Whether it’s just a publicity stunt or a viable proposal, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop might be the coolest thing in infrastructure since drawbridges. (That’s right, infrastructure is cool now. ‘Cause I said so.) What is this machine that will take you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes? Read on for 5 things you need to know about the Hyperloop.
It’s not a train
Oh boy, this thing is definitely not a train. Picture a giant tube elevated above the I-5 highway from LA to the Bay Area. Now imagine that the tube is sealed at both ends and kept at a very low pressure. Inside the tube is a pod. Inside that pod is you. How does the pod go anywhere without rails? Because bolted onto the bottom are giant skis which work just like air-hockey pucks. They glide on a cushion of air without ever touching the surface below them. At intervals along the track are railgun motors that blast you along at enormous speed. Just wow.
The Hyperloop is extra fast; 1,220 kilometres an hour to be exact. High speed rail would get you from LA to San Fran in just under three hours. The Hyperloop does it in 35 minutes. How in God’s name did they get all that speed? Low friction and low air resistance, my friends. Since the air-hockey skis don’t actually touch the bottom of the tube, there is very little friction, and with a depressurized tube, the air itself doesn’t slow you down like on a train (also weather won’t get in your way either, score one for the Muskmeister). What little air there is gets funneled to the back of the train, or down towards the skis.
This one seems almost unbelievable, but Musk proposes to build the thing for under $6 Billion. That isn’t chump change, I know, but when it comes to major infrastructure projects, this sounds like a serious bargain. Spread this amount out over 20 years and a one-way ticket would only cost you $20.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, turns out the tube is covered in solar panels. It generates all its own electricity, and then some. This thing is greener than a seasick leprechaun. It’s also quite space efficient: the proposal has it being built on the I-5 highway’s median… and who likes medians anyway, right?
It’s conceived by Elon Musk
This guy is the real-life Tony Stark (minus the bionic suit… I think). Multi-billionaire founder of Paypal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and SolarCity, he seems to want to remake the world in a high-tech, green, and efficient way. (Coincidentally, also a way in which he makes a pile of money, but can you blame him?) Regardless of whether the transit project actually has legs, he is spurring a revolution in commercial space travel, electric cars, and solar energy production. I say give the guy $6 billion, and let’s see if he can build a Hyperloop.