Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, was disappointed with California’s high-speed rail project, so he has proposed an alternative that, if it’s not just smoke and mirrors, could get you from L.A. to San Francisco in 30 minutes.
Called the Hyperloop, it’s a low-pressure, elevated tube that would shadow California’s 5 Freeway. Aluminum pods driven by electromagnets would travel at extraordinary speeds between destinations.
To put things in perspective, Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train tops out at just under 200 miles per hour. The Hyperloop could conceivably beat that by 600 mph—if it’s real.
Musk said Monday that he’s tempted to build a prototype, but he has his hands busy with his existing businesses.
You can read the entire Hyperloop plan here.
Musk did a Q-and-A on Monday after posting about what he sees as the fifth form of transportation (after boats, trains, cars and planes).
Asked about California’s earthquakes, Musk said the system would be protected, but “If all of LA falls down [in an earthquake], I guess the Hyperloop would too.”
The crafts would travel over air bearings, which Musk described as “the same basic principle as an air hockey table, which would allow them to travel at supersonic speeds with extremely low friction. For acceleration, the Hyperloop would use a linear accelerator — essentially the railgun promised in Musk’s initial descriptions of the system, accelerating the pod through a traveling electromagnetic pulse. As the pod nears its destination, the process will be reversed, slowing the pod through the same electromagnets and absorbing the kinetic energy back into the system.
It’s not a coincidence that Musk chose Los Angeles and San Francisco as a test route; the Hyperloop is apparently designed for city pairs that are roughly 900 miles apart. Shorter distances don’t allow enough acceleration time, while over longer spans, the document speculates that supersonic planes may end up being both faster and cheaper.
—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer