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July 14, 2024

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Update 2021/1/7


By Suzanne Forcese

Think of a space craft that’s built like a jet but operates like a train comfortably and elegantly carrying passengers as well as cargo. It would be levitated at speeds exceeding 1000 km/hr over or underground. It would avoid traffic, reduce highway accidents, save millions of hours of commuter time, deliver time-sensitive cargo to its destination swiftly. Slashing logistics costs and engineered with zero emissions, it would be carefully integrated into the environment not to disturb agriculture or the landscape. It could be the back-drop of a Jules Verne novel or a science-fiction movie.

It is however a reality and the gears are already in motion for Canada’s first hyper-loop system that will break time barriers carrying passengers and cargo between Calgary and Edmonton.

A TransPod hyperloop system allows passengers to travel at ultra-high speed over 1000km/hr through a vacuum along a network of low pressure steel tubes

WATERTODAY had the pleasure of speaking with Sebastien Gendron, Co-Founder and CEO of TransPod (founded in 2015) about the potential of one of the most disruptive transportation technologiess in the 21st Century.

Within 2 years, Gendron combined his 10 years of aerospace experience and a team of 15 experts to create the breakthrough “hyperloop” Canadian technology. The fully electric system will carry both passengers and cargo, faster than a jet, in a low-pressure tube environment.

TransPod’s patents have secured funding from Italian investors, and partnerships with major industrial companies in Canada and Europe.

Now TransPod has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Alberta (October 2020) for the development of the hyperloop system that will connect the cities of Calgary and Edmonton.

CEO & Co-Founder Sebastien Gendron

“The European Union has identified tube transportation as one of the initiatives to fight climate change. It’s a good positive sign that we can do the same in Canada,” Gendron said.

The project will create up to 38,000 jobs and reduce Alberta’s carbon emissions by up to 300,000 tonnes per year, without having to commit to any taxpayer dollars.

Targets are to have the technology fully tested, a loop built between Calgary and Edmonton and carrying passengers by 2030.

The Alberta TransPod phases are:
  • Feasibility study (2020-22)
  • Research and development phase (2020-24)
  • Test track construction and high-speed tests (2022-27)

Artist’s Conception of the TransPod Hyperloop with the city of Calgary in the background

“Hyperloop is not a new concept,” Gendron told WT. “In fact the idea has been around for about 100 years.” In 2013 the concept was popularized by Tesla founder, Elon Musk and explicitly “open-sourced” by Musk and SpaceX with others encouraged to take the ideas and further develop them.

“In 2000 I had reached a point in life where I had to decide to stay in my professional career and being frustrated or starting my own venture making something work and making it work differently and better.”

“We are living in a society where we are not ambitious enough. Companies have stopped innovating but only look to short-term gain.”

Musk’s challenge provided Gendron with an opportunity to take a century’s old concept and make it better. “With transparency, courage and an ethical approach.”

By 2015, Gendron had formed a team. At the University of Toronto he connected with then Masters student Ryan Janzen “who is really the genius behind this whole project, both from a technical/engineering perspective and a business perspective. His breakthrough moment came by inventing a brand-new system – the TransPod Line.”

“The key to this breakthrough was a physics-first strategy. Rather than copying ‘hyperloop’, we took a strategy with a completely new technology, throwing out all previous designs, and instead, returned to fundamental physics and engineering, holistically designed from the ground up.”

Dr. Ryan Janzen, inventor of Transpod & Co-Founder TransPod

“We presented our first performance feasibility intermediary report just before Christmas (2020). And it was very well received both by the government and financial institutions.

“As of today, we have both cities, both airport authorities, freight companies, First Nations communities, and the Minister on board. It almost feels too good to be true,” Gendron adds regarding the support generated by the project.

“When we started this exceptional adventure with Ryan of building tomorrow’s transport we also discovered that we can be quite confident in receiving funding from private investors. We will finalize the feasibility study in April 2021. We already have funding for the first 20 kilometres of infrastructure.”

Gendron admits that there is still some public education necessary. “We have to explain how the technology works. Many still believe it is a Musk technology. It is not. He only issued a conceptual document regarding information that has been available for the past century.”

“We have the intellectual property. In fact I think we are the only ones who know how this works.”

The TransPod vehicle can carry up to 50 passengers or 10 tonnes of cargo. Transport focuses on safety, comfort, flexibility. With convenient departures every 2 minutes, passengers simply go to the station, board the next TransPod vehicle and embark for a quick journey over hundreds of kilometres. The trip between Calgary and Edmonton will take 30 minutes. Passengers can purchase a ticket on the spot for about $50.

The TransPod Demonstrator. A new tube transportation technology beyond the “hyperloop” concept. TransPod’s patented innovations greatly improve the efficiency of the system while reducing the cost of building a line.

As infrastructure costs account for 90% of the overall budget for the construction of a line it is vital to keep them a low as possible to ensure the profitability of future projects. Therefore TransPod’s intellectual property enables ultra-high-speed propulsion without installing expensive electromagnets on the track. Stability control during levitation phases and contactless power transmission ensure continuous power supply without the need for heavy-on-board batteries.

The patents include:
    Ultra-high-speed contactless power transmission (Quantum Power™)

    This system uses plasma to transfer power from 2 power rails located on the infrastructure to the vehicle. This power transmission is an innovation allowing power transfer at very high speeds going beyond traditional pantograph, MAGLEV, and 3rd rail shoe systems. The low pressure inside the tube enables high-efficiency power transmission.

    Levitation, Thrust and Braking (Jet Glide™)

    TransPod uses active levitation achieved through magnetic motors located on the vehicle. These linear magnetic motors generate thrust, braking, and maintain the vehicle centred along the guideway. The pod is equipped with a self-canting mechanism allowing it to easily rotate in tight curves along the guideway.

    After having tested the sub-systems through computer-aided simulations and lab prototypes, the TransPod teams are now ready to begin a series of physical tests on the entire integrated system.

In keeping with Gendron’s philosophy of leadership, courage and responsibility, the TransPod Team is embarking on other revolutionary ventures.

“When Covid hit in March 2020, I asked Ryan if there was some way we could make a contribution with our technology. And yes, he had an idea.

Janzen’s ventilator design

Janzen’s ventilator design is in the process of being certified by Health Canada. “We expect the certification process to be completed by spring and then commercialization can begin.”

“Our idea beyond this is to continue to develop other products in the medical field and beyond.” “The way we differentiate ourselves from other companies is we look for win-win situations for everyone. We need to be leaders with courage and responsibility.”


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