Urban Transport

Elon Musk gives us the goods on Hyperloop

Elon Musk has revealed the design and details of his proposed Hyperloop transit system
Elon Musk has revealed the design and details of his proposed Hyperloop transit system
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Design sketches of the Hyperloop capsule
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Design sketches of the Hyperloop capsule
Hyperloop would allow passengers to travel the 350 miles (563 km) from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 30 minutes
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Hyperloop would allow passengers to travel the 350 miles (563 km) from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 30 minutes
A diagram of the Hyperloop capsule
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A diagram of the Hyperloop capsule
Elon Musk has revealed the design and details of his proposed Hyperloop transit system
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Elon Musk has revealed the design and details of his proposed Hyperloop transit system
A drag analysis of the Hyperloop capsule
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A drag analysis of the Hyperloop capsule
A Hyperloop capsule with its doors open at the station
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A Hyperloop capsule with its doors open at the station
A cutaway view of the Hyperloop capsule, with passengers aboard
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A cutaway view of the Hyperloop capsule, with passengers aboard
A cutaway view of the Hyperloop tube
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A cutaway view of the Hyperloop tube

He may be the man behind PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX, but Elon Musk has been garnering more attention lately for his proposed Hyperloop transit system. Although virtually no details had previously been announced, Musk has stated that it would serve as a much faster, more efficient alternative to traditional passenger rail transport – more specifically, it would allow passengers to travel the 350 miles (563 km) from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 30 minutes. Well, this afternoon (as promised) he finally let everyone in on just what it would be, and how it would work.

Many people had been envisioning Hyperloop as something akin to a giant vacuum tube with electromagnetically-suspended capsules running inside of it – these capsules would be loaded with passengers and simply be sucked along.

According to Musk’s announcement, however, one of the problems with such a setup would be the fact that the air column within the tube would build up in front of each capsule as it traveled down the tube. He likens it to the resistance you encounter when trying to push a plunger through a syringe full of fluid. His solution? Put an electric compressor fan on the nose of each capsule, that would draw the air through it.

Design sketches of the Hyperloop capsule
Design sketches of the Hyperloop capsule

This would also provide a means of suspension, as the drawn-in air could be expelled through vents in the bottom of the capsule, creating a very low-friction cushion that would keep the vehicle floating softly within the tube – while it traveled at speeds of up to 700 mph (1,127 km/h).

An onboard battery would reportedly be sufficient to run the fan for the whole LA to SF trip, but something else would be required to provide propulsion. For that, Musk is suggesting an external linear electric motor, built into the inside of the tube. In his words, it’s “simply a round induction motor (like the one in the Tesla Model S) rolled flat.” In the near-frictionless tube, a series of these motors placed about one every 70 miles (113 km) should provide enough of a continuous boost to keep the capsules moving at sub-sonic speeds. All told, the sections of the tube containing the motors should make up less than one percent of its total length.

The motors would be powered by photovoltaic panels mounted on top of the tube, which Musk claims could generate “far in excess of the energy needed to operate.”

A cutaway view of the Hyperloop tube
A cutaway view of the Hyperloop tube

He estimates that the capsules and motors will cost several hundred million dollars at most, with the price tag of the tube sitting more around several billion, but that it would still be cheaper than the planned California bullet train. Additionally, he notes that it should be easier and cheaper to build, as it could just be placed up on giant pylons over existing land, mostly following the Interstate 5 highway.

Each pylon would contain two adjustable lateral dampers and one vertical damper, which would be used to keep the tube level in the face of shifting ground and thermal changes. Additionally, telescoping sections at each end of the tube would be included to tweak its length as needed.

Finally, it should be noted that Musk doesn’t plan on building the Hyperloop himself – he simply wants to get the design out there, for other parties to run with.

We’ll have more of an in-depth analysis soon. In the meantime, techy types can read up on all the details in the PDF available via the link below.

Source: Tesla Motors

52 comments
Derek Howe
I hope someone does run with it. It's to bad we can't just clone this man, we need more MUSK'S! This look pretty cool, California should ditch their overpriced train and build this instead, even it it ends up costing the same and taking just as long, it's still a WAAAAY faster transportation method.
FZ
Maybe the billions we Californians voted for for high-speed rail would be better spent on this. Worth thinking about.
MD
Ok.. Now that we have the vision of the most entrepreneurial man on earth (Apart from Richard Branson, and a few others possibly) The other day I commented that it was unlikely that the Musk proposal would be wildly different to other proposals out there.... Check out projects which were proposed in the 1960's, such as the "Rohr Aerotrain" it was an air cushion vehicle with linear induction motor in the guideway... and many others.. QUOTE :"So in 1965, they looked at rapid rail transportation. They looked at air-bearing systems that traveled in sealed air tubes called tube system vehicles (TVS). They looked at linear propulsion methods. The scale they covered was from the small local commuter transport systems such as the Urbmobile, to the very large super highways for freight trucks only and for specially designed computer controlled cars." I'm not saying that this proposal is stupidly obvious, but that it is erally just a mishmash of many components which everyone with interests in mass transit and energy efficiency, have seen before... However the Public will be wowed by the greatmess which it Space-X (And I love the grasshopper) maybe these systems need a face to get other entrepreneurs to hand over significant sums of money (which Elon, and Richard aren't rich enough to afford even with their great wealth, they need acess to the Fed's money machine.) PS, powering the hover motors using batteries is a stupit idea, if there is surplus electricity in the system, it would be MUCH better to pwer the hover motors using grid power, and save the tonnes of batteries which would otherwise be needed. Also, what sort of guideway is intended, and what stability studies has Mr Musk carried out., what energy calculations have been made, id order to state that no energy storage would be needd using a PV solar powered utility scale system... (Solar Thermal is more suited to large scale installations (which this is).. or is this just a back of the envelope ramble, hell. Nice to see vision out there. Better still to get some bureaucrat to break a sod. Scuse the ramble, I have an interest in such (transport) systems.
Utku Boratac
Everything seems good but if I want to go to toilet what I am goingt to do at the ride:) It seems like a biggg problem:)
Slowburn
Where is the efficiency suppose to come from?
Flipider Comm
Inducing the airflow through the ductwork at the speed of sound will make it very noise for the occupance.
NikolaT
In the very near future teleportation will be the chosen method of distance displacement: it saves the use of real estate for better uses (like natural) and, visiting Mars will be fun.
justme70
I'm skeptical on my of the technical points, certainly skeptical that it could be done for the price tag Mr. Musk proposes. But I don't think the problems are insolvable. The bigger problem, I suspect, is political. OK, we have this lovely mode of transport that goes from San Francisco to LA, and is only any good for traveling between large city-pairs. But all the people in the in-between places will have to pony up their cash for it (or at the very least forgo property taxes on the right-of-way) while getting no good out of it whatsoever. That, not necessarily technological hurdles, is why proposals like this have always failed. Any rapid transit system has to have enough intermediate stops that everybody is within a convenient car ride from a station, and intermediate stops make vacuum trains infeasible. So there's never enough political support to get the job done.
SciFi9000
regarding noise... consistant noise is easily countered by inverse phase noise cancelling technology... the idea of a fan to suck the pressure wave through is genius i admit, but why run it on batteries when you can just use close proximity induction right through the skin of the train to get power? I too am doubtful about the energy requirements though, I have nothing to work with, but I am very skeptical about photovoltaics being sufficient to propel something so heavy at such speeds (even if the friction problem is vastly reduced).. you need to supply enough power for the magnetic propultion and all onboard systems (including the fan in my opinion)
Ikeleaka Kaluva
A closed loop system would insure differential pressure would be equal. Thus the force pushing from behind, would be equal to force in the front. Also the E-Thrust project by EADS (European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company) would be an ideal motor to produce the force on demand as it is fully electric. Having the motor independent from the conveyance would reduce noise and vibration, and the vehicle would weigh less and carry more. Super idea. Why didn't I think about that? Oh yeah cause I'm not a millionaire.