Saraswat, who is heading a committee to explore the technological and commercial viability of the Virgin Hyperloop technology, further said the technology in the country has to be part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.
“In the next 4-5 years, if we can set up a demonstration unit (for hyperloop technology) in Maharashtra, it would be a good achievement for us to learn a lot before we scale it up,” he told in an interview.
The Virgin Hyperloop test run was conducted on November 9, 2020 on a 500-metre track in Las Vegas in the US with a pod, as the hyperloop vehicles are called, travelling with passengers, including an Indian, inside an enclosed tube at more than 100 mph or 161 kmph.
The Virgin Hyperloop is among a handful of companies which are currently trying to build such a system for passenger travel.
Maharashtra has deemed hyperloop a public infrastructure exercise and approved the Virgin Hyperloop-DP World Consortium as the original project proponent for the Mumbai-Pune hyperloop project.
“What we are planning today is only a demonstration kind of experiment. It is not that we are going to convert that straight away into a commercially viable city-wide project,” he said.
Saraswat, former chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), also noted that introduction of hyperloop technology would take time in India.
“The technology itself is not mature, there are safety issues, there are economic issues and there are some issues with respect to the atmanirbharta, how much of it can be done in the country,” he observed.
Saraswat said he does not want it to be a technology which is 99 per cent imported.
“It has to be part of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and should be developed, designed and set up in India,” he said.
Hyperloop is a technology proposed by inventor and businessman Elon Musk, who is behind the electric car company Tesla and the commercial space transport company SpaceX.
With hyperloop, vehicles accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The pod floats along the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
Virgin Hyperloop had last month announced a partnership with the Bangalore International Airport to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed hyperloop corridor from the airport.
The committee has Sudhendu Jyoti Sinha, adviser – infrastructure connectivity, Niti Aayog, as its convener.
Other members include Railway Board Chairman and CEO VK Yadav; secretaries of the ministries of housing and urban affairs and road transport and highways; and the Maharashtra government’s transport secretary.
DRDO’s chairman, Delhi Metro’s managing director, IIT-Delhi director and chairman, Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council are also its members
The mandate of the committee is to study Virgin Hyperloop technology and its commercial viability, safety, regulation and finalise the document within six months of its first meeting.
The committee may also invite domain experts and representatives from various organisations to its meetings.