Elon Musk Unveils Hyperloop Plan

It is called “The Hyperloop” and, according to the designer, it will be a revolutionary “fifth mode” of transport, eclipsing trains, planes, boats and automobiles.


After months of hints, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk unveiled his plan for the “hyperloop,” a transportation system he believes will be an alternative to airplanes and trains. Passengers would sit in a capsule that gets shot through an elevated tube. Contrary to initial speculation, the air in the tube is low pressure but not completely vacuumed out, and the pods are accelerated magnetically but also have an air jet similar to the Concorde. High tailwinds in the tube mean that the pods don’t cross the sound barrier relative to the air, avoiding a sonic boom. Musk says the hyperloop could take you from L.A. to San Francisco in about 30 minutes and would cost $6 billion to build, far cheaper than California's $70 billion high-speed-rail plan. Unfortunately, Musk is only posting the plan for feedback and says he's too busy with his spaceship and electric car businesses to build it himself.

The Telegraph:

"Billionaire Elon Musk’s CV is impressive, to say the least. He made his initial fortune from PayPal, the online secure payment system, before going on to launch spaceships. Last year his SpaceX venture became the first private operation to dock a cargo capsule with the International Space Station.

Back on Earth, Mr. Musk also founded Tesla, which has made electric sports cars viable and profitable.

So when Mr. Musk, 42, announced that he would be publishing plans for the Hyperloop on Monday, August 12th, scientists were sent into a tailspin.

They will have to wait for Mr. Musk to post his “alpha design” on the internet, but he has dropped several hints about its features, including that the system will be powered by solar panels.

Mr. Musk will not be patenting the design and it will be “open source”, meaning anyone can modify it, or try to build it."

Similarly, the "Aeromovel" has already been operating for 24 years in Indonesia using Brazilian technology:

"The 20th of April 1989 is very much alive in the memory of Oskar Coester, president of Aeromovel Brasil S/A and inventor of the technology. His heart was beating fast at the inauguration ceremony of Aeromovel’s first commercial line in the world. The scenario was Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. It took eight months to build a 3.2 km ring, with six stations and three vehicles.

The first trip had a small hitch. “There were ministers, the president and other authorities on board of the vehicle. Around 160 people. At the end, as a result of human failure the vehicle braked abruptly. A small incident which did not spoil the ceremony. And after that first trip, 25 years have gone by without one single accident”, says Coester."

According to the inventor, the option for the wheel/rail system was made because of less friction, around ten times less than the tyre/tarmac system. The propulsion was inspired on a sailboat, but in an inverted format. The vehicles are moved by the air generated by industrial fans placed on the ground, which control the air pressure, speed and direction the vehicle is travelling in.

“When I prepared the first patent, I thought it was so simple that it probably existed already. But no. England was the first country to grant me the patent in 1978. And several other countries granted the patent later, such as Japan, Germany, United States, France and Brazil”, says Coester.

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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