Sustainable, on-demand and high-speed e-commerce fulfillment enabled by Cargoloop

Hyperloop scale-up Hardt and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences explored how hyperloop cargo solutions (Cargoloop) can help sustainably and efficiently meet surging demand for e-commerce shipments. A new vision paper titled ‘Hyperloop for E-commerce – Sustainable, on-demand and high-speed e-commerce fulfillment enabled by Cargoloop’ was published, as a result of joined concept development and E-commerce industry consultation.

It concludes that hyperloop technology has “game-changing” potential as governments, retailers, and thought leaders seek sustainable freight solutions.

Blue sky logistics solutions needed

The e-commerce sector is experiencing major growth while facing ever-increasing customer demands on service and swift delivery. To deal with this in an efficient and sustainable way, it is expected that in the long term new logistics solutions are required.

These challenges and the major benefits hyperloop can offer in terms of speed, reliability and sustainability prompted major e-commerce players to consider hyperloop in their exploration of future-proof delivery strategies.

Cargoloop advantages

Once constructed and operational, Cargoloop, a hyperloop for transporting freight in which autonomous vehicles travel through low-pressure tubes at speeds up to 700 km/h developed by Netherlands-based hyperloop scale-up Hardt, would enable end-to-end zero-emission delivery on a continental scale within hours, allowing brands and online sellers to supply all of Europe from one distribution center.

Over the past few months, major e-commerce players gave valuable input on the Cargoloop concept. These findings are presented in ‘Hyperloop for E-commerce – Sustainable, on-demand and high-speed e-commerce fulfillment enabled by Cargoloop’.

In 2020 e-commerce-driven cross-border in Europe grew by 35%. About a quarter of all e-commerce orders now travel across borders and over longer distances. This share is expected to increase by double-digit percentages in the coming years, not at least because new VAT legislation is encouraging cross-border sales within the European Union.

These trends increase the pressure on online sellers because successful fulfillment generally depends on the speed of delivery. This means maintaining warehouses and distribution centers near potential buyers. However, real estate for hubs in existing logistics hot spots are limited. A rapid and sustainable European distribution network using hyperloop technology would create new fulfillment opportunities for online sellers.

Walther Ploos van Amstel, professor in City Logistics at the University of Applied Sciences of Amsterdam, explained: “A Cargoloop network would allow businesses to consolidate their stock in one European warehouse rather than the trend we’re currently seeing of opening multiple local warehouses to be able to meet customer demand for same or next day delivery. This drastically reduces stock levels as well as logistics real estate needed to support the online market.”

The first step: Cargoloop Holland

Earlier this year, a public-private feasibility study focusing on a wide range of industries in the Noord and Zuid-Holland area was announced. This Cargoloop Holland pre-feasibility study aims to identify a first Cargoloop route. The results are due to be published in October 2021.

Cargoloop will subsequently be tested and validated in the European Hyperloop Center in Groningen during 2023. Construction preparations are currently ongoing. As soon as these tests are completed, the system will be ready for commercial implementation.

An open hyperloop network for European freight

Hardt envisions the hyperloop network for cargo as an open one, enabling any shipper or logistics company to use it. When constructed, it would allow same-day delivery across the continent. Vehicles traveling directly from any origin to any destination can carry hundreds of parcels and form platoons, resulting in a capacity of hundreds of thousands of parcels per hour through the same tube.

A network of Cargoloop hubs, strategically located on the edge of cities, would connect to sustainable last-mile delivery options, creating end-to-end zero-emission home delivery network spanning the continent. At present, supply chain delays, and thus the reliability of delivery, are largely dependent on traffic levels and weather conditions. These are elements that a Cargoloop system is immune to as there is no crossing traffic and the tube environment protects the infrastructure from all external influences such as weather conditions. Also, the vehicles travel autonomously, leaving no room for human error.

Stan de Caluwe, Business Developer Cargo at Hardt Hyperloop, said: “The transport sector alone is responsible for about 30% of CO2 emissions in the developed world. With the exponential increase in online shopping, the e-commerce sector is responsible for a growing share of this. The solution for decarbonization, especially when it comes to longer distances, is dependent on innovation. A hyperloop for freight such as Cargoloop may very well be the best option.”

The vision paper study ‘Hyperloop for E-commerce – Sustainable, on-demand and high-speed e-commerce fulfillment enabled by Cargoloop’ is co-financed by the European Commission within the H2020 Planet project.

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