Elon Musk is coming out about his Hyperloop. He's revealed plans for this super train, after teasing the public for months about a revolutionary technology that could send a train hurtling from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes. Here's how it would work.
First of all, to make this train cost-effective, it would likely only run between cities that were less than 1,000 miles apart, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, or New York and Boston.
According to Business Week's Ashlee Vance:
In Musk’s vision, the Hyperloop would transport people via aluminum pods enclosed inside of steel tubes. He describes the design as looking like a shotgun with the tubes running side by side for most of the journey and closing the loop at either end. These tubes would be mounted on columns 50 to 100 yards apart, and the pods inside would travel up to 800 miles per hour. Some of this Musk has hinted at before; he now adds that pods could ferry cars as well as people. “You just drive on, and the pod departs,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek in his first interview about the Hyperloop . . .
Musk thinks the Hyperloop would avoid many of the land issues [of traditional trains] because it’s elevated. The tubes would, for the most part, follow I-5, the dreary but direct freeway between L.A. and San Francisco. Farmers would not have swaths of their land blocked by train tracks but could instead access their land between the columns. Musk figures the Hyperloop could be built for $6 billion with people-only pods, or $10 billion for the larger pods capable of holding people and cars. All together, his alternative would be four times as fast as California’s proposed train, at one-10th the cost. Tickets, Musk says, would be “much cheaper” than a plane ride.
This still doesn't answer one fundamental question: How will the damn thing work? We trust that Musk has some ideas, given that he's the guy behind Space X and the Tesla. But Musk is more of an entrepreneur than an inventor, so it makes sense that he's talking about the price tag rather than the technologies underlying it. California's high speed train project, getting underway this year, is predicted to cost $70 billion. Musk says his Hyperloop would cost at most $10 billion.