Elon Musk Unveils Concept For Hyperloop High-Speed Transit System
August 12, 2013

Elon Musk Unveils Concept For Hyperloop High-Speed Transit System

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Roughly three months after teasing the technological community by discussing his plans for a transit system capable of traveling faster than the speed of sound, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has officially given the world its first look at the Hyperloop.

The 42-year-old Musk, who tweeted earlier on Monday that he and his colleagues -- or as CNET’s Nick Statt dubs them, his “personal entourage of engineering superheroes” -- had “pulled [an] all nighter” in preparation for Monday’s big reveal, unveiled specifics about the purportedly cheaper, faster and more energy-efficient mode of next-gen transportation (shortly before 2:00pm PDT).

The Hyperloop, which CNNMoney claims could be capable of cutting travel time from New York to Los Angeles to just 30 minutes, would rely on a tube built either over or under the surface, Musk explained in a detailed 57-page PDF file describing his vision.

“This is where things get tricky,” he wrote. “At one extreme of the potential solutions is some enlarged version of the old pneumatic tubes used to send mail and packages within and between buildings. You could, in principle, use very powerful fans to push air at high speed through a tube and propel people-sized pods all the way from LA to San Francisco. However, the friction of a 350 mile long column of air moving at anywhere near sonic velocity against the inside of the tube is so stupendously high that this is impossible for all practical purposes.”

The Hyperloop would overcome the Kantrowitz limit -- a speed law limiting how fast a pod can travel – by having an electric compressor fan mounted to the nose of the pod. That fan would actively transfer high pressure air from the vessel’s front to its rear. This system, he explained, would also make it possible to create a low friction suspension system for travelling at speeds exceeding 700 mph.

During D11, a technology conference hosted by All Things D in May, Musk referred to the Hyperloop as an alternative to California’s proposed high-speed rail project, which he said would be “the slowest bullet train in the world.” He also went on to describe the concept behind the Hyperloop as “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table,” according to VentureBeat’s Dylan Tweney.

Last week, in the midst of a quarterly earnings call for his electric vehicle firm Tesla Motors, Musk confessed that he might have “shot myself in the foot” by discussing his plans for the Hyperloop. He said that he was too busy with his other business ventures and too “strung out” in order to oversee the project’s development himself, noted Tweney’s VentureBeat colleague Meghan Kelly. He did not rule out getting involved with the project directly at a later date if open-source development fizzled out, however.