With the unveiling of his Hyperloop plans, Elon Musk has once again excited tech nerds everywhere with what he proclaims to be the 5th form of transportation joining cars, planes, boats, and trains. The grandiose design is reminiscent of pneumatic tubes that were once used to send mail (and in one rare case, a cat) across city blocks.
The Hyperloop is essentially a large tube connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco with passenger “pods” that would zip around the circular track at record-breaking speeds. Mr. Musk compares the Hyperloop to an air hockey table, as the passenger pods will be levitated by air currents while they are propelled by high powered magnets. These pods could carry passengers or vehicles much like a ferry and the trip would last only 30 minutes.
Musk was inspired to pursue this alternative form of transportation in 2011 when California approved the construction of a 70 billion dollar high-speed rail that will likely end up costing taxpayers closer to 100 billion dollars. This “100 billion-plus dollar train” would only travel at around 200 mph and have a 2.5 hour travel time from LA to San Francisco, a plane ride is much less at 1.5 hours. In Elon Musk’s Tesla Blog, he claimed that the California high-speed rail is ” the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world.”
Appalled with the cost and inefficiency of the proposed system, Elon decided to devise a preferable means of transportation. Two years later, he had come up with a 6-10 billion dollar project that would have a 30 minute travel time from LA to SF and reach speeds of 800-plus mph.
Simply put, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop would usher in a new era of transportation. The Hyperloop pods would travel so fast that they would easily break the sound barrier at 760 mph. Musk then continued to nonchalantly remark that it would also be solar-powered, immune to weather, a possible renewable source of energy, and incapable of crashing. It is easy to see how Elon Musk inspired the billionaire-badass role of Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies.
For those more conservative skeptics, Musk assures that the Hyperloop would have almost no turbulence and bank much like an airplane to exert no more than 1G of force onto its passengers despite the extreme speeds. These “super smooth” rides, as Musk stated, would depart every 30 seconds providing theme park style loading and unloading.
Unfortunately, with the political red tape to push through and countless tests to be performed, this plan will not likely become reality in the next decade. There are some major issues that need to be addressed. A Time article points out that the system faces high susceptibility to overheating and wind pressure, among other barriers. The Hyperloop would also have to gain permissions to build above or below ground tubing through a myriad of properties along its I-5 route from LA to San Francisco.
As it currently stands, the construction of the California High Speed Rail is set to throw away billions of tax dollars and demolish this 1950’s burger joint.
Mr. Musk, please save us all…