Last month Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk created quite a stir when he mentioned a concept he had been mulling over called the “hyperloop”. At a tenth of the cost of high-speed rail, but around four-times fast, the hyperloop is the kind of 21st century science-fiction we’ve come to expect from Musk, but don’t expect him to build the hyperloop anytime soon.
Musk made it clear that he is far too busy with Tesla Motors and SpaceX to make a go at building the hyperloop. Still, he felt the need to put his idea out in the world, and while not 100% original, it certainly has that Tesla touch.
Using sealed low-pressure tubes, Musk believes he could connect cities about 900 to 1,000 miles apart in trips around just 30 minutes long. Musk says that the two-tube system (one in each direction) could be built along existing interstate right-of-ways, or in the median along routes like I-5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A cushion of air would slow the pods as they approached the station, and each pod could hold up to six people. Larger pods holding full-size cars could also be added.
Musk’s hyperloop fantasy is surprisingly detailed, for too detailed to go over in a single post, but it is clear he has put a ton of thought into this project. This includes overcoming the Kantrowitz Limit, which Musk does by attaching a fan on the front of each pod and transferring the air from the front of the pod to the back, creating lower pressure right in front of the pod.
On paper, it certainly sounds awesome, especially the estimated $20 ticket price and 30 minute travel time between San Fran and L.A. If you want to read the whole hyperloop papers, check them out here, and while you’re at it check out Colordo-based ET3, which plans to start testing on a similar hyperloop system later this year.
If it were anyone but Musk, I’d have doubts. But so far the man has done everything else he set out to do; maybe once Tesla is all taken care of and SpaceX is delivering cargo loads to Mars, will Musk settle down and tackle the hyperloop project.