Speakers from El Paso County and UCCS joined the leaders of a burgeoning industry that seeks to transform high-speed transportation for what was billed as an executive briefing at Johnny Martin’s Car Central in downtown Colorado Springs Wednesday evening.
The event was hosted by Hyperloop Advanced Research Project, a nonprofit trade association based in the Springs.
A half-dozen businesses across the country are racing to perfect Hyperloop technology while Loop Global, a company from Fort Collins, has produced what it calls ET3 — which stands for Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies.
Both concepts operate in the vacuum of an evacuated tube via magnetic levitation and linear electric motors and produce standard speeds of 400 mph. ET3 claims its car-size capsules will travel at 1,000 mph for regional trips and up to 4,000 mph for global travel.
“The potential for this is unlimited,” Victor Renuart, a retired four-star Air Force general, told the audience. “This is leading-edge technology for our nation.”
El Paso County Commissioner Stan VanderWerf addressed the gathering, as did UCCS Director of Partnerships Stephannie Fortune, who introduced three UCCS math professors working on the project along with a few students.
“We’re excited about what’s happening with our team,” Fortune said.
Dane Egli, president and co-founder of HARP, works for the U.S. Department of Energy in Los Alamos, N.M., and is a former national security director at the White House under President George W. Bush.
“Private companies say they can do this (transportation) faster, clean and cheaper,” Egli said.
D. Worthington, co-founder of Loop Global, showed a video from his team and projected a 3-mile test tube to be ready for the public to ride in by as early as 2020.
Colorado Springs is being considered as a site for testing this space-age technology.
Worthington said what is needed to move forward to create a national or world transportation system for ET3 [or Hyperloop] is political clout and funding.
“I love innovation, and I especially love privately driven innovation,” VanderWerf told the crowd. “It is the place where great ideas come from. I’m just thrilled to be one of the cities being considered for a Hyperloop project.”
VanderWerf suggested an experimental track could connect downtown Colorado Springs with Schriever Air Force Base, “which is which is out east and doesn’t have a lot of population that could get in the way, might be good for easements and we have tons of people driving back and forth commuting there all the time. I have no idea if the Air Force would like that or not. It’s just simply an idea.”
A tube connecting UCCS to downtown was also suggested by officials during the event.
VanderWerf said the Springs is an innovative hotbed.
“For example, we have the world’s largest satellite command and control facility at Schriever Air Force Base. There’s a ton of high tech going on there,” he said. “We have an electronics manufacturer in town that makes cell phone components that has an 80 percent market penetration; 80 percent of the cell phones made in the world have a chip from that plant in Colorado Springs. We have the only small business in the world that can make electronically steered radars, right here in Colorado Springs. We have a UCCS professor who has designed computer screens that do not consume energy as long as you don’t change the screen. We’ve got a ton of biotech companies, we’ve got multiple 3D printing makerspaces, we have a cloud innovation partnership, we have the Catalyst Campus. It’s a little bit different, but it speaks to innovation — we have a massive amount of innovation going on in the craft brewing industry, which is food production. And we also happen to be a coffee shop mecca, with all the different coffee shops here. Most people don’t think of Colorado Springs as a place that has that. And we also have 1,200 nonprofits in our community, a huge number, and a ton of small companies with innovation oozing out of them.”
Also, VanderWerf said, “We’re working on a command and control center to be placed in Colorado Springs that would act as a national control center for horizontal space lift. So these are just some examples of the innovation going on here that we sometimes don’t get credit for.
“And I just want the Hyperloop folks to know if you do something here, you’re going to be a member of a large community of innovation that sometimes is behind the scenes but really exists, is robust and is very powerful.”