Details About Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Concept

Posted Aug 13, 2013

Yesterday afternoon, Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed the plans of his Hyperloop concept.  The intention of the Hyperloop is to be a new transportation system that is faster and cheaper than a speed train.  Musk released a 57-page PDF that contains plans for the Hyperloop on the Tesla Motors blog.  Musk was inspired for designing the concept because he believes that high-speed trains are too expensive and too slow.  Musk said that the Hyperloop would be able to travel at a distance of around 900 miles at a time.

Musk believes that the best design for the Hyperloop is to use a low pressure system set to a level where standard commercial pumps could easily overcome an air leak and the transport pods would be able to handle variable air density.  The sealed capsules could carry 28 passengers each that travel along the interior of the tube on average every 2 minutes from Los Angeles or San Francisco up to every 30 seconds during peak usage hours.

The Hyerloop would float above the tube’s surface on an array of 28 air bearing skis that are conformed to the tube walls.  The skis are 4.9 ft in length and 3.0 ft in width.  The skis would be able to support the weight of the capsule by floating on a pressurized fusion of air off the ground.

Costs: Musk believes that the Hyperloop will cost $7.5 billion or so for the pod+cargo version.  The pods and linear motors would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and the tube would cost billions.  The high-speed rail project in California is expected to cost between $70 and $100 billion.

Land: By building the Hyperloop on pylons, the prefabricated sections could be dropped into place above ground.  The Hyperloop track would mostly follow I-5 and does not take up much land.  The Hyperloop would be self powered using solar panels.  “The energy could also be stored in the form of compressed air that then runs an electric fan in reverse to generate energy, as demonstrated by LightSail,” stated Musk in the PDF.

Passengers: The Hyperloop would be able to carry around 840 passengers per hour and take them between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  The current baseline would require up to 40 capsules in activity during rush hour.  For a passenger+car version of the Hyperloop, it could probably take people plus three cars.

Security: The Hyperloop would have TSA-like security checks, but likely less intrusive and faster.

Radio Contact: In case you have a health emergency while in the Hyperloop, you would have direct radio contact with station operators.

Earthquakes: How would the Hyperloop handle earthquakes?  Since it is built on pylons, it would have two adjustable lateral dampers so the tube would not be rigidly fixed to the ground.  This would allow the Hyperloop to absorb the force of movement and not be shattered by it.

[Images Credit: Elon Musk / SpaceX / Tesla Motors]