Hyperloop: Another Great Idea of Elon Musk?

Elon Musk is the man behind Paypal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX and showed that he is a game changer in the world of technology. For example, SpaceX is outcompeting NASA by building cheaper spaceships in less time by using new technologies. And Tesla Motors is shifting electric cars and battery endurance to a higher level. Is Hyperloop the next bright idea of Elon Musk that will find its way in society?


What is Hyperloop?

Hyperloop is a reaction to the California High-speed Rail system (CHR), which is currently under development to provide fast transportation between San Francisco (SF) and Los Angeles (LA). Hyperloop consists of two massive tubes stretching between SF and LA wherein pods carrying passengers would travel through those tubes. The most important feautures of Hyperloop are lower costs, higher speed, immune to weather, sustainable self-powering and resistance to earthquakes. See the table 1 for a comparison with the CHR.

Hyperloop California High-speed Rail system
Costs 6 billion 68 billion (!)
Speed 1120 km/h 130 km/h
Immune to weather Yes No
Sustainable self-powering Yes No
Resistant to earthquakes Yes No

These features suggest that traveling from SF to LA by Hyperloop will only take 35 minutes instead of 6 hours by CHR. On the other hand, there are of course some drawbacks. The high speed will make it hard to take large turns or to deal with elevation. Public approval, legislation, regulations and contractors are something else to worry about when Hyperloop technically can be realized.

The Hyperloop developments

Elon Musk is not developing the pods for the Hyperloop himself. SpaceX only provided a test track for the producers of pods. SpaceX engineers provide feedback on the engineers and students who participate in the competition to develop the best pods. The applicants will get the opportunity to test their pods on the Hyperloop test track in June 2016.Hyperloop track

This will probably the most impressive competition ever. However, there is no promise that anything concrete will arise out of the competition. As Will Nicol of Digital Trends said: ‘the contest is a way for engineers and companies to exchange knowledge and maybe get the ball rolling to make the Hyperloop system a reality. Like a world’s fair expo, it’s a place for visions of the future to become a little bit clearer’.

The future will show whether commercial Hyperloop systems will ever be widely adopted. As the population will grow, better mass transportation systems will become useful. Pods developing companies are now receiving funds (Hyperloop Technologies raised 80 million dollar), so a wider trust in a success is real. Lets see what the pods competition for the Hyperloop will bring is in June 2016.

A presentation on Hyperloop is shown below if you like to know more about it:







One response to “Hyperloop: Another Great Idea of Elon Musk?”

  1. Carlo Bruno says :

    If you asked people 25 years ago how trains would have been developed in 2015, they would have probably come up with something like the Hyperloop fully functioning and connecting cities, countries and even overseas continents. Apart from incremental advances in trains, we have not seen ‘real’ innovation in this particular field. Japan pioneered the high-speed shinkansen or “bullet train”, which now links Japan’s largest cities at speeds of up to 320 km/h, but still this is not something used all over the globe. Since in many countries railway companies are partly government owned (major stakeholder), maybe there is a lack of focus on innovation, since current trains ‘do the job just fine’ and innovation needs a huge upfront investment (not very cool to inform a voter (taxpayer) to do so from a politician’s point of view…). It is promising famous investors, engineers, CEOs and students are putting their heads together to start thinking about the future. I guess we are already late…

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