It can reach speeds of more than 1100 kilometres per hour and is described as “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun, and an air-hockey table”.
Today, Tesla founder Elon Musk finally revealed his plans for the Hyperloop.
He wrote a big blog post explaining his motivation for the project, which is essentially a giant air tube that quickly transports both people and cars long distances.
Musk thinks that high-speed trains are too expensive, and not fast enough. Driven by what he sees as an exorbitant $100 billion price tag for a high-speed rail project in California, Musk believes the Hyperloop could actually come in under $6 billion.
He said it could also be built quicker than the rail project (7-10 years) and if he were in charge of it personally, it could be done in “one to two years”.
That’s unlikely though, as Musk has claimed he doesn’t have time to oversee full-scale construction of the Hyperloop. However, he told journalists today he was “somewhat tempted to make a demonstration prototype” on unused land set aside for his SpaceX projects..
We’re reading over the big PDF he included that goes in detail about how the Hyperloop works. We’ll be peeling out the most interesting nuggets as we go.
In the meanwhile, here’s a short explanation of how it would work, via Bloomberg Businessweek, which got an early look at the Hyperloop:
…Musk argues that the Hyperloop represents a type of middle ground that other people have yet to consider. Instead of being a complete vacuum or running at normal conditions, the Hyperloop tubes would be under low pressure. “I think a lot of people tended to gravitate to one idea or the other as opposed to thinking about lower pressure,” Musk says. “I have never seen that idea anywhere.”
Inside the tubes, the pods would be mounted on thin skis made out of inconel, a trusted alloy of SpaceX that can withstand high pressure and heat. Air gets pumped through little holes in the skis to make an air cushion, Musk says. The front of the pod would have a pair of air jet inlets — sort of like the Concorde. An electric turbo compressor would compress the air from the nose and route it to the skis and to the cabin. Magnets on the skis, plus an electromagnetic pulse, would give the pod its initial thrust; reboosting motors along the route would keep the pod moving. And: no sonic boom. With warm air inside the tubes and high tailwinds, the pods could travel at high speeds without crossing the sound barrier. “The pod can go just below the speed of sound relative to the air,” Musk says.
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Here’s the full PDF of the announcement: