Hype About Hyperloop
In 2013, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and Space X, revealed a high-speed ground transport concept called Hyperloop. This announcement came shortly after the California high-speed rail car plans were unveiled. California’s bullet train is reported to cost a minimum of $70 billion to link Sacramento to San Diego. Musk, among others, found California’s
rail project vastly disappointing due to its cost and also it being one of the slowest ‘high-speed’ rails ever built. Musk’s Hyperloop embodies a future where cargo and passengers can travel the 500 miles from San Diego to Sacramento in approximately 40 minutes.
Why high-speed ground transport?
In his press release back in 2013, Musk stated the following reasons for massive financial investment into new transportation: safer, faster, low cost, convenient, immune to weather, self-powering, earthquake resistant and non-disruptive. The Hyperloop is intended to link cities less than 900 miles apart, making the maximum time spent in a Hyperloop vacuum under 90 minutes. Hyperloop aims to compete with airline travel by offering consistency, speed and a lower cost. Ideally, a renewable energy source powering the pod would lower ticketing costs substantially. Operating inside a vacuum, the system would be unaffected by weather of any kind, unlike airplanes which often experience delays and groundings. Speed and efficiency are at the heart of the Hyperloop project, aiming to provide cargo and passenger transport at unparalleled rates. This in turn would lower the cost of transporting goods, ultimately lowering consumer cost.
What is the Hyperloop?
At its core, the Hyperloop is a high-speed rail car operating inside of a vacuum and able to reach speeds upwards of 700 mph. Hyperloop is a solar-powered and completely energy efficient city-to-city transportation system. Theoretically, steel tubes would be arranged in a loop, sitting side by side. The inside of these tubes functions as a vacuum, where aluminum pods will rocket through from one city to the next. Air bearings reduce the coefficient of friction between the pod and the tube. The Hyperloop is driven using a series of linear accelerators. These utilize electromagnetic pulses to cause the pod to achieve such high speeds. In the same way, a linear electric motor slows the pod down as it nears its desired destination, absorbing and storing the pod’s kinetic energy which will power other Hyperloop pods and ensure complete energy autonomy.
What’s it going to cost?
In comparison to California’s $70 billion railway, Hyperloop is believed to cost anywhere between $6 and $10 billion. Hyperloop – for a fraction of the cost and capable of much shorter travel times – would beat out the California bullet train by leaps and bounds. In theory, Hyperloop is going to be “much cheaper” (according to Musk) for passengers. Eliminating fuel cost almost entirely, plus shorter travel times, would allow Hyperloop to outbid its airline competitors for low ticket prices.
Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors and SpaceX are not in any way associated with the building of – or the plans for – a Hyperloop. However, SpaceX launched a competition for university students and engineering teams to blueprint and build Hyperloop Pods. SpaceX in turn will construct a mile-long test track upon which teams can have their designs tested. Since the announcement of the competition, hundreds of start-up companies have entered the race to get their designs to California for the competition. One such company, Hyperloop Technologies Inc. has had tremendous success, and aims to have a fully functioning Hyperloop constructed as early as 2020. These start-up tech companies offer interesting investment potential, and many have taken up the torch. Companies like Hyperloop Technologies Inc. have raised the majority of their money through investors who are willing to take advantage of the risk-reward presented by such a vast technological advance. Futuristic technology like Hyperloop shows there’s no telling where we’ll go next.