Highly successful Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk took over the news yesterday when he unveiled his initial design plans for the Hyperloop. This new form of transportation being described is a superfast transport system that, traveling at 800 miles per hour, would use pillows of air shoot passengers in pods between San Fransisco and Los Angeles in just over 30 minutes. This system would also cost only fraction of the currently proposed high speed rail project.
Musk is a co-founder of the well-known company PayPal. Other power packed bullets on his resume include being the entrepreneur behind the commercial space transport firm SpaceX and electric car maker Tesla (TSLA) that is now bursting onto the scene. Musk’s Hyperloop design was published as a 57 page technical paper that was presented on Monday. This document is jam packed with details on Hyperloop’s construction plans, execution, rider experience, design plans, etc. The idea is still just that –an idea. Musk explained that roughly a thousand Tesla and SpaceX employees have worked together to come up with this idea. At this point, the idea has yet to be developed but the main function of the transport systemis to be an elevated tube that moves travel pods full of people at 800 mph. Musk likens the idea to the “old pneumatic tubes used to send mail and packages within and between buildings.”
The document describes the idea of the pods being pushing through this tube by a series of electric motors. Each of the pods would be fixed with a fan in the front in order to move the air out of the way. As a result, the air would be directed underneath the pod and this would form a cushion of air for the pod to ride. The tube that the pods would run through would actually be built above ground and would be powered by solar panels. The tube will loosely follow California’s I5 highway that rides between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
There is actually a high speed rail system planned for California with an estimated price tag of $70 billion. Musk proposes that his Hyperloop would cost less than one-tenth of the proposed rail system and would move at about six times faster (about the speed of sound). He cited the high priced California train as a reason he was prompted to research the Hyperloop in the first place. “How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL—doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars –would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world.”
What are the critics saying?
Many critics are not doubting that Musk’s idea is feasible, they are mostly commenting on the difficulties presented in implementing the idea due to the high cost, the efforts involved in developing a demonstration project, time issues, and numerous red tape hurdles. Some say that he is a bit too ambitious at present time while still others like Rod Diridon Sr. (executive director of the Mineta Transport Institute) says, “He ought to be encouraged, even though proving the technology will be arduous.”
It seems like even those who are doubtful are still hopeful. Which side of the fence do you land on? Big things are brewing. Can’t wait to see what comes of them.