set to rely exclusively on renewable sources like solar energy also leveraging the extension of the linear infrastructure as a whole.
Due to the unique concept of Hyperloop the non-recuperative energy losses due to air friction can be minimized by running the system in a low-pressure environment without restriction in high speed capacity. Especially at high speed transport, air resistance and friction are the biggest energy contributions which are normally unavoidably lost due to thermodynamics and thermal conversion. Minimizing substantially the high impact energy losses due to air friction is the key parameter for sustainability. Keeping these losses which scale with the velocity cubed and cannot be recuperated by any means to a minimum is the core objective of hyperloop.
However, noise, weather-exposure, safety, total energy consumption and the aforementioned direct emissions of greenhouse gases connected with freight transportation will be substantially reduced through the use of Hyperloop. Emerging solutions need to be carefully analysed and evaluated so as to understand what their contribution to a sustainable transport system can be.
HSEL’s (University of Applied Sciences Emden/Leer – HSEL) profile as a university of applied science, research center and in particular its leading role in the HyperPodX project, demonstrates that it is very well placed to bring Hyperloop expertise to ePIcenter with a broad perspective to integrate this exciting technology into modern logistics applications and “Industry 4.0” operations. HSEL’s main tasks are Artificial Intelligence & ePIGEN Optimisation, design and construction of a demonstrator and Freight Network Configuration Impact Comparator as well as important input to vision, standards, lessons learned and exploitation.
The Hyperloop & New Transport Technologies Demonstrator aims at understanding how new concepts in transportation solutions in combination with new strategies to organize freight flows in major ports have an impact on global freight transport contributing to major reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It will contemplate the impact of future innovative transport solutions such as freight hyperloops and new unmanned electric vehicles. To do so it will consider the complex model of Europe’s largest manufacturing company Volkswagen, its large operation and its major freight warehouses around Wolfsburg. Regional logistic concepts for hubs, requirements from the hub operator perspective and requirements from large manufacturer point of view will be taken into account. ePIcenter will analyse different scenarios comparing the transport/value chain of today with different options in the future.
The University of Applied Sciences Emden/Leer:
The University of Applied Sciences Emden/Leer was newly founded in 2009 and is located in Emden, Germany. With 25 bachelors´s degree programs and 12 master´s degree programs the university is one of the most important teaching facilities in the region of Northern Germany. Four study faculties are represented here: Business Studies, Technology, Maritime Sciences and Social Work and Health.
The university is characterized especially by its regional reference and by its internationality. The location establishes a regional connection to the Ems region and is ideal for maintaining international contacts due to its close proximity to the coast and the border. In addition, there are international contacts due to joint study programs with other partners.
In all technology and research issues, the university acts as a contact for companies from industry and trade in the region. Contacts to specialists and laboratories are arranged for the companies located in the region and contacts to competent research partners are established.
Through the research work and further education opportunities at the university, impulses are given to the regional economy for new orientations and start-ups.
The university takes on responsibility for sustainable development within our society. We want our students to be able to meet future challenges in accordance with the principles of sustainability. Our research is oriented towards helping to solve global problems in technology, economy and society.
Institute of Hyperloop Technology:
The Institute of Hyperloop Technology (IHT), founded in 2021, focuses on Hyperloop development and applications both in fundamental and engineering sciences. The institute aims to establish an international consortium to foster a Large-Scale Hyperloop Research and Technology Facility in Europe, with testing occurring at operational conditions. This joint effort of the private sector and academia in an open research network will accelerate the development of a standardized European Hyperloop ecosystem. In addition, the IHT is now focusing its activities on academic research to create a European Hyperloop solution with the help of academia and industry.
Apart from the ePIcenter project the Institute is involved in other international research projects to develop a sustainable transportation solution for the future. These include e.g. the Hyperloop Development Program in the Netherlands and EuHyTec, a funding opportunity from the State of Lower Saxony to develop a Large-Scale Test Infrastructure for Hyperloop Technology in Lathen.