Exclusive Interview With Tanay Manjrekar, 1st Indian To Ride A Hyperloop: “Mumbai To Pune In 30 Mins!”
Tanay Manjrekar – the name that has made every Indian proud!
He is the first Indian to ride the Hyperloop, a truly innovative travelling technology. For those unaware, Hyperloop is a travel system that employs pods or capsules to travel at an insanely high speed through low pressure tubes.
Here is an exclusive interview with Tanay, where he shares some interesting pointers and his own experience of getting a ride in the Hyperloop.
Question: Being based out of Pune ourselves, we are really proud that a Puneite become 1st Indian to experience Hyperloop. How was your experience? How did traveling at such a high speed feel?
My first journey on the hyperloop was simply amazing. It was a culmination of 6 years of hard work for our company and the ride felt like a trip down the memory lane for me. The countless hours and efforts that had gone into developing the technology over the years by a brilliant dedicated team of people had come to fruition. Once the ride was over there was a strong feeling of entering into a new era of transportation. Hyperloop was as real as it gets. It was right there! I was in it! From a passenger comfort perspective it was a really smooth ride and we accelerated from 0 to 171 km/h in about 6.4s. For commercial routes the acceleration would be a lot slower and it would be an even more comfortable ride.
Question: What was your contribution to developing the Hyperloop system exactly? Did you face any issues while building the hyperloop track? Could you share any details?
My role at Virgin Hyperloop as a power electronics specialist is particularly focused on the development of the propulsion and pod dynamics systems. The high level overview is the hardware development required to convert grid power or any form of energy storage into controlled power to propel and control the pods motion. Over the past 5 years this included incrementally developing our wayside and podside distributed power and control systems for DevLoop. From Devloop we moved onto our Passenger Safety demonstration project Pegasus. For Pegasus I was responsible to evaluate the safety functions and requirements of the propulsion system and design the necessary control measures to make the pod safe for human travel. This included failure analysis and the implementation of redundant systems. Our goal with Pegasus was to put a person inside a pod which translates into safety measures at all levels of the systems. I am glad that the implementation resulted in a robust reliable propulsion system which can detect and protect the system and occupants in the rare case of any malfunctions. Safety and methodical design practices have been one of our shining achievements during the Pegasus program.
Question: How does it feel to be the first Indian to be on the hyperloop?
I am filled with immense pride to be able to represent my country at this stage. The response from back home has been so promising and encouraging. To travel abroad for higher studies and then working on cutting edge technology potentially with such a massive impact back home is simply incredible. It was definitely a dream to work on a hyperloop, but being one of the first to ride, it simply feels beyond dreams!
Question: What turned you to this field? Was the Hyperloop system always in your plans?
I have had an inclination towards physics and mechanics since I was a kid. Later on that transformed into an interest in engineering and then finally into power electronics. The theme has been to work on solving challenging problems and chasing difficult questions. Hyperloop fits right into it. It is a dream come true. In fact, in my grad school application, I actually said I wanted to study power electronics so I can work on things as cool as hyperloop that will make dramatic change. From that point onwards it has been a pursuit to find opportunities to work on this technology. And I have been fortunate to be able to spend the last five years developing one. The journey at Virgin Hyperloop has been nothing less than spectacular.
Question: Was there any training involved that you were required to take before you ride? Were there any safety precautions you were required to take?
Hyperloop is meant for everyone. That has been our design goal and it implies that we are designing a system for which one doesn’t need special training. The passenger experience for commercial routes will be designed to be an enjoyable and seamless experience. For project Pegasus, everyone in the company was given an opportunity to apply. Since this was still a test program we had to go through some basic emergency training programs during the preparation, but that was simply out of an abundance of caution. At the end of it four of us, playfully called the “Pegasus Four” now, were selected as the first occupant crew. I feel proud to say that I have actually built the system I am riding on!
Question: When do you think will Mumbai Pune hyperloop be ready?
The Pune-Mumbai project is very close to my heart. Lived in Pune my whole life and travelled back and forth to Mumbai since childhood. People travel between these two cities on a daily basis. Some commute for work while others travel to meet their relatives, friends and family. Just think how easy it would be if you could travel from Mumbai to Pune in under 30 minutes. Over the years in my personal experience, the 4 hour drive between the two cities seems to take longer each and every year due to the increasing traffic on this route. Our feasibility study shows that not only does a hyperloop provide a solution for alleviating the current bottleneck, but it also provides a permanent solution for decades to come. I’m biased but I truly hope hyperloop happens in India first. We expect our first deployment to be completed before 2030. This is not science fiction – we just showed the first people in a hyperloop pod. It can be a reality for India if we support it. It is my hope that India sees the tremendous opportunity ahead of them, embraces the challenge and leapfrogs the rest of the world yet again, and continues to progress the Pune-Mumbai hyperloop project.
Question: Other than Mumbai and Pune, do you think this will be developed elsewhere in India? Or the world?
Hyperloop by no means is limited to only the Pune-Mumbai route. Take our recent Bengaluru study for instance. It’s a prominent growing IT hub and the traffic in the city is only going to increase with time. When hours become minutes, everything changes and hyperloop provides us that solution. We see enormous potential to connect the entire subcontinent and look forward to discussions with other states as well. In addition to our recent announcement with BIAL, we also signed a MoU with Punjab’s Transport Department in December 2019 and we hope to expand on our relationship with the state as we continue exploring opportunities in northern India independent of our work in the western and southern regions of the country. We have several other routes under study in Dubai, KSA, Europe and the states as well. It is quite incredible to see that people from all across the globe recognize the transformational value that a hyperloop would deliver.
Question: It takes so much time to get from Bengaluru to the airport of Bengaluru. In such cases, do you think the hyperloop will be possible intra-city?
Definitely, in fact our recent study in Bengaluru explicitly evaluates that option. A few months ago the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) and Virgin Hyperloop signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to conduct a feasibility study to link Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) with the city with super high-speed hyperloop transportation. The idea is to reduce travel time between the airport and city down to 10 minutes – which takes upto 3 hours right now. This would help alleviate many of the current traffic bottlenecks in Bengaluru and would change the dynamics for locals on a day to day basis.
Question: When the Mumbai Pune Hyperloop does become a reality, what do you think the fare might be? Will the common man be able to afford it?
Hyperloop is mass transportation. It’s simple – if it’s not affordable, people won’t use it. We are looking to build something that will expand opportunities for the masses, so they can live in one city with their family and work in another. We want to ensure that at the end of the day the price is comparable to any other common modes of mass transport available in the region. We are building it with an intention that one shouldn’t have to worry about the cost when traveling between cities, rather should just be able to travel at their will. That is what true connectivity stands for. The common man would be able to afford a hyperloop, and the experience would be a convenient and enjoyable one.