Elon Musk, who co-founded PayPal and is now in the electric car game, doesn't have regular hobbies. No, his latest pet project is called the Hyperloop, and he says it's the future of transit. Unfortunately, it's also just a series of pictures.
Your next trip from San Francisco to L.A. will be all of the following, according to a blog post by Musk:
- Lower cost
- More convenient
- Immune to weather
- Sustainably self-powering
- Resistant to Earthquakes
I'm not sure what "immune to weather" means, but it sounds very good. In an exclusive interview with Businessweek, Musk elaborates. And why not? When something exists solely in your rich head and on some comic book sketches, the only limitation is your creativity, and how many crayons the teacher will let you use at once. Make it cool as hell—there's no one to stop you. Make it silver, make it faster, make it run on sprinkles. Let's imagine together:
Inside the tubes, the pods would be mounted on thin skis made out of inconel, a trusted alloy of SpaceX that can withstand high pressure and heat. Air gets pumped through little holes in the skis to make an air cushion, Musk says. The front of the pod would have a pair of air jet inlets—sort of like the Concorde. An electric turbo compressor would compress the air from the nose and route it to the skis and to the cabin. Magnets on the skis, plus an electromagnetic pulse, would give the pod its initial thrust; reboosting motors along the route would keep the pod moving. And: no sonic boom. With warm air inside the tubes and high tailwinds, the pods could travel at high speeds without crossing the sound barrier. “The pod can go just below the speed of sound relative to the air,” Musk says.
Pods, reboosting, skis, "iconel," the Concorde! Remember the Concorde? That thing ruled, why did we ever get rid of it?—now stick it in a tube, and let's hit Hollywood.
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.
Would be, if it were real—and there's no reason to think that'll happen anytime soon. No, sadly, a cheap, supersonic train that's never existed before isn't likely to come anytime soon, by Musk's own admission—instead he'll hope someone picks up the "alpha" plans (seen below) and does it on their own. Musk will focus on running his highly successful Tesla Motors company instead, which, to its credit, does exist. Making a zero-emission cars a thing that real people can buy, or hope to buy someday, is good. Keep doing that.
We love Elon Musk's nutso determination—there was certainly a time when electric cars and private space flight seemed silly, too. But what's sillier is treating this as anything other than a very rich man's wild imagination.
On the off chance that this thing is ever built, better start training yourself to never need to pee, ever: