Elon Musk’s Hyperloop: San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 Minutes? What Happens If The Hyperloop Crashes?

Here’s What Happens If The Hyperloop Crashes

JIM EDWARDS AUG. 12, 2013, 5:04 PM 17,093 12

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Elon Musk’s plan for a pressurized “Hyperloop” transport system between San Francisco and Los Angeles contains a contingency in case there’s a crash. Musk doesn’t use the word “crash” specifically, but there’s a whole section devoted to safety, depressurization, and structural integrity. And the diagrams note that the passengers are wearing seatbelts. There is only one reason to wear a seatbelt, of course — crashes.

Musk starts by saying that the system will likely be safer than other forms of transport: The system is immune to wind, ice, fog, and rain. The propulsion system is integrated into the tube and can only accelerate the capsule to speeds that are safe in each section. With human control error and unpredictable weather removed from the system, very few safety concerns remain. In many cases Hyperloop is intrinsically safer than airplanes, trains, or automobiles. But in the event of a serious incident, passengers may lose oxygen — they’re inside a sealed tube, after all. So Oxygen masks would be deployed: In the case of a more significant depressurization, oxygen masks would be deployed as in airplanes. Once the capsule reached the destination safely it would be removed from service. Safety of the onboard air supply in Hyperloop would be very similar to aircraft, and can take advantage of decades of development in similar systems. The passenger capsules — which coast through the tubes, pushed in front of a column of pressurized air — are coasting for much of their journey, so they have emergency brakes and engine-driven wheels in case they are stranded or need to avoid hitting a stranded Hyperloop car: In the unlikely event of a large scale capsule depressurization, other capsules in the tube would automatically begin emergency braking whilst the Hyperloop tube would undergo rapid re-pressurization along its entire length. Once all capsules behind the stranded capsule had been safely brought to rest, capsules would drive themselves to safety using small onboard electric motors to power deployed wheels. All capsules would be equipped with a reserve air supply great enough to ensure the safety of all passengers for a worst case scenario event.

Updated August 12, 2013, 7:55 p.m. ET

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop: San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 Minutes?

Billionaire Inventor Unveils Plans for Futuristic Solar-Powered Vehicle

EVELYN M. RUSLI and TED MANN

SAN FRANCISCO—Billionaire inventor Elon Musk  unveiled plans Monday for what he has dubbed the Hyperloop, a futuristic solar-powered vehicle that promises to zip people between cities at near sonic speeds. Whether one ever gets built is a separate question. In a first draft of his plan posted online, 42-year-old Mr. Musk outlined how such a high-speed service could work. Unlike traditional trains, the Hyperloop would feature a tube suspended aboveground on top of pylons. Inside the tube, pods with electric compressor fans would move back and forth in a low pressure environment, gliding atop a cushion of air. Mr. Musk said he was interested in building a prototype. In layman’s terms, Mr. Musk has described his designs as equal parts Concorde, rail gun and air hockey table. He estimates a California Hyperloop, which could travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes, would cost about $6 billion to $10 billion to build.Mr. Musk, often called Silicon Valley’s real-life version of superhero inventor Tony Stark, is known for tackling pie-in-the-sky ideas. After working at PayPal, the online payments pioneer, he founded electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc.TSLA -3.67% and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, the first private company to dock at the international space station.

Although Mr. Musk, who pulled all-nighters drafting the Hyperloop plan, said he didn’t want to start another company, he said he was committed to the idea and willing to build a prototype. Mr. Musk said engineers from Tesla and SpaceX helped design the initial draft for the Hyperloop.

“I’m somewhat tempted to make at least a demonstration prototype,” said Mr. Musk during a conference call on Monday. “I’ve come around on my thinking here, maybe I could just do the beginning bit.”

He estimates that he could build a prototype in three to four years.

Mr. Musk’s plans call for a pair of steel tubes running side by side on elevated pylons. Inside the tubes, air compressors would create a low-pressure environment, though not a vacuum, which would be harder to maintain over long distances.

Inside the tubes, capsules would be propelled forward by an electric induction motor, Mr. Musk said, an invention he said dated to the days of electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla. In his system, electric pulses travel the length of the tubes; a magnetized blade on the base of each pod would be propelled forward by the pulses of energy, which Mr. Musk said could come from solar panels on the tops of the tubes.

Pods would travel at about 760 miles an hour. He said it is ideal for cities less than 900 miles apart; for further distances, supersonic planes are more efficient, he said.

Some transportation experts have reacted with skepticism to the Hyperloop hype.

“The possibility of this going mainstream is likely low due to the need for costly greenfield infrastructure,” said Richard Barone, the director of transportation programs at the Regional Plan Association in New York. Similar concepts have emerged over recent decades, Mr. Barone said, citing examples including magnetic levitation trains.

Technologies like high-speed versions of conventional train systems “tend to be more successful, because they build off or enhance existing infrastructure,” Mr. Barone said in an email message. A technology like the hyperloop could also be a tough fit in a built-up region because of the need to locate the tubes and pylons, he said.

In a conference call, Mr. Musk said the hyperloop would require significantly less right of way than a high-speed rail system in California that will soon begin construction—and cost less money.

In a document depicting the system, Mr. Musk said the system could largely track the route of Interstate 5, traveling in the median to cut down on property acquisition costs. “This is designed to be super-light, and trains are extremely heavy,” Mr. Musk said.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is at work on a planned 520-mile high speed train network linking San Francisco and Los Angeles. The network is projected to eventually grow to 800 miles, stretching from San Diego north to Sacramento by 2029.

That network would move trains at speeds of more than 200 miles an hour, far faster than any other trains in operation in the U.S., and would move passengers from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay area in less than three hours, the authority says. But the project, at a projected $68.4 billion, would be one of the most expensive transportation infrastructure projects in the country’s history, a Government Accountability Office report said in March.

AUGUST 12, 2013, 6:45 PM

Elon Musk Unveils Plans for Hyperloop High-Speed Train

By NICK BILTON

Never let it be said that Elon Musk, a serial entrepreneur who was a co-founder of PayPal and the electric car company Tesla Motors, is afraid to think big.

Mr. Musk on Monday harked back to the days of the late-1990s tech bubble — when no idea seemed too big or too expensive — by showing off plans for a project that seems the stuff of science fiction.

The hypothetical project is called the Hyperloop, a high-speed train that would take people to San Francisco from Los Angeles in 30 minutes. That is a speed of almost 800 miles an hour.

The first unanswered question among many for Mr. Musk’s ambitious vision is who exactly would build this 400-mile transportation system. Mr. Musk suggested someone else should do it. But if no one takes the baton, he might do it. Or not.

Beyond that, the details of who would pay for Hyperloop, how it would be built and how long it would take are also unclear. But Mr. Musk theorized that if he devoted all of his energy, he could have a prototype done within one to two years. He estimated the project would cost around $6 billion and tickets would cost $20 per trip.

“It doesn’t seem plausible to me,” said Richard White, a professor of American history at Stanford and author of “Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America.” “I’m suspicious about everything, especially cost.”

Mr. White added, “How’s he going to build this thing for $6 billion? You can’t even build the Bay Bridge for that much money.” The still-unfinished renovations of the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland are expected to cost $6.3 billion.

So don’t pack your bags just yet. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek on Monday, Mr. Musk said he regretted mentioning the Hyperloop last year, saying that he has no time to work on the project and instead has to run SpaceX and Tesla Motors, his two other companies.

Mr. Musk first mentioned Hyperloop last summer and detailed it further in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. In July, he announced on Twitter that he would unveil the designs for the high-speed train on Aug. 12. As promised, a 57-page “alpha design” plan was posted online Monday that explained how such a train would work.

Mr. Musk has clearly put a lot of thought into the design. The document he unveiled explains that the high-speed train would become “truly a new mode of transport — a fifth mode after planes, trains, cars and boats.” The Hyperloop would transport people in “pods” that would travel through tubes. The tubes would be mounted on pylons that could be designed to withstand earthquake movements.

Mr. Musk took swipes at the California High Speed Rail that is being built and headed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. This train, while real, is not expected to be completed until 2029 and will cost an estimated $68.4 billion to build.

“When the California ‘high speed’ rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too,” Mr. Musk wrote, while saying that the Hyperloop would cost $6 billion to build. It is not clear how he arrived at this cost estimate.

If anyone could build such a train, it is probably Mr. Musk. Critics railed against him when he first broached the idea for private space travel with Space Exploration Technologies, of Hawthorne, Calif. Otherwise known as SpaceX, Mr. Musk’s company proved critics wrong last year when it launched its Falcon 9 rocket.

But Mr. Musk’s assertion that he does not want to be the leader of the Hyperloop project has some people wondering if it will actually be built.

During a news conference, Mr. Musk seemed to waver over whether he wanted to be involved with the project. “I’m somewhat tempted to at least make a demonstration prototype,” he said. “I’ve sort of come around a little bit on my thinking here that maybe I should do the beginning bit and build a subscale version that’s operating.”

In the paper released Monday, Mr. Musk acknowledged that there had been other proposed ideas for a train similar to the high-speed train over the years. “Unfortunately,” he wrote, “none of these have panned out.”

‘Hyperloop’: L.A. to San Francisco in 30 minutes?

Desair Brown hosts USA NOW for August 12, 2013, on billionaire Elon Musk’s plans to announce Hyperloop, a faster and cheaper way for high speed travel.

From staff reports6:45 p.m. EDT August 12, 2013

‘Hyperloop’ would use capsules that float on air in a large tube

It would be immune to weather and would not crash

Everything old is new again.

Partially borrowing a technology concept used by banks, entrepreneur Elon Musk introduced a design for a new transportation system that he said could shuttle passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes.

For now, it’s an early, conceptual design at best — a proposal for an idea that may never be built and likely gone unnoticed had it not been for the attention Musk receives for his other projects, including Tesla Motors and PayPal.

“The Hyperloop (or something similar) is, in my opinion, the right solution for the specific case of high traffic city pairs that are less than about 1500 km or 900 miles apart,” he wrote on his blog Monday, following through on his previous hints for the project.

“Around that inflection point, I suspect that supersonic air travel ends up being faster and cheaper. However, for a sub several hundred mile journey, having a supersonic plane is rather pointless, as you would spend almost all your time slowly ascending and descending and very little time at cruise speed.”

“The Hyperloop” is a system of people-sized pods that are moved over a network of air-free tubes built over or under the ground – much like the pneumatic tubes seen at drive-up windows at banks. Magnetic attraction would move the pods through the tubes.

This image released by Tesla Motors shows a conceptual design sketch of the Hyperloop passenger transport capsule.(Photo: Handout via AP)

To create a low friction suspension system for the pods traveling at over 700 mph, it would rely on a cushion of air.

“Air bearings, which use the same basic principle as an air hockey table, have been demonstrated to work at speeds of Mach 1.1 with very low friction,” he wrote. “In this case, however, it is the pod that is producing the air cushion, rather than the tube.”

The straight pneumatic approach would be problematic because the friction of a 350-mile long column of air moving at near sonic velocity against the inside of the tube is too “stupendously high.”

Another approach — using hard or near hard vacuum in the tube and then using an electromagnetic suspension — would be too hard to maintain in a system of tubes with dozens of stations. “All it takes is one leaky seal or a small crack somewhere in the hundreds of miles of tube and the whole system stops working,” he wrote.

On a conference call Monday, Musk said the project could take seven to 10 years for the first trial if all conditions are met. The system could cost as much as $6 billion, but he said that would be about one-tenth the projected cost of a high-speed rail system that California has been planning to build.

“I don’t think it will provide the alternative that he’s looking for,” said James E. Moore II, director of the transportation engineering program at the University of Southern California.

Musk said he would publish an open-source design that anyone can use or modify. But if no one volunteers to actively take the lead on the project, he said he would build a prototype.

August 12, 2013 11:16 pm

Tesla founder reveals Hyperloop amid hoopla

By Richard Waters in San Francisco

A sealed, low-pressure steel tube suspended on columns, shooting capsules with passengers 350 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour.

Elon Musk, the electric car and private rocket entrepreneur, on Monday laid out his ambitious plan for a new form of high-speed transport that he said could link some of the world’s major cities more efficiently than high-speed rail.

The announcement capped months of rising anticipation during which Mr Musk used the attention generated by a massive share price rise in his electric car company, Tesla Motors, and a calculated series of hints on Twitter to whip up interest in his futuristic-sounding plan.

However, while many experts have said the idea of high-speed transport in a sealed tube, called a Hyperloop, was technically feasible, Mr Musk has said he has no plans to build it himself or help fund any development project, leaving the idea without a sponsor.

“His plate’s already full commercialising space and disrupting the auto industry, it’s highly unlikely he’s going to build it,” said Paul Saffo, a futurist based in San Francisco.

In a blog post on Monday, Mr Musk pitched his idea as an alternative to the projected $70bn high-speed rail link that California voters approved in a ballot in 2008 as a way to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“The train in question would be both slower, more expensive to operate (if unsubsidised) and less safe by two orders of magnitude than flying, so why would anyone use it?” Mr Musk wrote.

The Hyperloop would consist of a low-pressure tube in which pods containing passengers or even cars would float on an air cushion, according to specifications published on Monday.

Using solar power and propelled forward by linear motors up to speeds of more than 700mph, the capsules would suck in the air in front of them and expel it behind to prevent the sort of build-up in pressure caused by a plunger in a syringe.

A tube between LA and San Francisco would cost “several billion dollars”, along with “several hundred million” more for the pods and linear motors – far less than the cost of a high-speed train link, Mr Musk claimed.

While the technology challenges have long been considered manageable, at least in principle, earlier proposals for such tubes, usually operating in a vacuum, have been dismissed based on the challenge of making them work in practice and the high costs of either acquiring land rights or digging tunnels to house them.

To save those costs, the tube could be mounted on pillars running along the I5 highway that runs through central California, Mr Musk said. Similar links would be practical to connect cities up to 900 miles apart, with longer routes better served by supersonic aircraft, Mr Musk said.

Interest in the Hyperloop idea has been building steadily since the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur first said last year that he was working on something that would be “a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun and an air hockey table”.

The anticipation was also stoked by breakthroughs made by Mr Musk’s otherventures in fields that have thwarted other tech entrepreneurs. SpaceX, his commercial space venture, built the first private rocket to dock with the International Space Station, while Tesla’s new Model S has won accolades in the US automotive press and become a favourite with rich technophiles in California.

Mr Musk said he would turn over his study of the Hyperloop as an open-source project for others to build on – a move that would leave it as another big idea gathering dust, unless it is taken up by other ambitious entrepreneurs or government bodies.

Mark Rogowsky, Contributor

8/12/2013 @ 5:52PM |20,401 views

Hyperloop: Elon Musk’s Crazy Idea For High-Speed Travel Just Might Be The Future

When a guy has already made billions, launched rockets into space, and created a profitable electric-vehicle manufacturer, even the wackiest thing he has to say is likely to get a lot of attention. Today, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk

unveiled his plans for the Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system that could whisk passengers at up to 800 miles per hour at a cost Musk says is about 10% of California’s proposed high speed rail plan. While Musk admits he won’t be the one to build it — he’s too busy with Tesla and SpaceX — it seems likely his white paper is going to touch off a great deal of debate in California and elsewhere about the feasibility of the Hyperloop. California is set to break ground on its train imminently, but questions about funding and political uncertainty have given that project a murky future. Is the Hyperloop really an alternative?

Silicon Valley style

Like many who live here, Musk found himself skeptical of the California rail plan. “The underlying motive for a statewide mass transit system is a good one. It would be great to have an alternative to flying or driving, but obviously only if it is actually better than flying or driving,” he wrote in his post detailing the Hyperloop. The rail authority proposes spending nearly $70 billion over the next 16 years to provide a roughly $200 round-trip that takes 2 hours and 40 minutes each way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Musk wants to cut the cost of building by 90% and take the time down to 30 minutes.

His Hyperloop, he says, will do just that. Using a pair of long, steel tubes with solar panels mounted atop of them, Musk’s Hyperloop would have small pods riding inside it, leaving every 2 minutes, that could carry people or even vehicles, in a slightly more expensive design.  He envisions people coming in a continuous flow, unlike air travel, getting security checked and then boarding their pod, which would ride on a cushion of air generated through rails built into each of them. The pods would then knife through the thin atmosphere of the tubes. While that design doesn’t call for a vacuum in the tubes — Musk says that would be prohibitively expensive and very challenging to maintain — the air would be about 1/6 as dense as that on Mars. Air resistance increases with the square of speed, and since the Hyperloop will reach 800 miles per hour on much of its journey, keeping resistance to a minimum is critical.

Simple route, low cost

To keep costs low, Musk suggests building the Hyperloop on elevated pylons that would follow major freeways. Spaced about 100 feet apart and 20 feet high, these could track along Interstate 5 for much of the journey and cross into the San Francisco Bay Area along the I-580 corridor. This would minimize the need to acquire expensive land and also cut the system’s environmental footprint. The high speed rail system will need a right of way about 100 feet wide and will be challenging to cross in some places, requiring fencing to keep people and livestock from wandering onto the tracks. Musk believes the Hyperloop will have few of these issues due to its design.

Because the speeds get significant, the Hyperloop isn’t very good at making sharp turns, at least not with giving passengers second thoughts about eating beforehand. To mitigate those effects, Musk and the team that helped him design the system called for some limited tunneling and deviations from following the highway where appropriate. Those add some cost, but still leave his cost estimates at one-tenth that of the rail plan.

Lest anyone be concerned that these elevated tubes are running through earthquake country, Musk’s vision accounts for that too. The pylons — like many structures in California — are designed to give with changes in the ground beneath them and the system has built in fail safes to bring vehicles to a stop when needed. He believes the basic design is simple enough to allow for a 100-year system life, though there will be some ongoing maintenance of the pylons and tube to ensure everything is working as intended.

Musk believes the system could carry people each for $20 per person, less than the cost of gasoline to drive and far cheaper than flying (especially last-minute air travel, which is now typically $199 each way). He sees future extensions of the system out to Sacramento, San Diego and Las Vegas and believes it would be the most cost effective form of transportation for any city pairs closer than about 900 miles apart. In the U.S., that would make is potentially attractive between Boston and Washington, D.C.; in the Texas cluster between San Antonio, Houston and Dallas; through much of Florida and potentially other high-density regions.

A long road to reality?

Of course, the path from white paper to transportation system is a long one. Musk references similar designs to his Hyperloop from the Rand Corporation and ET3 that have been tossed around for decades but have never even reached the prototype stage. His design differs in that it doesn’t rely on much tunneling or a vacuum as the others do nor does it seem to need a technological breakthrough. Martin Simon, a physics professor at UCLA, toldBusinessWeek

, ”It does sound like it’s all done with known technology. It’s not like he’s counting on something brand new to be invented.”

But he is counting on others to pick up the ball at this point and whether they will or not is another matter. The California High Speed Rail Authority ostensibly could build the entire Hyperloop on the money it already has committed, but doing so would mean abandoning most stops in the state’s central valley, with the possible exception of one in Fresno. It would also mean putting a halt to the existing plan, which was finally approved last year after much controversy. The politics of such a shift might be more daunting than the task of raising tens of billions of dollars to complete the existing plan.

In the weeks ahead, it seems certain Musk’s idea will get picked apart by the technologists as well as the politicians. If it passes muster, it could prove to be a game changer. Or it could join the flying car and the transporter as mostly the stuff of science fiction.

Hannah Elliott, Forbes Staff

8/12/2013 @ 7:03PM |21,612 views

Hyperloop Update: Elon Musk Will Start Developing It Himself

Elon Musk just finished a phone call with reporters explaining a little more about his Hyperloop idea. Before the call he posted the link to a 57-page outline describing what it might entail. You can read the whole thing here.

Here are a few other things Musk mentioned and clarified while on the call:

- The plans Musk unveiled were developed by a team of a dozen engineers from both Tesla and SpaceX. They spent roughly nine months developing them, though Musk started thinking about a Hyperloop concept about two years ago. “It was very much a background task—it was not anybody’s full-time job,” he said. “We were just batting it around in the background at SpaceX and Tesla and then in the last few weeks we ended up allocating some full-time days to it.”

- The Hyperloop sits in a tube system, rather than previously speculated underground tunnels or rails.

- The electromagnetic tubes will run mostly along the I-5 corridor, with exceptions around the densest areas in Los Angeles and San Francisco. “There is a tricky portion near LA which is called the grapevine,” Musk said, so he would make a “series of tunnels through the hills – they’re not very long tunnels”—to help navigate passengers to the correct station. The passenger pods “end up essentially chasing the pulse,” he said.

- The Hyperloop is optimized for travel between cities that are fewer than 1,000 miles apart. “The Hyperloop (or something similar) is, in my opinion, the right solution for the specific case of high traffic city pairs that are less than about 1500 km or 900 miles apart,” Musk wrote in the report. “Around that inflection point, I suspect that supersonic air travel ends up being faster and cheaper… For much longer journeys such as LA to NY it would be worth exploring super high speeds and this is probably technically feasible, but, as mentioned above, I believe the economics would probably favor a supersonic plane.”

The Hyperloop will travel 800 miles per hour–and in every way feel more like the Concorde than an Amtrak car. “Trains are heavy,” he says. “This is designed more like an aircraft.”

- In theory, the Hyperloop will be safer than a plane or train.“Obviously never is a rather strong word, but it would just be extremely difficult I suppose to crash,” Musk said. “It’s not like it’s going to fall out of the sky, essentially, nor can it be derailed as a train can.”

Same goes for earthquake hazards: “The thought I had was actually in the pylons where the tube is mounted to have earthquake dampers, the sort of things you have in buildings in California, basically shock absorbers…. There’s going to be potentially some earthquake that is so gigantic that it overcomes the dampers but we have that same problem with buildings, too. So relative to say a train where you can’t really do that with tracks it should be quite a bit safer.”

- The Hyperloop will use some of the same technology that is found in the battery packs of the Tesla Model S. “It’s a linear electric induction motor, the same as what is in the Model S. This is a pretty longstanding technology: The linear electric induction motor was essentially invented by [inventor Nicola] Tesla back in the day.”

Musk will build a demonstration prototype himself. “I think it might help if I built a demonstration article. I think I probably will do that, actually. I’ve sort of come around in my thinking on that part.”

The Hyperloop will feel like an airplane to ride. “There will be initial acceleration and once you’re at traveling speed you wouldn’t really notice the speed at all,” Musk said, noting that there will be no lateral acceleration (by which he means swaying side-to-side like a roller coaster). “It should just feel really super smooth and quiet, and obviously there wouldn’t be any turbulence or anything.”

It’ll take roughly seven years before we can ride in it.

- For now, this is a low priority for Musk. “Maybe I would just do the beginning bit, create a subscale version that is operating and then hand it over to someone else. Ironing out the details at a subscale level is a tricky thing. I think I would probably end up doing that. It just won’t be immediate in the short term because I have to focus on Tesla and SpaceX execution.”

- If it was his first priority, he could have it done in a year. “The demonstration project would not be anything that required some sort of big government approval process,” he said.

- The $70 billion “high-speed” rail system proposed for California’s coastal corridor prompted Musk to act. “I don’t think we should do the high-speed rail thing because it’s currently slated to be roughly $70 billion but if one ratio is the cost at approval time versus the cost at completion time of most large projects I think it’s probably going to be close to $100 billion. And it seems like it’s going to be less desirable to take that than to take a plane, so that means it’s not just going to be, I mean California taxpayers are not just going to have to write off $100 billion but they’re also going to have to maintain and subsidize the ongoing operation of this train for a super long time, sort of California’s Amtrak. And that just doesn’t seem wise for a state that was facing bankruptcy not that long ago.”

The Hyperloop will cost closer to $6 billion to build. “That’s about the right number,” Musk says. “It’s worth noting that that’s more than Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City have spent, combined.”

- Musk will invest his own money into this project, even though he hopes others will help as well. “I always invest my own money in the companies that I create. I don’t believe in the whole thing of just using other people’s money. I don’t think that’s right. I’m not going to ask other people to invest in something if I’m not prepared to do so myself.”

- But it’s okay if it doesn’t make him a lot of money. “I’m not trying to make a ton of money on this but I would like to see it come to fruition,” he said. “I don’t really care much one way or another if I have any economic benefit or another, but it would be cool to see an alternate form of transport.”

Musk Shows Hyperloop Tubular Transport Design for People to Cars

By Ashlee Vance on August 13, 2013

The Hyperloop is here, in its full, theoretical glory.

After keeping the public in suspense for about a year, Elon Musk, the chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA:US)and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has revealed some concrete details of what he sees as a new, superfast mode of solar-powered transportation.

In typical Musk fashion, the Hyperloop stands as a challenge to the status quo — in this case, California’s $70 billion high-speed train that has been criticized by Musk and others as too expensive, too slow and too impractical.

As Musk envisions it, the Hyperloop would transport people from city to city via pods enclosed inside of tubes, Bloomberg Businessweek.com reported yesterday on its website. He describes the design as looking like a double-barreled shotgun with the tubes running side-by-side for most of the journey and closing the loop at either end.

These tubes would be mounted on columns 50 to 100 yards (45.7 to 91.4 meters) apart with the pods inside of them going as fast as 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) per hour — fast enough to move someone from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.

While Musk had hinted at some of these specifications before, he now provides the twist that the pods could ferry people and their cars, too.

“I think to make it really awesome you want the pod to take cars as well as people,” Musk said in an interview before the Hyperloop design was revealed. “You just drive on, and the pod departs.”

Musk posted a blog entry yesterday giving details on the Hyperloop concept, followed by a conference call with reporters.

Musk’s Career

Most of Musk’s entrepreneurial career has been spent attacking businesses that he deems inefficient or uninspiring. He co-founded PayPal (PYPL:US) in a bid to shake up the banking industry and then used the fortune he made selling the startup to EBay Inc. (EBAY:US) to fund equally ambitious efforts in transportation.

Tesla (TSLA:US), for example, has built the highest performing, highest rated mainstream all-electric car and a complementary network of charging stations scattered around North America. Meanwhile, SpaceX competes against entire nations in the market to send up satellites and resupply the International Space Station.

In the case of the Hyperloop, Musk’s creative juices began flowing after he grew disenchanted with California’s coming high-speed rail system. Construction on a small section of the train is meant to begin in earnest this year. By 2029, some 800 miles of track should link cities from San Diego to Sacramento at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour. The train, which has endured much political wrangling, has been budgeted at about $70 billion.

‘Final Costs’

“You have to look at what they say it will cost versus the actual final costs, and I think it’s safe to say you’re talking about a $100 billion-plus train,” Musk said, while also knocking the train as slow and a horrendous land rights mess.

By placing the Hyperloop on elevated columns, Musk thinks he could avoid many of the land issues. The tubes would, for the most part, follow Interstate 5, the dreary but direct freeway between Los Angeles and points near San Francisco. Farmers would not have swaths of their land blocked by train tracks but could instead access their land between the columns. Musk figures the Hyperloop could be built for $6 billion with people-only pods, or for $10 billion with the larger pods capable of holding cars. So in effect, he’s proposing an alternative that’s four times as fast and 1/10 the cost of the high-speed rail.

‘Much Cheaper’

The Hyperloop would be solar powered and tickets would be “much cheaper” than those for a plane ride, said Musk. “There would be solar panels laid on top of the tubes, which generate energy for moving the pods and for excess energy that would be stored, so it can run at night,” he said.

As for safety? Musk has heard of it.

“There’s an emergency brake,” he said. “Generally, though, the safe distance between the pods would be about 5 miles, so you could have about 70 pods between Los Angeles and San Francisco that leave every 30 seconds. It’s like getting a ride on Space Mountain at Disneyland.”

The Hyperloop was designed to link cities less than 1,000 miles apart that have high amounts of traffic between them, Musk said. Less than 1,000 miles, the Hyperloop has a nice edge over planes, which need a lot of time to take off and land.

“It makes sense for things like L.A. to San Francisco, New York to D.C., New York to Boston and that sort of thing,” Musk said. “Over 1,000 miles, the tube cost starts to become prohibitive, and you don’t want tubes every which way. You don’t want to live in Tube Land.”

Businessweek Interview

Musk discussed the Hyperloop during <a href=“http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-09-13/elon-musk-the-21st-century-industrialist “>an interview</a> with Bloomberg Businessweek last year, and plenty of people have spent the subsequent months speculating about how it might look. Critics, dealing with limited information, have contended that the specifications laid out by Musk would be near-impossible to achieve. Such a long, pressurized tube would require an immense amount of energy, while also producing tons of air friction and heat.

In response, Musk argues that the Hyperloop represents a type of middle ground that other people have yet to consider: Instead of being a complete vacuum, the Hyperloop tubes would be under low pressure.

“I think a lot of people tended to gravitate to one idea or the other as opposed to thinking about lower pressure,” Musk said. “I have never seen that idea anywhere.”

The pods inside of the tubes would be mounted on thin skis that shoot air out of tiny holes at their base like those on an air-hockey table.

‘Little Holes’

“The air gets pumped through little holes and makes like an air cushion,” Musk said. The front of the pod would have a pair of air jet inlets — sort of like the Concorde. An electric turbo compressor would take the air from the nose, compress it and route it to the skis and to the cabin. About a dozen people at Tesla and SpaceX have helped Musk with the design and checked the physics behind the Hyperloop.

There would also be a thin row of magnets on the skis. These would be used to give the pod its initial thrust via a linear electric motor that would produce an electromagnetic pulse that that travels along the tube and pushes it to that initial velocity of 800 mph. Such technology has been used with maglev trains and roller coasters to impart a strong initial force that can get an object going quickly in one direction.

“When you arrive at your destination, another motor absorbs your kinetic energy and puts it into a battery pack, which is then used to provide the source energy for accelerating the next pod,” Musk said.

Tube Temperature

The temperature inside of the tubes would be between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures increase the speed of sound from a baseline of 768 mph at sea level, which means the pods could travel at 800 miles per hour without creating a sonic boom. Also, Musk sees this design producing tailwinds on the pods of 200 to 300 mph, which increases their speed relative to the ground but not the Mach speed or speed relative to the sound barrier.

“The pod can go just below the speed of sound relative to the air,” Musk says.

Martin Simon, a professor of physics at UCLA (85079MF:US), briefed on some of the Hyperloop details, said it seems feasible from a technological standpoint.

“It does sound like it’s all done with known technology,” Simon said. “It’s not like he’s counting on something brand new to be invented.”

‘Air Cushion’

Simon said that the acceleration methods proposed by Musk are used at amusement parks to get a roller coaster going. Other companies have looked at these techniques for passenger and freight vehicles. What sets the Hyperloop apart is the use of the air cushion to levitate the pods.

“He has separated the air cushion and the linear induction drive, and that seems new,” Simon said, adding that, “It would be cool if they had transparent tubes.”

During yesterday’s conference call, Musk said that he’s leaning toward building a prototype of the Hyperloop to prove that it can be done.

“I have come around on my thinking a bit here,” he said. Earlier, Musk said he preferred that someone else develop the technology.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ashlee Vance in San Francisco at avance3@bloomberg.net

Musk Shows Hyperloop Transport Design for People to Cars

The Hyperloop is here, in its full, theoretical glory.

After keeping the public in suspense for about a year, Elon Musk, the chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has revealed some concrete details of what he sees as a new, superfast mode of solar-powered transportation.

In typical Musk fashion, the Hyperloop stands as a challenge to the status quo — in this case, California’s $70 billion high-speed train that has been criticized by Musk and others as too expensive, too slow and too impractical.

As Musk envisions it, the Hyperloop would transport people from city to city via pods enclosed inside of tubes, Bloomberg Businessweek.com reported yesterday on its website. He describes the design as looking like a double-barreled shotgun with the tubes running side-by-side for most of the journey and closing the loop at either end.

These tubes would be mounted on columns 50 to 100 yards (45.7 to 91.4 meters) apart with the pods inside of them going as fast as 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) per hour — fast enough to move someone from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.

While Musk had hinted at some of these specifications before, he now provides the twist that the pods could ferry people and their cars, too.

“I think to make it really awesome you want the pod to take cars as well as people,” Musk said in an interview before the Hyperloop design was revealed. “You just drive on, and the pod departs.”

Musk posted a blog entry yesterday giving details on the Hyperloop concept, followed by a conference call with reporters.

Musk’s Career

Most of Musk’s entrepreneurial career has been spent attacking businesses that he deems inefficient or uninspiring. He co-founded PayPal in a bid to shake up the banking industry and then used the fortune he made selling the startup to EBay Inc. to fund equally ambitious efforts in transportation.

Tesla, for example, has built the highest performing, highest rated mainstream all-electric car and a complementary network of charging stations scattered around North America. Meanwhile, SpaceX competes against entire nations in the market to send up satellites and resupply the International Space Station.

In the case of the Hyperloop, Musk’s creative juices began flowing after he grew disenchanted with California’s coming high-speed rail system. Construction on a small section of the train is meant to begin in earnest this year. By 2029, some 800 miles of track should link cities from San Diego to Sacramento at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour. The train, which has endured much political wrangling, has been budgeted at about $70 billion.

‘Final Costs’

“You have to look at what they say it will cost versus the actual final costs, and I think it’s safe to say you’re talking about a $100 billion-plus train,” Musk said, while also knocking the train as slow and a horrendous land rights mess.

By placing the Hyperloop on elevated columns, Musk thinks he could avoid many of the land issues. The tubes would, for the most part, follow Interstate 5, the dreary but direct freeway between Los Angeles and points near San Francisco. Farmers would not have swaths of their land blocked by train tracks but could instead access their land between the columns. Musk figures the Hyperloop could be built for $6 billion with people-only pods, or for $10 billion with the larger pods capable of holding cars. So in effect, he’s proposing an alternative that’s four times as fast and 1/10 the cost of the high-speed rail.

‘Much Cheaper’

The Hyperloop would be solar powered and tickets would be “much cheaper” than those for a plane ride, said Musk. “There would be solar panels laid on top of the tubes, which generate energy for moving the pods and for excess energy that would be stored, so it can run at night,” he said.

As for safety? Musk has heard of it.

“There’s an emergency brake,” he said. “Generally, though, the safe distance between the pods would be about 5 miles, so you could have about 70 pods between Los Angeles and San Francisco that leave every 30 seconds. It’s like getting a ride on Space Mountain at Disneyland.”

The Hyperloop was designed to link cities less than 1,000 miles apart that have high amounts of traffic between them, Musk said. Less than 1,000 miles, the Hyperloop has a nice edge over planes, which need a lot of time to take off and land.

“It makes sense for things like L.A. to San Francisco, New York to D.C., New York to Boston and that sort of thing,” Musk said. “Over 1,000 miles, the tube cost starts to become prohibitive, and you don’t want tubes every which way. You don’t want to live in Tube Land.”

Businessweek Interview

Musk discussed the Hyperloop during <a href=“http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-09-13/elon-musk-the-21st-century-industrialist “>an interview</a> with Bloomberg Businessweek last year, and plenty of people have spent the subsequent months speculating about how it might look. Critics, dealing with limited information, have contended that the specifications laid out by Musk would be near-impossible to achieve. Such a long, pressurized tube would require an immense amount of energy, while also producing tons of air friction and heat.

In response, Musk argues that the Hyperloop represents a type of middle ground that other people have yet to consider: Instead of being a complete vacuum, the Hyperloop tubes would be under low pressure.

“I think a lot of people tended to gravitate to one idea or the other as opposed to thinking about lower pressure,” Musk said. “I have never seen that idea anywhere.”

The pods inside of the tubes would be mounted on thin skis that shoot air out of tiny holes at their base like those on an air-hockey table.

‘Little Holes’

“The air gets pumped through little holes and makes like an air cushion,” Musk said. The front of the pod would have a pair of air jet inlets — sort of like the Concorde. An electric turbo compressor would take the air from the nose, compress it and route it to the skis and to the cabin. About a dozen people at Tesla and SpaceX have helped Musk with the design and checked the physics behind the Hyperloop.

There would also be a thin row of magnets on the skis. These would be used to give the pod its initial thrust via a linear electric motor that would produce an electromagnetic pulse that that travels along the tube and pushes it to that initial velocity of 800 mph. Such technology has been used with maglev trains and roller coasters to impart a strong initial force that can get an object going quickly in one direction.

“When you arrive at your destination, another motor absorbs your kinetic energy and puts it into a battery pack, which is then used to provide the source energy for accelerating the next pod,” Musk said.

Tube Temperature

The temperature inside of the tubes would be between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures increase the speed of sound from a baseline of 768 mph at sea level, which means the pods could travel at 800 miles per hour without creating a sonic boom. Also, Musk sees this design producing tailwinds on the pods of 200 to 300 mph, which increases their speed relative to the ground but not the Mach speed or speed relative to the sound barrier.

“The pod can go just below the speed of sound relative to the air,” Musk says.

Martin Simon, a professor of physics at UCLA, briefed on some of the Hyperloop details, said it seems feasible from a technological standpoint.

“It does sound like it’s all done with known technology,” Simon said. “It’s not like he’s counting on something brand new to be invented.”

‘Air Cushion’

Simon said that the acceleration methods proposed by Musk are used at amusement parks to get a roller coaster going. Other companies have looked at these techniques for passenger and freight vehicles. What sets the Hyperloop apart is the use of the air cushion to levitate the pods.

“He has separated the air cushion and the linear induction drive, and that seems new,” Simon said, adding that, “It would be cool if they had transparent tubes.”

During yesterday’s conference call, Musk said that he’s leaning toward building a prototype of the Hyperloop to prove that it can be done.

“I have come around on my thinking a bit here,” he said. Earlier, Musk said he preferred that someone else develop the technology.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ashlee Vance in San Francisco at avance3@bloomberg.net

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About Koon Boon Kee
Bamboo Innovator Institute is set up to establish the thought leadership of resilient value creators around the world. KB Kee is the Managing Editor of the Moat Report Asia (www.moatreport.com), a research service focused exclusively on highlighting undervalued wide-moat businesses in Asia. The Moat Report is developed together with our European partners The Manual of Ideas (www.manualofideas.com), the idea-oriented acclaimed monthly research publication for institutional and private investors. The MRA’s paid-subscribers from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, a secretive Singapore-based billionaire entrepreneur who's a super value investor and successful European multi-billion family offices. KB has presented his thought leadership as a keynote speaker in global investing conferences with speakers including famed serious investors Donald Yacktman, Howard Marks, Jean-Marie Eveillard etc. KB has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy, macroeconomic and industry trends in Singapore, HK and China. KB has been rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets. He was head of research and fund manager at a Singapore-based value investment firm since 2002. As a member of the investment committee, he helped the firm’s Asia-focused equity funds significantly outperform the benchmark index. He was previously the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Mirae Asset Global Investments, Korea’s largest mutual fund company. He holds a Masters in Finance and degrees in Accountancy and Business Management, summa cum laude, from the Singapore Management University (SMU). He had also taught accounting at the SMU. He had published cutting-edge empirical research in the Special Issue of Istanbul Stock Exchange 25th Year Anniversary of the Boğaziçi Journal, Review of Social and Economic Studies, as well as wrote articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media.

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