Elon Musk Unveils Plans for 700 MPH Solar-Powered Hyperloop Train!

by , 08/13/13

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The open-source Hyperloop design calls for a weather-proof, crash-proof and rail-less train. Today Musk released a 50+ page document outlining his vision for the $6 billion Hyperloop, which consists of a long tube and capsules or pods that are propelled through them. The main issue that has to be overcome to create a system that travels comfortably at 700mph is reducing air friction. Musk proposes to install an electric compressor system on the nose of the pod that essentially ingests incoming air to create a cushion or “air bearings.” Aerodynamic simulations show that this is perfectly feasible.

The Hyperloop will be powered by an external electric motor similar to the one that powers the Tesla Model S, except it would be rolled flat. All said, this will only take up about one percent of the entire length of the tube, and solar panels mounted on top of the tube will collect the necessary energy (actually more than it needs, even taking prolonged cloudiness into consideration) as long as there are batteries for storing excess energy. Alternatively, it is possible to use a compressed air that runs an electric fan in reverse to generate energy (LightSail already uses this technology.) It is accelerated by a magnetic system and rotors affixed to the capsule and a stator iron mounted to the tube.

During rush hour, 40 capsules could move 840 passengers per hour. Each capsule could hold 28 people, and the capsules could depart every 30 seconds with approximately 23 miles between capsules. During off-peak hours, capsules could depart every two minutes. Best of all, passengers could expect to pay just $20 for a one-way ticket!

Musk recommends to build the Hyperloop above ground, on pylons, in order to decrease the amount of land required to build the link between the two cities. This also makes it easier to mitigate earthquake damage with adjustable lateral and vertical dampers incorporated into the pylons. A below-ground system would require too much land and disruptions to people and wildlife, and it would be noisier.

+ Tesla Motors

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  1. Tim Troxler August 17, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Would be great to see this, but at this point I’ll settle for being able to cross the Hudson from Manhattan in 30 minutes! Last night it took over 2 hours to get from Brooklyn to Jersey City, roughly 4 miles. Talk about massive system failure!

  2. RCL August 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Carbon fiber has a higher strength to weight ratio and lower coefficient of expansion than steel which might make it work better for the tubes.

    Given Musk’s track record, if he chose to pursue this, I’d put my money on him rather than the high speed rail group currently floundering around. It’s a horse race as to who would be ready to lay track first.

  3. bthinker August 15, 2013 at 2:42 am

    @Marko You just need expansion buffers, Feet wide straw-like expandable rubber sections. I could design and perfect this whole thing, ez, months.
    Spray Die Solar on the tubes themselves, low pressure venturi style lateral effects, Auto Shutdown pressure drop and spike detection for breaks and splits. Ect ect.. I ask myself a question I get answer, yes for me it is that simple. Maybe I’d even give it one of my 4 viable power sources.. anyways..

    @Thom W Yes it will likely be double that estimate, still when you factor in energy and ecology benefits it dwarfs current tranport.

  4. Thom Worlledge August 13, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I think the concept is valid but I think the estimate is grossly misleading. The property to install pillars every 100′ and the air rights between them has not been included in the estimates and will drive the overall construction cost.

  5. marko August 13, 2013 at 6:23 am

    I believe the issue of thermal expansion has been grossly underestimated. When pipelines are designed kinks and bends are introduced artificially to compensate for this. This is fine if you are passing a liquid or a gas through the tube but not if you are running capsules with passengers.

    I don’t believe that it will be possible to leave the tube unrestrained in lateral directions over long straight stretches, as the expansion would be measured in metres. Thus the tube should be fixed to the pillars, and the forces taken within the tube and the pillars. This will increase the cost of the pillars (and the tube somewhat), but would at least be feasible.

    Alternatively, the tubes can be placed below ground (or below the motorway) to be kept at a constant temperature.

  6. Marko August 13, 2013 at 5:31 am

    Mostly sounds feasible. However thermal expansion of the tube over long stretches would be significantly more than a few cm at the towers. Thus these would need to be far bigger to accommodate thermal movement. Also building on-ground rather than on pylons would be significantly cheaper and quicker. Having said that using pre-cast pylons would reduce costs. Also, making the tubes and pylons in reinforced concrete would likely reduce the cost also, but achieving air-tightness of the RC tubes may make this a no-go.

  7. msyin August 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    I read the entire document after waiting months for the reveal and it is expertly, clearly and strategically laid out. If anyone who can gets together to test this out to make it a reality, it will really change travel forever.

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