Hyperloop test pod on display at Mizzou

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The University of Missouri at Columbia showcased a piece of what some believe will be a form of high-speed travel in Missouri.

Virgin Hyperloop One placed its test pod on the Francis Quadrangle and a panel of experts explained how that pod has done more than 400 tests at 240 mph at a test side in Nevada. Hyperloop is described as similar to a high-speed train that uses electricity and magnetic levitation to direct pods through a tube.

“Because of that enclosure we don’t have issues of weather,” said Virgin Hyperloop One Business Development Manager Kristen Hammer. “The system has no idea if it’s raining or snowing, we aren’t interacting with any other forms of transportation so there’s no at-grade crossings, no trains, no people, no bicycles, no other cars, no deer jumping out in front of you.”

A feasibility study determined a Missouri line connecting St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City is feasible, but an exact cost has not been determined. Some estimated it would be in the billions of dollars, yet Hyperloop backers say the high-speed system would bring enormous economic benefits. Experts say the system could transport passengers and cargo from St. Louis to Kansas City in 30 minutes.

Bill Turpin is part of a blue-ribbon state panel examining Hyperloop’s potential. He is also MU’s Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for economic development. He said connecting St. Louis and Kansas City with Columbia would give the region an upper-hand on attracting company headquarters.

“You can move a lot of people, 50,000-60,000 people each direction each day," he said.

Turpin envisions high-speed switching systems directing each pod to its destination.

“If I get in one in St. Louis and want to go to Kansas City, it doesn’t stop in Columbia," he said. “You get in a different pod if you want to go to Columbia.”

Elizabeth Loboa, the MU vice chancellor for strategic partnerships and dean of the College of Engineering, believes the system is an enormous opportunity for the entire University of Missouri system to be part of a groundbreaking transportation innovation.

“The fact that Virgin Hyperloop One has brought the pod here I think is a testament to how seriously they take Missouri as a potential route to be the first in the United States to have the Hyperloop,” she said.

There is no exact price tag for what I would cost to make the system a reality in Missouri. Some say it would be in the billions of dollars. Giant tubes would be built from St. Louis to Kansas City with one line running in each direction.

“This is definitely going to happen in the United States and what we want to do is be the first and have it happen in Missouri,” said Loboa.

The pod will available for students to see on Friday at the Francis Quadrangle from 8a.m. to Noon. Virgin Hyperloop One will then bring the pod to St. Louis. It can be viewed during weekend transportation.

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