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Technology Trend
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Trend Overview

Impact:
Low
Realization:
5 - 10 Years
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Hyperloop can open up quick delivery opportunities for supply chains, reducing truck movements and continental delivery times from 3-4 days to overnight.

Relevance to the Future of Logistics

Middle-Mile Hyperloop

Like many transportation modes before it, hyperloop was first proposed for efficient, fast passenger transportation. However, with growing customer demand for faster deliveries, hyperloop has also become a potential logistics solution to speed middle-mile cargo deliveries.

DP World Cargospeed in the UAE is the world’s first initiative to build a hyperloop-powered cargo system; it successfully completed tests back in 2020 on 500 m (0.3 mi) of track. The system focuses on shuttling high-priority, time-sensitive palletized goods at up to 1,000 km/h (621 mph) from ports to regional distribution hubs, eyeing a route between Indian cities Pune and Mumbai as its first line. In another development in Europe, HyperloopTT plans to launch the world’s fastest freight system, with tube capsules moving as fast as 1,200 km/h (745 mph), a speed that exceeds a cruising Boeing 777. In 2022, this received further financial backing after passing a risk and safety assessment and meeting new European safety and insurance thresholds, putting HyperloopTT on track to pursue its freight plans further, including a joint project with the Port of Hamburg in Germany.

Overall, while still far into the future, hyperloop technology is passing key milestones that will enable it to one day provide real solutions for logistics and set a new standard for delivery speed.

Underground Urban Freight

As urbanization brings more people to cities, transportation activity on urban roads around the world is projected to more than double by 2050. Freight trucks taking goods in and out of cities will contribute to this and impact the environment, and logistics organizations will feel the consequences – longer and less reliable delivery times for customers.

Foreseeing this issue, the Swiss government in 2022 gave the go-ahead to Cargo Sous Terrain to begin constructing its privately financed underground system with phase 1 operations starting in 2031. In this first phase, specially designed cargo pods, including refrigerated units, each loaded at a surface facility with up to 2 pallets of freight will be lowered to an underground freight-only highway that connects 10 destinations along 70 km (43 mi) between Zurich and a regional logistics center. Using electric motors, the pods will travel to the required destination, where they will be lifted to the surface and unloaded. In this way, freight can be delivered directly into urban centers without adding to or being affected by road congestion. If successful, by 2045, phase 2 will expand the system to include other major Swiss cities like Geneva, Bern, and Basel.

With urban roads around the world projected to suffer large increases in congestion in the coming decades, logistics organizations should monitor underground system developments, mindful that in time they may provide a valuable way to protect urban delivery times despite traffic delays.

Challenges

As this is relatively new technology, it will be challenging and expensive to build tube-based transportation.
Tube system infrastructure will lack flexibility yet still require additional first- and last-mile delivery capabilities.
With no current fully operational tube system, it is difficult to anticipate the impact of this technology on supply chain operations.

This trend should be PASSIVELY monitored, with applications still mostly being developed or explored.

Outlook

The trend of Tube Systems is slowly advancing towards realization for cargo transport. It will still be many years before logistics organizations can take advantage of this congestion-free mode of transportation. As the first systems open, however, we here at DHL anticipate many more will be announced and constructed as supply chain players and society as a whole realize the benefits.

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Sources
  1. Global Fleet (2021): Alarming traffic congestion data highlights need for mobility solutions
  2. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2021): ITF transport outlook 2021