Hyperloop is a new form of land transport, which envisions people being able to travel at speeds of over 700 miles an hour. This technology is currently in development by a number of companies, and may well become reality soon.
What Makes Hyperloop Unique?
Hyperloop transport routes will differ from traditional land-based ones in that passengers will be transported on air pods, which travel through tunnels. Most of the air will be removed from these channels to minimize friction against the ground, which is what makes traditional transport so slow in the opinion of proponents of Hyperloop technology.
The tubes or tunnels will be made of steel, around 10 feet in diameter. The pods carrying passengers will accelerate and decelerate gradually without stopping at stations.
The reduced friction will enable the pods to travel at speeds of up to 750 miles an hour. Their movement will be based on the principle of air hockey tables. The fact that most of the air around the vehicle will be removed means it will require less energy to reach a higher speed.
Advocate No. 1
Billionaire Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors and founder of PayPal, was the first to stand behind the technology. When the state of California announced a plan to build a rail system to reduce travel time between LA and San Francisco almost six years ago, Musk wrote and published an extensive white paper on the Hyperloop, in which he rated California’s proposed bullet train as being “among the slowest worldwide.”
Musk’s Hyperloop would reduce the travel time between the two cities to just over 30 minutes, and his train would travel at the impressive 760 miles an hour. He wrote that the power needed to reduce the air in tunnels and propel the pods would be derived from solar panels. These would be placed on the tunnel roofs. As solar power itself is free, ticket prices for the route could drop to a mere $20.
According to Musk, it would cost just $6 billion to build the Hyperloop transport route, the cost of an average-size bridge. In comparison, California’s bullet train program would cost over $60 billion to implement, and these trains would travel at a speed of 200 miles per hour.
Notwithstanding the skepticism toward a form of transportation crossing a plane and a train, the idea has been embraced by many. The companies Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Virgin Hyperloop One are currently developing Hyperloop routes in Asia, North America, and Europe. Virgin Hyperloop One has designed prototype air pods fitted with armrest-mounted entertainment screens and leather seats. Each pod seats 40 passengers.