Inventor-entrepreneur-mad-scientist, Elon Musk just released an alpha design of his vision for the future of high-speed transit. This is our first look at the Hyperloop. After teasing the concept for months, we're finally going to be able to figure out if this is a fantasy -- or the beginning of our new reality.
The entire PDF of the design is embedded below.
Until now, everything we've been able to figure out about the Hyperloop has been based on a few basic claims: That it could get you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in about 30 minutes; that it would cost one-tenth the the estimated $US70 billion price tag of the proposed high speed rail line connecting the two coastal cities; and that it's a cross between a rail gun, the concord and an air hockey table."
The new system calls for aluminium pods to be shot through elevated steel tubes. The tubes would fly at a top-speed of some 1300kph. Musk thinks the system can be built for $US6-10 billion.
According to Musk, the new transit system is ideal for high traffic corridors between cities about 1500km apart. After that point, supersonic travel becomes much more practical.
So far, everything falls within the speculation in advance of the announcement. But here's where things start to get crazy. As Musk has stated before, he doesn't think that the answer is send the pods through the tunnel in a vacuum. Unfortunately, Musk also think that it's far too inefficient to use a fan to generate huge columns of air, as was previously proposed by Musk's "best guess" designer John Gardi.
So how does Musk think he's going to get through all the air? The plan calls for each of the pods to come to battery powered air compressor on the front. Which actively transfers high pressure air from the front to the rear of the vessel.
It's important to remember that what we're looking at today is very much a preliminary design that Musk hopes to get input on. He has said that he has no plans to actually build the Hyperloop himself because he has enough on his plate with Tesla and SpaceX, which ultimately will mean someone else will need to step up to the plate. Or maybe he's just playing coy and he'll do it all himself.