Calgary to Edmonton in 30 minutes? Hyperloop could be the future of transportation in Alberta

The head of TransPod, a Toronto-based startup that hopes to build hyperloop technology, is coming to Calgary to check out the corridor between it and Edmonton.

Toronto-based startup TransPod looks at Alberta corridor to see if hyperloop could connect the 2 cities

Aluminum pods would ride on a cushion of air and transport people at high speeds between cities. (Transpod)

Imagine getting from Calgary to Edmonton in under 30 minutes without having to race pickup trucks on the QEII.

With transit technology called hyperloop, that dream might someday become a reality.

Next week, the head of a Toronto-based startup that plans to build hyperloop technology is coming to town to check out the Calgary-to-Edmonton corridor. 

Sebastien Gendron, the CEO of TransPod, spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener Friday about what the technology could bring to Alberta. Below is an edited version of that conversation.

Q. What exactly is a hyperloop?

A. A hyperloop is a system which consists of putting a vehicle the size of a train coach in a tube structure, where you then connect that with vacuum pumps and remove most of the air to avoid friction and achieve speeds up to 1,000 km/h.

The vehicle uses magnetic propulsion and levitation systems, similar to what we've seen in Japan, and the vacuum just kind of changes the environment around the capsule in the tube.

Q. If a line like this was built, how long would it take to travel between Calgary and Edmonton?

A. It would take less than half an hour to travel between those two cities.

Q. Is there a Hyperloop already running somewhere in the world?

A. SpaceX, [Elon Musk's] American company has been doing a competition with students and they have the first test track in Los Angeles. On the other side, the government of South Korea is planning to build a line soon and so [there] should [be] the first vehicle running there in 2018. 

Q. What has your Toronto-based company so interested in working on a Calgary-to-Edmonton line?

A. There is a need between Calgary and Edmonton, I know there were several projects to develop that high speed rail line, which never got off the ground, so putting that on the table again with the next generation of ground transportation will allow people to travel much faster than what is available today. 

We would like to contribute to diversifying the economy. Alberta has an engaged community and if we can convince key people in the province to develop that line, it will help as well to retain talent and will develop a worldwide centre of excellence where we could showcase the expertise of the province and get high-tech industry developed in the province.

Q. Who would pay for this project?

A. We'll need both public and private funding. Most of the money would come from the private sector. We're working with the Canadian Pension Fund, which is entrusted to build such infrastructure projects in Canada and worldwide, so the objective is not to get most of the money from taxpayers.

We need to see if there is interest to have a system which will boost the economy, create jobs and retain some expertise. There is some interest in this type of high-tech technology developed over here.

Q. How much would this project cost?

A. We're talking about between $15 million per kilometre, but again, that's why we're looking at a corridor — it's a small distance, we have enough traffic to make it economically viable and if it's economically viable, money will come from the private sector

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener