Multibillionaire Elon Musk, the current chief executive officer of Tesla motors, has this week been talking about his plan for a fifth mode of transport. While this is not the first time he has discussed his Hyperloop project he has certainly put more meat on the bone and caught the attention of technology enthusiasts everywhere. While there are no definite plans to put the system in place at this moment in time it seems that Elon Musk is happy to begin the project, and perhaps create a small-scale working model, but is he committed longer term?
What is Hyperloop?
The Hyperloop system which Elon Musk has been waxing lyrical about is a kind of table air hockey/magnetic system which would see individual transport pods accelerate up to 700 mph hovering above the ground using air propulsion and magnetic power. Sound interesting?
The very fact that the proposed system is actually levitated from the ground makes it less intrusive and more cost-effective than those systems which require miles and miles of rails and other such paraphernalia. The idea is that the system, which could be built to run deep underground or on the surface, would live entirely off solar panels and store all kinetic energy created.
Quote from ElectricForum.com : "The billionaire entrepreneur has been working on a new transport system which is potentially groundbreaking, could reach speeds of 4000 mph and allow you to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 30 minutes. While details of the so-called "Hyperloop" have yet to be confirmed it is generally expected that the system will consist of an underground tunnel which will take into account the latest electromagnetic levitation systems to effectively propel "passenger tubes" at extremely high speeds."
Reaching top speeds of 700 mph!
The first thing that springs to mind when you see speeds of 700 mph, nearly as quick as the speed of sound, is whether indeed you would feel safe and whether you would be buffeted about in your pod. Elon Musk believes that the turbulence created by his new transport system would actually be less than that currently experienced on traditional subway travel.
It is also worth noting that when the pods decelerate from 700 mph this creates an enormous amount of kinetic energy which is captured by batteries connected to the pods, thereby reusing energy over and over again. There will obviously be some efficiency losses over time, and there are safety aspects to take into consideration when travelling up to 700 mph, but Elon Musk seems to have the basics pretty much clear in his mind.
What would this cost?
The initial idea is to create a Hyperloop system between San Francisco and Los Angeles with an estimated cost of $6 billion. This is minimal compared to the estimated cost of a variety of rail systems in America some of which are costing in excess of $60 billion. There has been some scepticism shown with regards to the initial cost although in time we should see more details about the specific cost of various elements of the system.
It is believed that a Hyperloop system between San Francisco and Los Angeles could accommodate 70 individual pods departing every 30 seconds. Due to the cost of the system, and the speeds which Elon Musk believes each pod will hit, it is unlikely to become anything but a long-distance travel option between major cities across America. However if the system does actually emerge in due course it could be revolutionary for the transport industry.
Will Elon Musk be around to complete the Hyperloop?
While Elon Musk has done the vast majority of research into this new system, believes it is viable, and will assist in creating a test platform, he did suggest that he may not be able to see the project through to completion. This would be a crying shame because seemingly everything which Elon Musk involves himself in is successful and in many cases revolutionary. Slowly but surely, more details about the Hyperloop system are being drip fed to enthusiasts and journalists around the world and we can’t wait for the next instalment!