Hyperloop: Super Duper Fast Travel

Hyperloop Concept Vehicle. Image from Tesla Motors.

In case you haven’t heard by now, Elon Musk — billionaire investor and founder/CEO of Tesla Motors, PayPal and SpaceX — unveiled plans for an ultra-fast, air-cushioned, solar powered transport tube system called the Hyperloop.

After reading a couple of articles, I’ve compiled some major stats:

  • Tube Capacity: 28 people
  • Max Speed: 1220km/h
  • Average Speed: 962km/h
  • Cost: ~$10 million/km ($6 billion for 570km between San Fran and LA)
  • Frequency: 30 seconds
  • Column Spacing: 45-90m
  • Implementation: Cities less than 1600km apart
Proposed alignment between San Francisco to Los Angeles. Image from Tesla Motors.

Proposed alignment between San Francisco to Los Angeles. Image from Tesla Motors.

Based on his current proposal, he sees this technology transporting passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes.

As expected, once this concept emerged, there was a mixture of excitement and skepticism.

I’m not a scientist or engineer so I can’t comment on the technological feasibility, but experts seem to suggest that this system is possible with existing technology. So in some ways, it’s not completely innovative. In fact, many similar ultra high speed systems of this variety have been explored in the past — however none have reached the prototype stage.

ET3 or Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies: another conceptual mega fast transport technology. Also claimed can be built at 1/10th the cost of High Speed Rail. Image from Voxxi.com

I could only speculate why that is, but imagine that the initial start-up costs and associated complexities are enormous. Too much to risk for any one person or entity to take on, even for a billionaire like Elon — which might explain why he’s not personally building this concept but instead hoping to pass it onto other investors.

Being a transit nerd, this idea is fascinating and I’d love nothing more than to be able to hop in one of these tube capsules in the future. However, until a real-life model is designed, built and tested, it simply remains an idea. Perhaps one day we’ll finally see get to see ultra-super-high speed transit, but exactly when is anyone’s guess.

I must say that the buzz generated by this technology makes me hopeful and excited for the future — that smart, talented and bright scientists continue to push the envelope to develop new transportation solutions.

However, what I’m less enthused about is Elon’s suggestion that this will be the fifth mode of transport — planes, trains, cars, boats and the hyperloop — cause if he had read our blog, I’m certain he’d say sixth.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.