Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) and founder of private spaceflight company SpaceX, has unveiled his design for the Hyperloop -- a wickedly fast new form of transportation he says is capable of subsonic speeds, that would be cheaper than air travel and less costly to construct than high-speed rail Musk said on Twitter earlier in the day that he had stayed up all night working on the plans, and that he hoped there were not "too many mistakes."
The Hyperloop, published under a design by Musk and teams from Tesla Motors and SpaceX as "Hyperloop Alpha," will consist of floating pods along an elevated track inside of a low-pressure tube.
"Short of real teleportation, which would of course be awesome (someone please do this), the only option for super fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment."
To overcome the air pressure generated by travelling through a tube, the Hyperloop will utilize an "electric compressor fan on the nose of the pod that actively transfers high-pressure air from the front to the rear of the vessel." Musk likened the idea to a pump in the head of a syringe that relieves the pressure. The "Hyperloop Alpha," as it is called in the design, will also travel on air, floating just above the track to relieve friction at high speeds.
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The idea may sound crazy: a transportation tube capable of launching humans at supersonic speeds. Due to the tremendous amount of G-force when the Hyperloop is turning, subsonic speeds are best, Musk said, reigning in expectations for travelling from New York City to Los Angeles:
“Both for trip comfort and safety, it would be best to travel at high subsonic speeds for a 350 mile journey,” Musk says, such as traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco, for instance. “For much longer journeys, such as LA to NY, it would be worth exploring super high speeds and this is probably technically feasible, but, as mentioned above, I believe the economics would probably favor a supersonic plane.”
Musk said in his proposal that the air pressure in the Hyperloop's tubes would be 1/6 the amount found on Mars. There are two designs in the Hyperloop Alpha concept that Musk published -- one for a passenger-only Hyperloop and another capable of carrying both people and vehicles.
Update: Musk has said that the design he unveiled is a first draft, with an updated Hyperloop proposal on its way.
Btw, this is not the very latest version. Will post an updated version with several late arriving corrections in a few hours.
â€” Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 12, 2013
Elon Musk has a history of achieving success with things that sound crazy -- SpaceX was the first private company to successfully fire a rocket that docked with the International Space Station. Tesla Motors' Model S was named Motor Trend's 2013 "Car of the Year." He was the basis for the Tony Stark character in the "Iron Man" films. If anyone is capable of achieving something that sounds like the transporter from "Star Trek," it is probably Elon Musk.
The Hyperloop Alpha design is "open source" -- meaning it is free to the public, for any entity to utilize and build. Musk has said he is too busy running Tesla and SpaceX to actually build the Hyperloop, unless no one has taken the project on for a "few years." If no one follows through on the Hyperloop Alpha concept it would make sense to construct it with "Tesla involvement", but Musk says that the idea is "highly speculative."