Despite the massive coverage of his proposed Hyperloop, Elon Musk doesn’t even think it’s the best means of transportation most of the time. It’s what he thinks is the best and most cost effective solution to a specific problem — connecting “high traffic city pairs that are are less than about 1500 km or 900 miles apart.”
When it comes to travel longer than that, Hyperloops aren’t the answer. It’s supersonic jets.
“Around that inflection point, I suspect that supersonic air travel ends up being faster and cheaper. With a high enough altitude and the right geometry, the sonic boom noise on the ground would be no louder than current airliners, so that isn’t a showstopper,” Musk writes. “Also, a quiet supersonic plane immediately solves every long distance city pair without the need for a vast new worldwide infrastructure.”
The hyperloop would have a massive impact. Solving supersonic air travel would dwarf it.
It’s actually a problem he’s spent a lot of time thinking about. During a Google Hangout with Sir Richard Branson talking about entrepreneurship, Musk was asked what his next company might be.
He replied though it “wouldn’t be anytime soon,” he would like to build a company to create “an aircraft that is a supersonic, vertical take off and landing electric jet.”
“I think that is the ultimate form of transport,” he added.
The fact that it would be electric would reduce the environmental impact, and vertical take off and landing would mean you could land closer to your destination.
The proposal’s all part of the overall philosophy that’s led Musk to start the companies he has.
“I get a little sad when things are not getting better in the future. An example would be like the Concord being retired and the fact there is no supersonic passenger transport,” Musk said.
The Hyperloop would work better over the relatively short distance between LA and San Francisco because planes take so much time ascending and descending. That’s significant for relatively short routes, but immaterial for long ones.
The Concord was retired for a reason. It would be interesting to see Elon Musk put his time and money into one-upping it.
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