Elon Musk – of PayPal and SpaceX fame – has taken the lid off his plans for a revolution in transport.
The Hyperloop system, outlined online, imagines passengers riding in aircraft-like pods, being sucked through a vacuum tube at speeds up to 700 mph. In a conference call Musk outlined the time frame for the project, “It’s maybe seven to as much as ten years from now before it’s fully operational.”
The project would cost billions. Tesla battery and motor technology would be used to suck air from the front of the vehicle and exhaust it at the rear. The result? A dramatically shortened trip time (30 minutes) from San Fransisco to Los Angeles, CA at a fraction of what it would cost to build high speed rail along a similar route.
At least one surface transportation expert told TV station KPIX 5 that Musk is on to something. “We need to have a break through. We need to have something that doesn’t operate on freeways. Doesn’t operate on petroleum. And that could be Mr. Musk’s idea,” said Ron Diridon, of Mineta Transportation Institute, “But he has to prove it.”
Musk said there will be an eventual demonstration project but has not committed to building Hyperloop himself. The estimated cost to start would be about six billion.
He’s also going “open source” with the concept, asking others to review the plans and build on them with additional ideas. To take a crack at that yourself, here’s an overview of the Hyperloop project.