Elon Musk’s Hyperloop – LA to San Francisco in 35 minutes.
South African born billionaire, Elon Musk, once again hit the headlines on Monday with the announcement of the Hyperloop.
The Hyperloop is half mono-rail, half-pneumatic delivery system of the kind used to move letters or packages at high speeds between buildings. Musk envisions a pod with metal skis attached that will travel through a tube at speeds of up to 760 mph, getting passengers from LA to San Francisco in just over 30 minutes.
Elon is the self-made billionaire who co-founded PayPal and Tesla Motors as well as SpaceX. The inventor is known for turning his ideas into reality, one of the main reasons his announcement has made so many headlines. Watch him announce his idea here:
Musk states that the initial idea for the project was born when the California ‘high speed’ rail project was approved, something Musk is opposed to due to its high costs and the fact that it offers no real steps forward in terms of public transportation. He goes on to state in the 57 page document that any new transportation system should be:
- Lower cost
- More convenient
- Immune to weather
- Sustainably self-powering
- Resistant to Earthquakes
- Not disruptive to those along the route
The Hyperloop is an alternative for those journeys that are around 900 miles apart, anything further then Musk claims that a supersonic plane, such as the Concorde is more economically feasible.
The project has been given a price tag of just $6 billion, cheap when compared to the $60 billion that has been quoted for the Californian bullet train which Musk claims is ‘the slowest bullet train in the world with the highest cost per mile’. Musk’s price tag, however, has come under some scrutiny due to some critics not believing that the price tag includes the price of land.
Although the project is scientifically feasible, there are some potential pitfalls that stand in the way of the great inventor:
Due to the proposed height of the pillars that will hold the Hyperloop in place (20 to 100 feet), scientists claim that if not appropriately designed the structure will have the tendency to way.
Navigant research analysis, Mr Jaffe points out ‘If that structure is a heavy tube stretching for hundreds of miles in either direction, you effectively have a big sail. Will the concrete pylons be powerful enough to resist that pressure?’
Solar panels are what Musk proposes to use in order to generate power for the Hyperloop. Professor John Hansman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had reservations about the amount of energy that it would need. He said ‘it would be enormously expensive, my questions aren't could you do it, but could you do it in a way that makes sense from and energy efficiency standpoint and makes sense from an economic standpoint.’ Musk also states that his proposal to use Tesla electric batteries could be flawed because he is still unsure as to whether the batteries would hold enough energy to last an entire journey.
The bullet train that has been approved in California is estimated to be able to carry 16.5 million passengers per year between LA and San Francisco; it would take the Hyperloop over two years to transport the equivalent amount of passengers.
Musk explains that the Hyperloop could transport 7.4 million people every year if there was to be one pod/ capsule departing every minute for 12 hours a day. But, with airport style security and the amount of people passing through stations during rush hour and other busy periods of the day this number could be dramatically lowered.
However, even though the Hyperloop can transport considerably less than the bullet train, the considerably lower price means that Musk could build numerous Hyperloop's before the project even gets close to that of the bullet train.
Due to other commitments with Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk has declared that he currently has no time to go ahead with this project and that the announcement was made in order to attract the attention of engineers who would be interested in taking the project forward.
This is the type of project that would revolutionise the way we travel, ‘the 5th form of transport after cars, planes, trains & boats’ as Musk has put it. We here at PIF are incredibly excited about the prospect of the ‘Hyperloop’ and hope that Musk manages to find the engineers and scientists he is looking for.
Are you as excited as us about the idea? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
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