Science

Hyperloop: supersonic train project in Toulouse, blunder or trick?

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What is the future of the HTT website, a California company based in Toulouse-Francasal? Minimal presence for a futuristic transportation project that doesn’t take off.

In 2013, Elon Musk put forward the idea of ​​the revolutionary semi-transport TGV. The boss of Tesla electric vehicles and SpaceX reusable rockets proposes using Hyperloop to circulate at high speed (more than 1000 km / h) using magnetic levitation of a capsule with passengers inside a tube at low pressure. Enough to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco in half an hour!

Several companies are vying to develop the technology abandoned by Elon Musk (accused in 2022 of only launching Hyperloop to counter a high-speed line project in California). One of them, the Californian company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), announced in 2017 in Toulouse the establishment of a European research center in the territory of Francazal during a press conference in the presence of representatives of the French state, Toulouse Métropole and the Occitania region. We are starting to dream about the train of the future, able to link Toulouse with Montpellier in a few minutes…

Offices, capsule, test tube at 320m, but no 1km track or repaired mess

HTT soon occupies offices in the control tower, for which the Californian company pays rent to the airport manager (Edeis). The capsule, made in Spain, arrives at the site where HTT is building a 320 m long elevated test tube, which can be partially seen from the Joseph Bares Avenue in Cugno. The construction lease signed between the French state and HTT also provides for the construction of a 1 km test site at Francasale and the conversion of the former non-commissioned officers’ canteen into a research facility. This lease is transferred between Toulouse Métropole and HTT in 2020, when the state transfers the airport to the metropolis, which develops an area of ​​activity next to the runway in the municipalities of Toulouse and Cugno. But in December 2021, it stops. The 1km track will not run at Toulouse, HTT, given it has a 320m pipe long enough to test it, while also ditching the old mess.

Metal pipes are stored on site. Will HTT see the end of the tunnel?
DDM – LORAN DAR

Decontamination €700,000 and €89,000 simulation fee

Today, HTT’s presence is reduced to a 320m pipe and a few pieces of pipe stored on site, as well as three offices in the control tower, while HTT took up more than twice as much as “origin”. Three to five people will work there, according to some visitors, and a dozen according to unauthorized sources. The American leadership refuses, in the name of industrial secrecy, any visit to the site and any demonstration of the reality of the tests that were to be carried out there.

Local authorities have been cautiously supportive from the start. The metropolis certainly funded the cleanup of the site (700,000 euros), which benefited the HTT, but it would still have been carried out, the metropolis points out. “HTT has stalled a little, far from the project and ambitions expressed at the beginning,” admits Agnès Planier Bertrand, vice president of the metropolis in charge of the Francazal campus in particular, “if HTT leaves, the space will be occupied through the tube should be released. It will not be difficult for us to find other interesting projects, especially in the field of transport and aeronautics.”

According to an unauthorized source, the €89,000 region was involved in simulating the impact of particles present in a low-pressure tube on a high-speed capsule. Help is not confirmed by the region.

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