The idea for the Hyperloop was born while Elon Musk was stuck in LA traffic one day. Why not move people and freight by putting them in a vacuum tube like the ones they use at the drive-up windows at the bank. Evacuate some of the air inside a really long tube to lower wind resistance and speeds of up to 750 mph would be possible. New York to Chicago in under 2 hours. LA to San Francisco in an hour. Cool beans!
Musk’s idea has spawned two companies that are competing to bring his vision to fruition. One of them, Hyperloop One, says it has formed a partnership with the city of Moscow to explore the possibility of connecting the Hyperloop to the city’s transportation grid. The agreement was signed at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week, where none other than Russian president Vladmir Putin was present.
Co-founder Shervin Pishevar was at the conference, which was also attended by a dozen wealthy Russian investors. “Putin called on me as last word to talk and then responded,” Pishevar wrote. “Spoke on Sherpa, Uber, and Hyperloop One. Putin said Hyperloop will fundamentally change the global economy.”
Support for the link-up between the company and the city of Moscow has come from a mysterious Russian oligarch. Ziyavudin Magomedov is the head of the Summa Group, a Russian seaport and oil business. He is said to be worth more than $4 billion and is Russia’s 41st richest man. Magomedov rose to prominence with the help of state contracts during the ascent of former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. With Medvedev out, and Putin in, Magomedov’s fortunes waned. But he still seems to wield significant influence.
In a statement, Pishevar says his long term vision is to “to work with Russia to implement a transformative new Silk Road: a cargo Hyperloop that whisks freight containers from China to Europe in a day.” Magomedov adds, “In the long term, Hyperloop could catalyze the development of regional economic integration, including the Eurasian Economic Union and the Chinese initiative One Belt, One Road — a reference to China’s new national vision to improve its connectivity to Europe, Asia, and Africa
The company’s major competitor, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, announced earlier this month that is working on a similar proposal to connect Bratislavia, Vienna, and Budapest with Hyperloop systems. It also says it has created a new super light but super strong material it will use to construct its vehicles.
Now all that remains is for someone to prove that the Hyperloop is feasible. It is little more than a horizontal elevator, but the tube it travels in must be precisely aligned from end to end. When travelling at 750 mph, what seem like minor imperfections can cause cataclysmic failures. There is also the question of whether people will be comfortable travelling inside a windowless cylinder for hours on end with no access to rest rooms or beverages.
In order to be aerodynamically efficient, the Hyperloop vehicles will need to be as slender as possible. There will be no aisles and no smiling stewardesses passing out free peanuts. And yet, smart people with lots of money seem to be convinced the idea is more than just vaporware. It must be the Musk Factor. Elon has made so many grandiose statements that have come true, it’s hard to bet against him. Who would have ever thought rockets could land themselves so they could be reused for later space exploration journeys?
The first chapter of the Hyperloop story hasn’t even been written yet. Perhaps it is best to wait a while before dismissing the idea as science fiction.
Source and photo credit: The Verge