We've been waiting for this moment for more than a year: the great unveil of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's Hyperloop design. After months of teasers and speculation about the technology, the Tesla Motors and Space X CEO has finally unveiled an open-source plan for a solar-powered high-speed train that could transport passengers at speeds of up to 700 mph between Los Angeles and San Francisco for less than it costs to buy a regular train ticket. Musk has announced that he won't have time to pursue the project himself, but he is hoping some other inspired person or group will run with his fascinating new design for a fast, affordable and environmentally-friendly new transportation link between the two west coast cities.
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.