Cavendish Insight: The Hyperloop
Initial testing has begun on the Hyperloop, the brainchild of Tesla CEO and Electric Vehicle pioneer Elon Musk.
Musk’s dream of transporting commuters safely, at high speed and in a short space of time, was the inspiration for his latest innovation, which he has since subcontracted out to the independent group Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
The designs for the project, which feature huge tubes elevated above street level, “pods” which float on a cushion of air that will shoot at speeds of up to 700mph, and reclining ergonomically designed seats, are reminiscent of the TV show The Jetsons, but could be realised sooner than we think. Although the science is very much at the teething stage, many are excited by the prospect of a new mode of travel.
However, industry experts have concerns about the feasibility of such a project, particularly regarding the time it would take to reach, and then slow down from, such high speeds. The timings of each pod would have to be very carefully considered in order to keep passengers safe, with very little room for error. In order to transport enough people to make the scheme financially viable (7.4 million a year), Musk predicts that the Hyperloop would need to have a capsule departing once every minute for 12 hours a day, every day. It is the job of rocket engineer Brogan BamBrogan to resolve these discrepancies, a daunting task for anyone, but according to reports he is sure that the project “will absolutely come off.”
Other major concerns are the heat generated by the constant compression and expulsion of air within the tube, the cost of land, wind stress on the tubes and G-force stress.
Despite these concerns, HTT has secured funding of $37m for the project, and has already set testing for the venture in motion. A 50 acre (0.2 sq km) area of the Nevada desert has been allocated for the analysis and development of what could become humanity’s 5th mode of transportation. Musk’s dream of powering the entire enterprise using solar energy adds another futuristic element; although the cost of running a complete transportation network on solar energy alone has been quoted by some as being “enormously expensive”, others have been inspired by the concept of a greener way for people to travel.
With futuristic concepts such as space travel, self-tying shoes, hover boards and smart watches all realised, we may soon be taking an entirely different “tube” to work.