First phase of UAE hyperloop on track for 2020

File photo showing Journalists and guests looking over tubes following a propulsion open-air test at Hyperloop One in North Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. in 2016. (Reuters)
Updated 17 January 2019

First phase of UAE hyperloop on track for 2020

LONDON: Phase one of the world’s first commercial hyperloop system will be ready next year, says the boss of the company building the new transport system in the UAE. 

Bibop Gresta, chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, said the first 10 km out of a 150 km stretch linking Abu Dhabi to Dubai and Al Ain will be completed in 2020 at a cost of $20 million to $40 million per kilometer.

The total cost of the 150 km system between Abu Dhabi and Dubai — the first of its kind in the world — is estimated to be between $3 billion and $6 billion but Gresta said it would recoup its costs within eight to 15 years.

He revealed the Abu Dhabi hyperloop capsule has already left Spain, where it was built, and is due to start tests in Toulouse, France on a prototype track.

Under an agreement signed last April with Aldar Properties of Abu Dhabi, Hyperloop will operate the rail system and construct a commercial center, research and development center, a visitor center and “innovation hub” on the Seih Al-Sdeirah landbank on the border between Abu Dhabi and Dubai emirates, close to both Al-Maktoum International Airport and the Expo 2020 site.

“It was a far-fetched dream but we are all excited now that it’s a dream coming true in the UAE in 2020,” Gresta told WAM, the official news agency of the UAE. “Basically, the Abu Dhabi Hyperloop system is right now past the feasibility study.”

The hyperloop consists of a pod propelled by electro-magnetic levitation at speeds of up to 1,123 km per hour, potentially reducing the traveling time between the two emirates to mere minutes. 

Gresta insisted the system would become profitable quickly as it is simpler and lighter in design and uses less energy than conventional types of mass transport. 

“It presents the ability to build a mass transit system that would not require government subsidies,” he said. “In regions where road and railway infrastructure is scarce, hyperloop can be a leap over 20th century technology directly into the 21st century. In regions with developed infrastructure, hyperloop can easily integrate and complement current and future road and rail networks.”

There are three hyperloop test tracks in the world — two in the US and one in Europe.

However a transport expert cast doubt on the timescale and warned the hyperloop could be sent into operation too soon.

“It’s the UAE, where they had the first drone police bike, the first drone taxi and every hyper car that exists,” said Stanford Ellis, publisher and editor of the website Transport Monthly. 

“The hyperloop is quite viable as long as it’s done properly, but the UAE might push it along.”


Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

Updated 20 min 30 sec ago

Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

  • As EV sales rise, French insurer AXA warns that drivers are struggling to adapt to cars’ rapid acceleration

LONDON: Electric luxury cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) may be 40 percent more likely to cause accidents than their standard engine counterparts, possibly because drivers are still getting used to their quick acceleration, French insurer AXA said.

The numbers, based on initial trends from claims data and not statistically significant, also suggest small and micro electric cars are slightly less likely to cause accidents than their combustion engine counterparts, AXA said at a crash test demonstration on Thursday.

AXA regularly carries out crash tests for vehicles. This year’s tests, which took place at a disused airport, focused on electric cars.

Overall accident rates for electric vehicles are about the same as for regular cars, according to liability insurance claims data for “7,000 year risks” — on 1,000 autos on the road for seven years — said Bettina Zahnd, head of accident research and prevention at AXA Switzerland.

“We saw that in the micro and small-car classes slightly fewer accidents are caused by electric autos. If you look at the luxury and SUV classes, however, we see 40 percent more accidents with electric vehicles,” Zahnd said.

“We, of course, have thought about what causes this and acceleration is certainly a topic.”

Electric cars accelerate not only quickly, but also equally strongly no matter how high the revolutions per minute, which means drivers can find themselves going faster than they intended.

FASTFACT

Accident rates among luxury and SUV electric vehicles are 40 percent higher than for their combustion engine counterparts.

Half of electric car drivers in a survey this year by AXA had to adjust their driving to reflect the new acceleration and braking characteristics.

“Maximum acceleration is available immediately, while it takes a moment for internal combustion engines with even strong horsepower to reach maximum acceleration. That places new demands on drivers,” Zahnd said.

Sales of electric cars are on the rise as charging infrastructure improves and prices come down.

Electric vehicles accounted for less than 1 percent of cars on the road in Switzerland and Germany last year, but made up 1.8 percent of Swiss new car sales, or 6.6 percent including hybrids, AXA said.

Accidents with electric cars are just about as dangerous for people inside as with standard vehicles, AXA said. The cars are subject to the same tests and have the same passive safety features such as airbags and seatbelts.

But another AXA survey showed most people do not know how to react if they come across an electric vehicle crash scene.

While most factors are the same — securing the scene, alerting rescue teams and providing first aid — it said helpers should also try to ensure the electric motor is turned off. This is particularly important because unlike an internal combustion engine the motor makes no noise. In serious crashes, electric autos’ high-voltage power plants automatically shut down, AXA noted, but damaged batteries can catch fire up to 48 hours after a crash, making it more difficult to deal with the aftermath of
an accident.

For one head-on crash test on Thursday, AXA teams removed an electric car’s batteries to reduce the risk of them catching fire, which could create intense heat and toxic fumes.

Zahnd said that studies in Europe had not replicated US findings that silent electric vehicles are as much as two-thirds more likely to cause accidents with pedestrians or cyclists.

She said the jury was still out on how crash data would affect the cost of insuring electric versus standard vehicles, noting this always reflected factors around both driver and car.

“If I look around Switzerland, there are lots of insurers that even give discounts for electric autos because one would like to promote electric cars,” she said.