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High Speed Tube Travel: A Revolution in Overland Commuter Transport?

Posted on 22. Jan, 2014 by in Uncategorized

Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk has recently proposed a revolutionary idea for a high-speed mode of transportation that, so far, remains theoretical. This “fifth mode” of transportation would be completely distinct from current methods of travel via aircraft, boats, trains, and automobiles, and would involve high speed tube travel via a “hyperloop.” While Musk has expressed his determination to develop a working prototype of the theoretical hyperloop, the economic and technological feasibility of the project remains uncertain, a requires much further independent study.

Musk’s hyperloop would consist of a contained, reduced-pressure tube elevated above the ground, with individual pressurized capsules propelled within the tube using an array of linear electric motors. In August 2013, Musk worked with a close group of SpaceX and Tesla engineers to put out an alpha-level design for the project. This version of Musk’s high speed tube travel idea would involve capsules that would be able to “levitate” on an air cushion produced by air forced through numerous openings along the underside of the capsule. Such a design would, as the engineering team notes, require a complex regulatory system to mitigate complications that could be cause by choked airflow.

This recent “alpha” project proposal calls for a US $6billion budget, which would only cover an exclusively passenger version of the hyperloop. It is estimated that the cost of a system that could accommodate both passengers and automobiles would be about US $7.5 billion. However, both of these cost projections have been called into question by transportation engineers, as well as other experts who suggest that such a proposal would involve much greater costs, due to the scale and complexity of required construction, and the level of sophisticated, theoretical, unproven technology involved.

This initial alpha design predicts that high speed tube travel between the San Francisco Bay area and the greater Los Angeles region in around 35 minutes, with travelers covering the 354-mile route at top speeds of 760 mph, and an average speed of about 598 mph. The proposed rout for the hyperloop would parallel the I-5 corridor for much of its length, stretching from the San Fernando Valley in the north, to the Hayward/Castro Valley region. Currently there is a plan to release an updated proposal by March 2014, which could lead to initial construction of a prototype model.

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