Hyperloop: Elon Musk and His Plan to Revolutionize Transit

by The Burns & McDonnell Team on August 22, 2013

hyperloopElon Musk is no stranger to invention. His latest idea? Hyperloop, a high-speed transit system that will carry passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco (a distance of 382 miles) in about 35 minutes.

The brains behind PayPal, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) and Tesla Motors, Elon is a serial entrepreneur who’s not afraid to think outside the box. Case in point? Hyperloop, which works similarly to the canister tubes at drive-up banks.

The Hyperloop system is comprised of long tubes on top of pylons. The aboveground system, designed to run alongside highways, includes capsules that hold 28 passengers and depart every two minutes. The capsules feature compressor fans in their nose that form a cushion of air beneath them. They’re also mounted on a pair of skis made from iconel — a metal used by SpaceX to handle high heat and pressure. The capsules are then powered by magnets and an electromagnetic field, creating levitation with little drag — the ideal circumstances for high-speed travel.

Inside the pod, passengers would likely feel a large initial thrust — similar to what you feel when a plane takes off.

“Then once you’re there,” according to Musk, as interviewed by Wired magazine, “there’s no sense of speed.”

Sound too good to be true? Hyperloop already has its fair share of detractors who have found various faults in the plan.

Sam Jaffe, a senior research analyst at clean technology firm Navigant Research, shared his concerns in a USA Today article. “The biggest hurdle would be dealing with the temperature of air compression,” says Jaffe, who has launched a startup business in compressed-air energy storage.

Other red flags like land acquisition and costs have been raised as deterrents to the creation of Hyperloop. And although those are valid concerns, Elon might be able to tap into the power of crowdsourcing to solve these challenges. He published the entire Hyperloop plan online, giving anyone who’s interested the chance to learn more about his vision.

What are your thoughts on Hyperloop? Could this be the invention that revolutionizes our country’s high-speed transit? Or are there too many obstacles to make this plan a reality?

Image via Tesla Motors

  • Tony

    The Hyperloop looks like the future of high speed travel, but it doesn’t really fix any current public transportation issues such as our crowded commuter trains and crowded train station parking lots across the country. Our BiModal Glideway would provide the same high speed travel while offering the freedom of a door to door commute, without the need to change trains, busses or leaving your car in an overcrowded, limited security parking station where it can be struck, broken into and possibly stolen.

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