India is not expected to embrace hyperloop technology for ultra high-speed trains in the foreseeable future, according to V K Saraswat, a member of NITI Aayog. He expressed reservations about the technology, citing its current immaturity and economic viability. The hyperloop concept was proposed by Elon Musk, the visionary behind Tesla, an electric car company, and SpaceX, a commercial space transport company.
Saraswat, who leads a committee evaluating the technological and commercial feasibility of Virgin Hyperloop technology, revealed that some foreign companies have expressed interest in introducing the technology to India. However, he noted that the offers from foreign countries lacked viability due to their technology’s low level of maturity.
Hyperloop technology envisions high-speed trains operating within a vacuum-sealed tube, initially conceived by Elon Musk [in fact, it’s a century-old idea – editor]. Saraswat emphasized that at this juncture, hyperloop remains in the experimental phase, and he does not anticipate it becoming a part of India’s transportation infrastructure any time soon.
The Virgin Hyperloop conducted a successful test run on November 9, 2020, on a 500-meter track in Las Vegas, with passengers traveling inside an enclosed tube at speeds exceeding 161 km/hr. However, Saraswat emphasized that the current offers regarding hyperloop technology are insufficiently mature to warrant investment.
Virgin Hyperloop is among the few companies pursuing such a passenger travel system. The Maharashtra government has approved the Virgin Hyperloop-DP World Consortium as the original project proponent for the Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop project, considering it a public infrastructure initiative.
Regarding India’s reliance on lithium imports from China, Saraswat acknowledged that the production of lithium-ion batteries in India is currently limited, resulting in significant battery imports, primarily from China due to cost competitiveness. He expressed hope that in the near future, several Indian business houses will enter large-scale production of lithium-ion batteries in the country, thus reducing dependence on imports.
Approximately 75% of lithium-ion imports into India originate from China. In an effort to secure a more stable supply chain, India has explored options like engaging with Chile and Bolivia for potential lithium mining ventures. Saraswat noted that India’s private sector has initiated business-to-business agreements with companies in these countries for a consistent lithium supply.
In addition, the Indian government is promoting methanol as an alternative fuel. Saraswat shared that trials blending 15% methanol with diesel have been successfully completed in collaboration with Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and Ashok Leyland, demonstrating progress in adopting methanol as a cleaner fuel option.