Juan Vicén Balaguer – Hyperloop UPV
As partners of Hyperloop UPV, ISTOBAL follows the steps of the students of Valencia Polytechnic University closely. The team competes with the best universities in the world in creating the train of the future. In this interview, Juan Vicén Balaguer -co-founder of the team and responsible for communications- shared the news with us: Hyperloop UPV have been selected to present their prototype in SpaceX Pod Competition II, to be held this summer in California.
First of all, congratulations on being selected and being able to continue in this important competition. We will have a chance to see your prototype in action this summer, then.
That’s right. If SpaceX confirms the dates and we pass all safety tests, everybody will see our Hyperloop prototype in California. We really hope it will be the fastest! We will definitely do our best.
We read you forged an alliance with a university for the next phase.
Yes, we decided to collaborate with Purdue University. They are highly qualified, and we really get on well with them. It is one of the best universities in the world in Aeronautics and Aerospace. We believe in this partnership. To develop a new means of transport, collaboration is key: our international alliance is intended to prove that we grow stronger by being united. Besides, successful companies like ISTOBAL, Altran or Nagares continue supporting us. They believe this important project will change the way we travel.
Did you have to make any changes to your original proposal?
Yes. The ‘train of the future’ concept developed by Hyperloop UPV is designed for 30 passengers, weighs about 19 tons and moves at 1000 km/h. It would be ideal to have a test track for the prototype, it could save huge infrastructure costs. But to date, the only test track is in California and it is only 1.5 km long, which is a big limitation: speed, vehicle size… That is why the prototype had to be adapted so as to be as efficient as possible with existing track conditions.
What will we see on the track, then?
We are currently preparing a pod prototype that can accommodate a small dummy. We are developing technologies that allow us to go as fast as possible without impairing safety. We are ready for that. We are already working here and in Purdue to make it come true.
How do you organise things now that the team has grown?
It was 6 of us at the beginning. We are 35 now, and a 15-member team is helping us too in the US. From an organisational point of view, it is a bit of a challenge . We had to define a new team structure, we learned to delegate, to implement recruitment processes, to schedule general meetings, to handle work schedules and timetable changes, and to standardize tools. It’s been tough, but we are up and running now, so we are very happy and motivated for the second phase.
Will it be the last competition phase, or is there more to come?
Developing a means of transport like Hyperloop takes time. The prototypes for the competition seek to prove that Hyperloop can be possible, but it does take time. SpaceX Hyperloop competition is intended as an annual or biannual event in which technologies are gradually improved to reach the highest possible speed. So there will be more competitions in the coming years and, of course, we will be happy to participate, to demonstrate the potential of the Polytechnic University of Valencia. There is still a long way to go, but we intend to be on the lead.
You entered Pod Competition I a few months ago, how did you like the experience?
It was amazing. We had the opportunity to see the first Hyperloop prototypes in the world, made by students just like us. We learned of all the technologies that are being used and we discussed our progress. Above all, it was a way of getting ready for the next challenge, that is, our own prototype. We are aware that safety comes first for SpaceX. Being able to see how things work there, the size of the track, and all other details is vital if we want to ensure maximum safety.
When do you think we will see a real Hyperloop running?
In 5-10 years time for cargo transport. We may have to wait a little longer for people. Regulations, building infrastructure, and safety are the main bottlenecks. If we overcome them, perhaps in 20-25 years we may be able to use transport with these features, connecting countries in just have an hour.