When Elon Musk announced the details of his
magical Hyperlooplast week, we eagerly awaited analyses of the plan by folks with expertise in infrastructure and engineering.
Levy ridicules the Hyperloop from top to bottom.
He also ridicules Elon Musk–with such passion and disdain that his (Levy’s) Hyperloop analysis becomes suspect.
But Levy’s criticism of the Hyperloop is still interesting.
Here are his key points:
- As planned, the Hyperloop doesn’t actually go all the way from the center of San Francisco to the center of Los Angeles, and when you factor in the added security and travel time, it’s no faster than high-speed rail. The Hyperloop plan has it terminating in Sylmar, Levy says. And it also doesn’t explain how the Hyperloop is going to cross San Francisco Bay. Add in security and transportation at the “ends,” and your overall Hyperloop journey is likely to be no faster than the 2 hours and 40 minutes of the planned high-speed train.
- The Hyperloop would cost at least 10 times as much as the $US6 billion Musk claims. Musk is drastically underestimating the costs of the “pylons” on which the Hyperloop is supposed to ride, Levy says. And there’s no cost estimate for tunneling under (or bridging over) the Bay. A $US60 billion price tag would put the Hyperloop in the same ballpark as high speed rail.
- The Hyperloop would be a terrifying “barf ride” that would subject riders to violent g-forces and uncomfortable rolling, accelerating, and braking. Levy says the Hyperloop’s extreme speed would subject passengers to g-forces that go way beyond today’s high speed trains and aeroplanes and that most people would find frightening.
- The Hyperloop would have very low passenger capacity compared to high-speed rail. Levy says the Hyperloop could carry 3,360 passengers per hour each way. This compares to 12,000 passengers per hour on high-speed rail and 4,000 for a freeway, he says.
- The Hyperloop’s actual energy consumption would compare much less favourably to high-speed rail than Musk states. Levy says Musk has either “engaged in fraud” when describing HSR’s energy usage or just made a mistake.
In short, Levy concludes, the Hyperloop has “no redeeming feature.”
What Levy does not address is the amazing success that Musk has already had doing things that lots of smart people said were impossible–such as building a viable new car company and launching rockets.
Overall, though, Levy’s points provide an interesting framework with which to continue to assess the Hyperloop. This is exactly what we and others hoped would happen after Musk released his plans. We look forward to additional analysis from other experts.
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