Elon Musk’s Hyperloop transport system not a vacuum tunnel, here’s all we know

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

A simple tweet is all it took. Elon Musk, tech billionaire and founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has sent the tech world into giddy excitement by announcing the date that he will reveal early designs of his much-anticipated Hyperloop transport system.

At this stage no one knows 100% what the Hyperloop system is, or how it works, but it could be a direct rival to the planned California bullet-train that will travel the 343 miles (552km) between Los Angeles and San Francisco in three hours. The Hyperloop will theoretically do this in under 30 minutes, at 685 mph or 1 102 km/h.

There are plenty of ideas floating around the internet, so let’s reassess what Musk has said or revealed in interviews or on social media platforms:

  • He calls it the “fifth mode” of transport, so something different to trains, automobiles, boats and airplanes.
  • At the AllThingsD’s D11 conference he said the Hyperloop is sort of a “cross between a Concorde and railgun and an air hockey table.”
  • He said during a Pando Daily interview last year that it could be “self-powering if you put solar panels on it”, and that it could “generate more power than you would consume in the system.”
  • He also told Pando Daily’s Sarah Lacey last July that “there’s a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries. Yes, this is possible, absolutely.”

A lot of possible designs are being thrown around on the internet, and one notion is that it could be similar to the Vactrain, a proposed high-speed railroad transport system that uses magnets to move passenger capsules through vacuum-tubes. However, a look back through time (to July 2012) reveals that this might not be the case at all:

Musk was quite forthcoming on Twitter answering questions about patenting the system and the commercial side of the venture:

The Hyperloop could be, at least partially, built underground. I think we speak for everyone when we say, August 12 could not come soon enough.



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