Events - 21.03.2019 - 00:00 

Travelling in a high-tech capsule at over 1,000 km/h

Dirk Ahlborn wants to revolutionise the future of mobility with his Hyperloop project. The vision: high-tech capsules transport people through low-pressure tubes at over 1,000 km/h in a faster, cheaper and more environmentally friendly way than any other mode of transportation. On Wednesday, the Berlin-born entrepreneur and investor presented his futuristic transport system in the Audimax at the University of St.Gallen (HSG).
Source: HSG Newsroom
Dirk Ahlborn

Passengers and cargo capsules floating through a network of low-pressure tubes between cities, transforming travel times from hours to minutes: that’s the idea behind the Hyperloop. “After the train, car, underground and aeroplane, we urgently need a fifth mode of transportation to solve the world’s transport problems”, Dirk Ahlborn explained, pointing to cities like Los Angeles, where total gridlock is already a reality – or cities like Peking, where smog makes life difficult for people.

A capsule every 40 seconds

According to the founder and CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, the capsules are structured and designed to create a safe and harmonious environment for passengers, with individual interior spaces for application-related experiences. Each capsule is 30 metres long and can transport 28 to 40 passengers. The system permits the launch of a capsule every forty seconds, reaching a top speed of 1,223 km/h. “On a single line at peak efficiency, we could then transport 164,000 people per day.” A trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco, for example, would take 36 minutes.

A vision becomes reality

Dirk Ahlborn points out that when he founded his company, everyone said his vision would never be realised. But he explains that in fact the first Hyperloop lines will go into operation in about three years in Abu Dhabi and China. They will be five to ten metres long at first. One big problem is that engineers are dealing with an entirely new transport system. “Because it is not a train or underground system, we have to create a completely new transport network and regulatory framework.”

Inspiring bright minds

According to Dirk Ahlborn, money is not the main requirement for driving forward a project like Hyperloop; first and foremost, it takes bright minds that are inspired by an idea. “We are more than a company. We have set a movement in motion.” As a result, he relied heavily on crowdsourcing and international collaboration, which attracted the attention of numerous investors and experts.

Today, Dirk Ahlborn’s company has over 800 employees, more than 40 partner companies and a community of around 300,000 people. Scientists from all over the world provide him with key findings, he receivea valuable contacts from interested companies and talented university graduates contribute their dedication and commitment to his company. Collaboration is made easy through digital cooperation, he explains. “I can work with the most talented designers and the most gifted engineers, regardless of where they are in the world.”

Changing something in the world

In the second part of the event, HSG alumnus Christoph Magnussen, founder and CEO of Blackboat Internet GmbH, talked with the entrepreneur about his career and his motivation for revolutionising mobility. The audience learned that he was born in Berlin in 1976 and left his job at a bank at the age of 19. “I did not want to have an ordinary career, but to be free so that I could change something in the world.” He lived in Italy for a long time and worked in various industries. Ultimately he moved to California, where he founded Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) in 2013. The company emerged from JumpStartFund, an Internet platform run by Dirk Ahlborn that promotes new business ideas and projects. The former banker now lives and works in California.

Advantage: energy balance

In his conversation with Christoph Magnussen, Dirk Ahlborn expressed his conviction that the Hyperloop’s advantage lies not only in speed, but also in energy balance. Modern energy sources produce more energy than is consumed, he explains. “For example, solar power produced by photovoltaic systems on the roof of the Hyperloop tubes, that is not used to operate the system, could be sold.” He went on to enumerate further ideas for revenue sources, such as special windows that can submerge passengers in other worlds during the journey. A ticket for a trip in a capsule would itself be very cheap or even free, according to Dirk Ahlborn's concept.

The well-attended event in the Audimax was organised by ISC@HSG, in advance of the 49th St.Gallen Symposium. Invitations were extended to students of the HSG, as well as to the general public. The St.Gallen Symposium will take place from 8 to 10 May 2019 at the University of St.Gallen.