Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Magazine

Back to the Future by Hyperloop

  • Concept art of Hyperloop One, which could bring passengers from Helsinki to Stockholm in half an hour. (Photo: Hyperloop One)

When makers of the film Back to the Future II in 1989 envisaged urban transport in 2015, they thought cars would fly and skateboards would hover.

EUobserver would not be the first to point out that the film did not get everything right.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Between 1899 and 1910 French artist Jean-Marc Cote created a series of postcards in which he imagined what the year 2000 would look like. (Photo: Jean-Marc Côté)

But that does not prevent us from dreaming up future scenarios.

Leaping ahead 34 years to 2050 - eight years after Marty McFly and Doc Brown's Delorean - is potentially a very different picture of how people will move around.

Whether cars fly or not in 2050, only a limited number will run on petrol or diesel if promises are kept.

Five years ago, the European Commission said that greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector would have to be reduced by at least 60 percent by 2050, compared with levels from 1990. To do that, it said cars using convention fuels should be phased out of cities entirely.

There are some signs of movement in that direction.

Electric vehicles

Cities like Paris, Amsterdam, London, Barcelona, and Oslo have stimulated the use of electric vehicles by giving a subsidy.

And days before the Paris climate agreement was signed in December 2015, Germany, the UK, Norway and the Netherlands, signed up to an international group that promised to have only zero-emission cars sold on their territory in 2050.

"These vehicles help to improve air quality and increase low-carbon development," the zero-emission vehicle alliance says.

For its part, the EU commission's report said the current transport system is "not sustainable". "Since the first big oil crisis 40 years ago - despite technical progress, potential for cost-effective energy efficiency improvements and policy efforts - the transport system has not fundamentally changed.

"Looking 40 years ahead, it is clear that transport cannot develop along the same path."

The commission said that in future, public transport must have a bigger share.

Some cities, like Tallinn, are trying to achieve that goal through offering free public transport. Wojciech Keblowski, who researches the topic at the Free University of Brussels, told EUobserver that free public transport should be seen as a social policy rather than a transport policy.

"After the shift to the use of private vehicles in the 1950s and 1960s, public transport gradually had to compete with the comfort of a car," he said.

"Authorities had to increasingly try to convince those in cars that public transport could offer similar quality. For people in lower income groups, the price of public transport is a factor. By no longer requiring tickets, you remove a stigma."

How does he see urban transport in 2050?

Keblowski thinks there will be much fewer petrol cars driving around in cities, because fossil fuels will have become more scarce and expensive. "I think you will see SUV-like type cars driven by the extremely rich, and a very congested public transport system," Keblowski said.

The Hyperloop

A completely different mode of transport is currently being considered in Nordic countries.

It would reach speeds of up to 1,200 km/h - faster than the top speed of a Boeing 747. Its name: the Hyperloop. Its estimated development cost: €13 billion. It would reduce the journey between Helsinki and Stockholm to less than 30 minutes.

The Hyperloop, if it is built, would be a series of pods travelling through tubes via magnetic levitation. FS Links, the company developing it, says it can be used both for freight and passenger transport.

According to a KPMG study - which was commissioned by FS Links - a Hyperloop system has a "very strong case and is worthy of consideration a potentially viable alternative" to a high-speed railway line, which is also being looked at. KPMG estimated it would take between 12 to 15 years to complete.

Although the commission in its vision of 2050 did not foresee a magnetic tube, it did note the importance of high-speed rail and argued that by 2050 the majority of medium-distance passenger transport should go by rail.

Will we get there?

The commission is not very optimistic, except about its own work. In a report published in July this year it said "little progress [had been] achieved" in the past five years towards the 2050 goals.

"Despite a relative good pace on the side of the Commission in proposing new measures, it has become evident that the follow-up adoption of the proposals by the legislators as well as the implementation have been lagging behind," the report noted.

That means cities, regions and national governments need to step up their game. It will be 2050 before you know it. And unlike Back to the Future, time travel to redo missed opportunities is not an option, at least not yet.

This story was originally published in EUobserver's 2016 Regions & Cities Magazine.

Click here to read previous editions of our Regions & Cities magazine.

Stakeholder

Challenges for a driverless future

Advancing towards a driverless future brings on a new set of challenges and questions on how connectivity and mobility will affect all aspects of life.

Magazine

Old cities, new shapes

After centuries of development, the European model of cities is trying to put people first.

Magazine

Vienna: A reluctant cosmopolis

Vienna excels in quality of life surveys due to its local government, but Austria's capital may need to show more openness to foreign influences if its success is to endure.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

News in Brief

  1. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  2. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  3. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  4. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  5. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired
  6. Luxembourg and Ireland pay highest minimum wages
  7. Freedom of expression under threat in Spain, warn MEPs
  8. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  2. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  3. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  4. European far-right political party risks collapse
  5. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table
  6. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  7. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  8. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?