By Toby Sterling
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch team that won this year's edition of the competition held by entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX to develop superfast hyperloop transport technology is setting up a full-scale testing center for the technology.
A hyperloop is a shuttle that travels on magnetic rails, somewhat like a train, but which runs in a tube with little or no air. In theory, hyperloops could allow travel faster than the speed of sound.
"People were dreaming already of transporting humans and cargo (in hyperloops) from the 1860s, so the concept is not that new," said Tim Houter, co-founder of Hardt Global Mobility, the company set up to commercialize the Dutch team's technology.
"But when Elon Musk proposed it as a transportation system between San Francisco and Los Angeles it got a huge boost" in renewed interest.
Hardt grew out of the competition team from the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft), which beat teams from MIT and the Technical University of Munich to win the all-around design and construction award in January.
With the help of several investors, among them TU Delft, the Dutch national railway NS, and construction company BAM, Hardt has built a 30 meter tube and is preparing to fit it with rails and the shuttle it has designed.
"In this facility we will test all systems that don't require high speeds," said Houter ahead of the public opening of the test center.
"So think about the levitation system, but also the propulsion system, but really important, all the safety systems will be tested in this low-speed but full-scale testing facility."
Hardt has 600,000 euros ($675,000) in funding for the initial rounds of testing, with plans to raise more to build a high-speed test line by 2019.
Then "we're going to test all systems that you need to test before you can actually start building a route between two cities so: top speed, taking corners, switching lanes, making it as safe as possible," he said.
Houter's ambition is to break ground on a commercial hyperloop between Amsterdam and Paris by 2021.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Toby Chopra)