Stating that India has the capacity to come up with its own design of hyperloop technology for ultra-high-speed travel, Niti Aayog Member VK Saraswat on Sunday said since it is going to take time, the country should permit foreign companies to set up a line to demonstrate the technology. Saraswat, who is heading a committee to explore the technological and commercial viability of the Virgin hyperloop technology, further said India should also constitute a regulatory mechanism because safety is a major issue in hyperloop technology.
“Hyperloop is a high-speed train, running in vacuum in a tube. We (expert committee members) have found that there are two ways of doing it,” he told PTI in an interview. “One is, allowing foreign companies to show demonstrations. Another way is, in parallel, do serious R&D in this particular area, and our studies show that we have a capacity to do R&D and come up with our own designs,” Saraswat, former chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), noted.
The Niti Aayog member, however, said: “But since it is going to take time, in parallel, if the foreign companies are coming who want to set up a demonstration line in say Maharashtra or Karnataka, we should permit them”.
Saraswat also noted that safety and regulatory mechanisms should be put in place as safety is a major issue in hyperloop technology. He, however, added that the expert committee has not taken any final decision.
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.
Replying to a question on shortage of semiconductors leading to production hassles, Saraswat said the government is seriously planning to set up indigenous semiconductor foundries in the country.
“As far as semiconductors are concerned, the government is very seriously thinking of setting up a very strong ecosystem for self-reliance in the area of semiconductors because we have noticed during the pandemic there has been serious disruption of the semiconductor supply chain, which has affected our automobile industry and other electronics industry and so on,” he said.
On recent coal and power shortages in India, Saraswat noted that the disruption took place because of the various problems of logistics, which happened both from the point of view of mining activities and transportation activities.
“Now, the mining activities have been completely revamped. All the mines are working full time. Indian railways has also got additional trains,” he said, adding that there is no power plant in the country suffering from coal shortage now.
The country’s several thermal power plants were facing a crisis in the wake of low coal stock positions at their end. Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi had said the closure of some mines and inundation of a few others due to monsoon led to the crisis.
On the rise in import of copper in recent times, Saraswat said the government is working to keep primary copper production competitive. “There are certain anomalies today with respect to the taxation and things like that…We are trying to look at so that it (copper production in India) becomes more cost-effective,” he said.
India was a net exporter of copper for close to two decades before the closure of the Sterlite Copper plant at Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, in May 2018.