Urban Transport

New York to Beijing in two hours without leaving the ground?

New York to Beijing in two hou...
An ETT (Evacuated Tube Transport) line in which car-sized passenger/cargo capsules would travel
An ETT (Evacuated Tube Transport) line in which car-sized passenger/cargo capsules would travel
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View of the lightly built installed ETT tubes
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View of the lightly built installed ETT tubes
An ETT (Evacuated Tube Transport) line stretching into the distance
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An ETT (Evacuated Tube Transport) line stretching into the distance
Front (or rear) view of an ETT capsule in a maglev tube
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Front (or rear) view of an ETT capsule in a maglev tube
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Artist's conception of a launch station for ETT capsules
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Artist's conception of a launch station for ETT capsules
An ETT (Evacuated Tube Transport) line stretching into the distance
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An ETT (Evacuated Tube Transport) line stretching into the distance
Artists conception of an ETT station
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Artists conception of an ETT station
How the ETT tubes would look when installed
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How the ETT tubes would look when installed
Front (or rear) view of an ETT capsule in a maglev tube
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Front (or rear) view of an ETT capsule in a maglev tube
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Cutaway view of an ETT capsule in the evacuated transport tube
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Cutaway view of an ETT capsule in the evacuated transport tube
An ETT (Evacuated Tube Transport) line in which car-sized passenger/cargo capsules would travel
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An ETT (Evacuated Tube Transport) line in which car-sized passenger/cargo capsules would travel

Although there are similarities to the Startram concept we looked at recently, this take on maglev-like transport is all on terra firma and, if it ever eventuates, would take passengers from New York to Beijing in just two hours. Advocates of Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) claim it is silent, cheaper than planes, trains or cars and faster than jets.

The basic plan is, well, as old as the enabling patent, US Patent 5950543, whose description is quite thorough. Issued in 1999, there remain seven years on the term of the patent, which is assigned to ET3.com, Inc., a licensing organization that hopes to head an alliance of players to fund and construct demonstration facilities.

The short version of the ETT story is as follows: put a superconducting maglev train in evacuated tubes, then accelerate using linear electric motors until the design velocity is attained. As the motors are integrated into the evacuated tubes, the conveyance capsules which travel in the tube need have no moving or electrically activated parts - passive superconductors allow the capsules to float in the tube, while eddy currents induced in conducting materials drive the capsules. Efficiency of such a system would be high, as the electric energy required to accelerate a capsule could largely be recaptured as it slows.

Cutaway view of an ETT capsule in the evacuated transport tube
Cutaway view of an ETT capsule in the evacuated transport tube

The most practical model system is based on car-sized passenger/cargo capsules that travel in 1.5 m (5 ft) diameter vacuum maglev tubes. The maglev tubes are permanently maintained at near vacuum conditions, and the capsules are inserted into and removed from the tubes through airlocks at stations along the route. After the capsules are accelerated to the design velocity (some 4,000 mph or 6,500 km/h), they coast for the remainder of the trip. There is no drag from traveling through air, and although small oscillations in the maglev suspension do cause a bit of inefficiency, it is a tiny fraction of the rather immense kinetic energy of an occupied capsule - which with a car of about 550 kg (1,212.5 lb) traveling at 4,000 mph is just about 244 kWh.

The capsule speed will depend on the length of the trip, as it takes time to accelerate. Given a nominal acceleration of 1 g, it takes about 3 minutes to reach 4,000 mph, at which point the capsule has traveled over 100 miles (161 km). ET3.com, Inc. believes that a reasonable speed for shorter trips is 370 mph (600 km/h). While tubes could be networked like freeways, with capsules automatically routed along their trip, local and long-distance trips would require separate maglev tubes to avoid unreasonable scheduling delays. Around the world in just over six hours isn't orbital velocity, but the practical benefits would be nearly the same - vital goods and talent delivered quickly to where they are needed.

Members of the ET3 consortium have worked with parties in China, where they say more than a dozen licenses for the company have been sold. As an open consortium, licensees become owners of the company and the group claims more than 60 licenses have also been sold in five different countries, with interest from several more. But with licenses selling through the ET3 website for US$100, a lot more people will need to get on board to turn the dreams of those behind the concept into a reality. The company is developing a 3D Virtual Ride for the system with those interested in hitching a ride able to submit their contact details here. Unfortunately, the prelaunch for the virtual ride was set for last year and it still hasn't eventuated.

Promising concept or pipe dream? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Source: ET3

124 comments
Michael Jordet
This technology is WAY overdue! There is interest being generated right now with the Los Angeles Department Of Transportation. The sooner they break ground, the sooner this will spread across the Globe as the standard mode of mass transportation. If you want to see this get started in California, Check this site out and click on "Second"! http://ideas.la2b.org/los-angeles-california-la2b-what-streets-do-you-use-for-long-trips/quantum-leap-in-transportation-needed-build-et3-in-la-first
DemonDuck
Another boondoggle guaranteed to suck money and then go bankrupt. Little details like how to evacuate hundreds of miles of tube and keep it evacuated or that people won't like sitting in a windowless capsule without being able to move or go to the bathroom for an hour. Or keeping the tube absolutely straight though earthquakes (California remember). Those are just off the top of my head. Makes nice fanciful copy though....
Von Meerman
If it could work, it would beat the hell out of our gas-guzzling planes.
onejuicy1
Australia would be an ideal test bed for something like this, but I could never see our pee brained government being remotely interested
singularity
Go back to your cave and pointy stick DemonDuck. We'll progress for you.
watersworm
Remind me of "Swiss project", sort of the same but..underground, and a liitle more slower ! Fortunately they thougt about a "on land" project. Good morning SCFY
sgdeluxedoc
Only problems I can see, is emergency stops, at 1200 to 1800 MPH..and, of course, the needed acceleration to get to that speed.. The Only Thing that has stopped us so far, is wind resistance, if that's fixed, all the other issues, which were brought up by the previous commenter, are simply typical weeding out issues.. sideways shock absorbers, that can account for 3 feet in earthquake movement would solve that problem.. And OK maybe it'll appeal to those that hate air travel, but who doesn't , nowadays ;-)
Dan79
get the scientists working on the tube technology at once. Tube tube technology.
skekoa
The speed of sound in air is 1,236 km/h. These would be traveling up to 5,400 km/h. Love to see how they contain the force of the routine and repeated sonic booms.
Jeffrey Paull
Geez . . . If people are worried about what teensy cell phone currents can do to us, I can imagine that inside one of those electrified maglev tubes you'd turn into your own TV set, AND the iron in your red corpuscles would become magnetized and you'd stick to all the other passengers in your car.