“No, you didn’t read that wrong. Paypal co-creator and Tesla Motors Wunderkind thinks that California just wasted $63 billion on a mass transit rail that only goes 164 miles an hour when a 14,000-mile-an-hour pneumatic railroad could be built for 1/10th that amount to take someone from Los Angeles to New York in less than 2 hours. Even better – the plans for such a pneumatic, or vacuum tube train, are all open source.
Called ‘hyperloop’ this ultra high-speed public transport could completely change people’s frustrating waits on delayed flights due to inclement weather, reliance on petroleum-fueled transport, and panic attacks over possible crashes, since the hyperloop theoretically cannot crash. It would move faster than the speed of sound.
Musk has been talking about this technology for a long time, but just recently released a 57-page document, complete with drawings and technology explanations, outlining his plans. This is his most ambitious project to date, outside of creating recyclable rockets, but it is completely do-able. Within the document, Musk states:
“When the California “high speed” rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying “one of”. The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn’t the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.”
The rail would run on completely self-sustaining power, be faster, safer, resistant to earthquakes, more convenient, and would not disturb those along its path. Musk envisions the hyperloop connecting high-traffic city pairs that are less than 900 miles apart.
The technology would work similarly to how pneumatic tubes used to transfer packages and mail between city buildings, only it accounts for the Kantrowitz limit. Musk explains:
“The approach that I believe would overcome the Kantrowitz limit is to mount an electric compressor fan on the nose of the pod that actively transfers high pressure air from the front to the rear of the vessel. This is like having a pump in the head of the syringe actively relieving pressure. It would also simultaneously solve another problem, which is how to create a low friction suspension system when traveling at over 700 mph.”
Musk calls the system a cross between ‘an air hockey table, a railgun, and a Concord jet.’ It would likely travel at speeds closer to 750 miles per hour, rather than its potential 14,000, but that would have you drinking your favorite cup of cappuccino in Chicago, having come from Dallas in under an hour – likely less time than it takes you to manage your morning commute.
ET3 and the Rand corporation are looking into the technology, but it is available to anyone who is interested in taking his ‘dream’ of faster travel to the next step, and making it a reality.”