Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Takes A Step Forward (Oilprice.com)

This article is reposted with permission from Oilprice.com

For the first time in close to a century, mankind may be about to give serious attention to a technology that has the potential to be a true game-changer in transportation.

Elon Musk famously proposed the idea of the Hyperloop a few years ago, and suggested it could be a revolutionary method for travel based on available technology today. The Hyperloop has already created extreme controversy with skeptics citing everything from the cost of land in California to the substantial g-forces that would impact passengers being accelerated from 0 to 700+ miles per hour in a short span of time. Yet while there are reasons to be cautious about the technology, the Hyperloop should also be cheered as the continuation of a long tradition of American innovation and pushing the boundaries of the human experience.

Now Musk’s Hyperloop looks set to take its first tentative steps towards reality as a test version of the track is nearing the construction phase. This begs an interesting question – if the Hyperloop works, how big of a disruptive force would it be for the airline industry? The Hyperloop certainly has other (arguably simpler) market opportunities than moving people, such as disrupting the air freight or trucking industry, but those are issues for another time. For today, it’s useful to just think about the impact of the Hyperloop on the airline industry.

In practice the Hyperloop’s ability to compete with airlines is going to be driven by a combination of price of tickets and travel time. Price, in turn, will be substantially impacted by energy costs for transporting passengers in the Hyperloop. The technology behind the actual test track of the Hyperloop is well proven, but not on the scale that Musk and others need to see for the Hyperloop to actually function. Instead, there are a few possible ways to power a Hyperloop capsule in theory.

The Hyperloop capsule represents something like a cross between the pneumatic tubes found at banks and hospitals today (and which once crossed miles of cities decades ago) and a maglev train. Determining exactly how much power a Hyperloop would require is tricky at this stage but it’s also an important issue. One of the reasons that some previously new transportation ideas, like hovercraft, have never really gotten off the ground is their massive energy requirements.

So how much energy would be needed to “shoot” a Hyperloop canister along the tube? The proposal from Musk originally envisioned a constant energy source in the form of a compressor rather than simple impulse acceleration (like a bullet). It’s not totally clear if the new test tracks will deviate from the original proposal or not, but assuming that the designers stick to roughly what Musk originally proposed, a 436 hp (325 KW) capsule motor would be required.

For comparison, trains’ locomotives frequently have around 4,000 horsepower, while a typical car often has around 150 hp. The biggest challenge here is how much friction the system will face from the air around it. In particular, the system needs to produce a large enough pressure in order to move the capsule along the track. The math behind the mechanics of moving the tube is a little complex, but a back of the envelope calculation based on Force, Pressure, Area and Ideal Gas law calculations suggest Musk’s estimates are reasonable. (For those interested, a good overview of the relevant mechanics properties are here).

Overall, the Hyperloop would use perhaps as little as 27 kW of power per passenger (assuming a very conservative 6 passengers per tube and a 30 minute travel time on the trip). The power requirement increases if the tube size increases of course, but on a per passenger basis that is relatively irrelevant. Essentially the math here suggests that a Hyperloop tube could move passengers for as little as a few dollars each in energy. The real issue that will determine feasibility then is the capital expenditure cost for the Hyperloop. More on that in a future article.

Article Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Elon-Musks-Hyperloop-Takes-a-Step-Forward.html

By Michael McDonald of Oilprice.com

Here’s a video overview from CBS News

  • blanco69

    An interesting article about disruptive technology. Usually though, reality rarely matches the prediction. For example, the first bullet train ran in Japan in 1964. Over 50 years ago. Trains there are now approaching 275mph. I live in the UK (where rail travel was invented) and in the past 50 years rail travel speeds have hardly moved. What I mean to say is that although market forces seem to indicate that these developments are no brainers, one cannot rule out stupidity in the face of overwhelming evidence. Lets hope the e-cat doesn’t meet with the same apathy.

    • BadgerWI

      I think you just need to give it a little more time. Wasn’t British Rail recently privatized into several smaller companies? I think competition will drive these companies into investing in new tech. Unlike here in the US where we have one highly subsidized company that has no motivation to do anything different. Hopefully this Hypertube will give them a much needed kick in the pants.

    • Omega Z

      “rail travel speeds have hardly moved”

      Oh they still move. Just slower. 🙂

  • Stephen

    Although the Hyperloop is apparently self sufficient in terms of energy… I think it uses solar energy along its length? I wonder if it would work with LENR or e-cat technology, maybe to produce localised pressure changes along the loop by changing the loops local volume in synch with the pods travel. It might give some measure of safety if the loop returns to normal air pressure when in standby or incase of anomaly, But I suppose that might introduce too much complexity, and possibly shocks and acoustic and thermal issues into this already very smartly engineered system.

  • Pekka Janhunen

    I wrote about the vacuum train idea in my electric sailing blog in september 2012. See http://www.electric-sailing.blogspot.fi/search/label/tyhji%C3%B6juna and click translate on the top.

    • GreenWin

      Well visualized Pekka. Especially your solution for the lack of windows – virtuaalitodellisuutensa, I understand to be virtual windows programmed with a passenger’s own choice of landscape and sound. Perhaps Hyperloop will utilize this thought. Making a vacuum train experience more interesting than a common subway improves opportunity for success.

      • Omega Z

        “virtual windows” are planed for future generations of aircraft.

        It allows for stronger fuselage(placement of real windows weaken it) and reduced construction cost. At question is whether to leave at least 1 real window in the cockpit. Pilots could also visually see parts of the aircraft otherwise not visible after bird strikes providing damage awareness.

  • georgehants

    A brief history of the pneumatic tube transport systems that never were
    a forgotten inventor named Alfred Ely Beach who created the array of tunnels over a century ago.
    This is an instance where science fiction bumps up briefly against
    science fact, because Shusterman’s inspiration for his subterranean
    world is based on an actual person. Alfred Ely Beach
    is best known for his invention of New York City’s first concept for a
    subway: the Beach Pneumatic Transit, which would move people rapidly
    from one place to another in “cars” propelled along long tubes by
    compressed air. Beach was also the publisher of Scientific American starting in 1845,

  • Bob Greenyer

    Bring it on

  • nightcreature3

    I’m sorry, but I see this as way to subvert the cause for the flying car.
    The Hyperloop may be fast, but you’ll still have to make your own way to the station.

    • Da Phys

      In that regard best market would be Europe in which public transportation is well developed and the Hyperloop be integrated.
      Best solution for both eco-transportation and speed remains the vactrain with a maglev reaching several times the speed of sound in air-less tunnels.

      • Omega Z

        “both eco-transportation and speed remains the vactrain with a maglev reaching several times the speed of sound in air-less tunnels.”

        So a version of hyperloop.
        Of the 2 entities studying this, One intends to take it to Asia 1st.(China)
        He thinks it will receive better reception there as they haven’t the pre existing investment in the highway systems as the West has.

    • Pekka Janhunen

      Vertical takeoff and landing flying car is surely an attractive idea. Energy could be provided by LENR, but one should do something about the noise issue.

      • nightcreature3

        Superconducting Emdrives may be the solution to the noise issue. Heavier than air dirigibles, can help fill-in for the time being.

  • GreenWin

    A good idea that becomes a necessity as automobile/aircraft density increases. Though CEO Rob Lloyd’s vision of a vast global Hyperloop network is impractical. Moving physical passenger cars through vacuum tubes is far more complex than a data network. Beginning with safety issues. However, Musk has proven to be a practical visionary with SpaceX and Tesla and we wish them all the best.

  • Mats002

    Hyperloop is old before leaving the drawing board:

    Dirt cheap LENR energy and EMDrive++ will reverse the urbanisation trend because cheep land will be all needed to be self sufficient in food and through internet also information and 3D printing.

    When this new generation of DIY punkers want to see the big city they lift off with the newly printed EMDrive++ flying car, self navigating in a flash the long way to a city on the other side of the planet.

    A girl from the city wanted to see untouched nature and they lived happily with nature all after 🙂

    Thanks to orsobubu for this (retro) future scenario:


    • Omega Z

      “cheap land”
      You wont see cheap land again for at least 100 years after the population goes into decline.

      • Mats002

        There are lot of cheap land out there, far away from the mega cities you will find thousands of declining villages without shopping malls.

  • Gerard McEk

    Some idea’s of Elon Musk are good, like the Tesla, but this idea seems bad to me. Pumping air is not efficient and the infra structure will be very expensive and it is two-dimensional, unless you build it underground or on piles (both extremely expensive). Just think of what it would cost to build this for the connection between London and Paris. I would rather go for three-dimensional transport like the PAL-V: http://pal-v.com/. Obviously it should have a LENR drive….

    • Omega Z

      Actually, this is a great idea. It would cost far less then a highway & we a have the technology today to build it to last several thousand years. Built with negative pressure, you have no resistance, no turbulence & no drag & over long distance(NY to LA, 2k-3k mph is possible.

      That said, Logic & common sense will not prevail thus, I tend to agree with you. Maybe not such a good idea. Society tends to build a piece of art, then try to make it functional. An intelligent society would maximize function 1st. A true artist can make it appear as a piece of art after the fact.

      PAL-V three-dimensional transport. Really. We haven’t mastered Two-dimensional transport yet. I question whether we ever will.

  • There is science fact.
    There is science fiction.
    There is science fantasy
    Some times they get swirled around together.
    I think that’s what’s happening with this doohickey.

  • Daniel Maris

    I backed Musk as a winner in space. So he has proved. I back him on the ground as well! 🙂

    • Omega Z

      Other then proposing that people consider a several decades old idea, Musk has nothing to do with this.

  • Omega Z

    Aside from unrealistic utopian
    It’s interesting to realize one needs to look back 50 years to find people who can dream outside the box. Many think about a better future today, but few can actually describe what that would be.

  • Agaricus

    ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’, or ‘what goes around, comes around’ – the Victorian hyperloop:


    Alfred Ely Beach’s experimental pneumatic elevated subway on display in 1867.

    • georgehants

      Morning Peter, great minds think alike, Ha.
      Hope you are well and your pride and joy is safely moored for the winter.

      • Agaricus

        Morning George. I’m desperately trying to remember whether I drained the cooling system at the end of my last visit. Unfortunately things I did yesterday are already a little hazy – let alone 10 weeks ago.

        • Omega Z

          Peter, If you can’t remember if you drained the cooling system 10 weeks ago, will you remember where you left it come spring?
          🙁 Oh my.

          • Agaricus

            Hopefully. Certainly there’s a better chance than remembering where I parked my car when I visit nearby towns. I like to think my forgetfulness is due to being concerned with higher things — but I forget which, exactly…

  • Alain Samoun

    If everything goes well we will have trains moved with LENR reactors engines that will be cheaper and possibly using the same infrastructure of current trains.