Sunday, 25 August 2013

Hyperloop - The Essentials (or "What is it?")

Wrote this a while ago but didn't upload for various reasons. Uploading it now however...

The sudden technology boom in the mid-nineties and the rise of the internet resulted in a lot of people getting very rich very quickly. You had companies with the likes of Amazon, Google and eBay making massive leaps forward and dominating their market, making their founders multi-billionaires with each passing year. Elon Musk has a similar success story with his founding of PayPal (which he sold to eBay for $1.5b) and has since gone on to invest heavily in the technology of the future, founding both Tesla Motors (electric car company that's still a long way from conquering the market) and more famously SpaceX (one of the major players in the new private space-exploration sector). But it seems that he wishes to go one step further and revolutionise the way we travel across the land with his new 'Hyperloop' system, a train-like system that has the potential of travelling 1000km in under an hour. To put this into perspective, the average cruise speed of the Boeing 747 is about 890km/h.

But just what is the Hyperloop?

Background Info

Mr Musk apparently came up with the idea after the proposed high-speed rail system to connect LA with San Francisco 'lacked innovation' and would prove to be both costly and not very fast (travel time of 2hrs40min at a price of $105 per ticket for a one-way trip). As a comparison, a return by air would cost $158 for less than half the time.

As a result, he was looking for a system that had the following traits:
  • Safe
  • Fast
  • Low Cost
  • Sustainable/Low Power Consumption
Obviously, we currently have no method of transport that incorporates these characteristics hence why it is proposed that a fifth method of transportation (after automobile, boat, aeroplane and train) be introduced.

The Hyperloop

Essentially described as a human-sized version of the Pneumatic Tube Transport (those pipes you used to get in shops and offices where you put the item in the tube and it goes "VVROOP" off to its destination), the Hyperloop will be an long pressurised steel tube which will contain a train-like carriage (or capsule) to hold people and vehicles. The capsules will be supported within the tube by aerodynamic lift and air bearings.

The intended route is LA to San Francisco (although Musk heavily hints that any country can install such a system) and the route will (hopefully) contain stops inbetween, although details on how the cars will stop at said stations have not been clarified upon.

The proposed method of power is solar, which if distributed across the roof of the tunnel will supposedly provide excess energy to power the transport system.

The Train

Two types will exist, one for passengers and one for vehicles (presumably just cars and not heavy freight). The passenger car can hold 28 passengers while the vehicle version has room for 3 vehicles.

The interior is designed with the passenger in mind, with high quality comfort chairs, LCD/LED screens displaying imagery (there are no windows after all) and an entertainment system for each person.

The Cost

Musk reckons that the whole thing could be built for around $6.0b, almost a tenth of the proposed cost for the high-speed rail system.Then take into account its completely self powering, it is actually a pretty cheap affair.

Tickets (remembering for the train it's around $105 for a single journey) will cost a mere $20.

Will it get the go ahead? Highly unlikely. After all, this is too much tech for many to handle and those behind the High Speed Rail project probably have extensively deep pockets and puppets to do their every whim.

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