As promised, entrepreneur Elon Musk revealed his plans for Hyperloop last week. Described as the ‘Fifth Mode of Transporation’ (after trains, aircrafts, ships and cars), Hyperloop is the name the inventor his potentially revolutionary plan of (very) high speed travel.
The Hyperloop Revealed
The Hyperloop will be designed to get you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. Musk has published a 57-page PDF document available for download on Tesla Motor’s and SpaceX’s websites – both companies he runs.
In the document, Musk has criticized the upcoming California High Speed Rail Project, calling it one of the most expensive per mile, and also one of the slowest. As an alternative, Musk proposes the Hyperloop.
The Hyperloop Design
Designed to travel at speeds of over 600 MPH, not much was known about the Hyperloop until the PDF release until now. The Hyperloop will essentially consist of aluminium capsules travelling in a low-pressure, almost-vacuum tube. With low pressure, losses due to friction at those speeds would be considerably reduced.
“The capsules are supported on a cushion of air, featuring pressurized air and aerodynamic lift. The capsules are accelerated via a magnetic linear accelerator affixed at various stations on the low pressure tube with rotors contained in each capsule.”
The entire project is expected to cost $6 billion, which is one-tenth of the $60 billion budget for the California High Speed Rail Project. Another variant of the Hyperloop – which may be designed to transport cargo, may cost $7.5 billion.
The transit route for the tubes will be built on an elevated track on columns at a distance of 100 yards from each other. This construction will not cause any obstruction, and will not have the need to acquire large tracts of land either.
The capsules should be able to carry 28 people each, and will be departing as quickly as every 30 seconds. This translates to a potential 7.8 million passengers every year on the Hyperloop. Musk had previously referred to Hyperloop as an ‘affordable’ means of transport. He has intends to keep that promise – he estimates the cost of an individual ticket to be $20.
Musk considers destinations like San Francisco and Los Angeles ideal for the project – any two cities closer than this distance would not allow the Hyperloop to accelerate enough to reach its speeds, while a supersonic plane may make for a better alternative on longer distances.
Not on the Priority List
Elon Musk laments that he is far too busy with his work – SpaceX and Tesla, and that he cannot give enough time to this concept. His document estimates that it would take about 3 to 4 years to ready the first prototype for the system, assuming the project finds the right man to lead it.
“If it was my top priority, I could probably get it done in one or two years.” – Elon Musk.