You know by know that Elon Musk is one of my favorite mad individuals. A couple of days ago he launched a global discussion with the following tweet:
Pulled all nighter working on Hyperloop (as did others). Hopefully not too many mistakes. Will publish link at 1:30 PDT.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 12, 2013
Musk published a 57 page paper outlining the Hyperloop proposal. The Hyperloop is a concept mass transit system that could become a fifth mode after plains, trains, cars and boats. Its fast (extreme fast), safe, cheap and self-sustaining regarding the energy usage. He is giving the idea as open-source to the community hoping that it will be improved and eventually picked up by entrepreneurs or governments. Musk himself is currently to busy running the other companies.
It’s Musk reaction to the approval of a already horrible delayed and super-expensive project bullet train between San Francisco and Los Angeles US. According to Musk (and I agree) there is a better, faster, environmental friendlier, cheaper and more comfortable way.
The Hyperloop in a nutshell
The basic idea is to have a tube on pillars with reduced air (not near vacuum as many articles claim) shooting small pods for 14 people (or larger versions that can contain cars) through it every 30 seconds at maximum. It will use electric engines (adjusted Tesla engines), magnetic fields and an air-floating system to minimise friction to get the pods going.
The air in front of the pod is sucked up by a van, compressed and pushed out of the back and through little holes in the skies which will lift the pod (compared to air-hockey, except the air is coming out of the pod (puck) and not the tube (table) making sure the tubes remain relatively inexpensive).
The pods will reach speeds of 800 miles an hour with only some downforce on the passengers whilst travelling because the pods will bank in the corners (think of bobsleds).
Why wouldn’t this work?
Technically I’m not advanced enough to truly judge weather or not this is feasible but I tend to blindly believe Musks claims. I also believe that there will be some engineering challenges, and maybe it will be a bit more expensive than he claims but who cares. It most probably still be much cheaper than the intended ancient-train. And its a cool project!
Some nay-sayers already claimed that there will be a heating problem due to the air-compression and friction. Others say that it will politically impossible.