The Hyperloop a system of transport that would launch people to their destinations in pods travelling in above-ground tubes at up to 1220km/h. It’s the idea of billionaire investor and engineer Elon Musk, who is also famous for his involvement in the development of the highly successful Tesla electric car. But despite his enormous wealth, Elon is not prepared to fork out the huge amount of money needed to build the Hyperloop infrastructure.
A California startup is, instead, taking on the project using JumpStartFund for both crowd funding and crowd sourcing to develop through a subsidiary named Hyperloop Transportation Technologies that has so far been successful in getting about 100 engineers, including 25 students from UCLA, to work on the project in their spare time.
While most transportation projects are built to fill a specific need, this team seems more interested in just getting the Hyperloop up and running wherever they can. Elon’s original plan called for a route between Los Angeles and San Francisco that would take it through heavily-populated areas, but the new company is considering LA to Las Vegas, or other routes where securing land wouldn’t be as difficult.
For the pods, engineers are proposing what they call a ‘bubble strategy’, with the passenger-carrying pod nested inside a hard outer shell. They also have plans for economy class and freight-carrying pods.
Refining the concept is one thing. Actually testing and building it is another. Developers expect to start building the first of a series of prototypes sometime next year and believe the final product could be delivered within the decade. That will require some serious cash. Elon’s original estimate of $6-10 billion for a 400-mile Hyperloop is considered by some transport engineers to be light on. No wonder the guy decided to step away and concentrate on further development of the super fast, super cool, Tesla.
Now that you’ve come this far, you may want to know what all the fuss is about the Hyperloop and how does it all work? The following explanation is courtesy of Wikipedia.
A 3D sketch of the Hyperloop infrastructure. The steel tubes are rendered transparent in this image.- Wikipedia.
Developments in high-speed rail and in high-speed transport more generally, have historically been impeded by the difficulties in managing friction and air resistance, both of which become substantial when vehicles approach high speeds. The vactrain concept theoretically eliminates these obstacles by employing magnetically levitating trains in evacuated (airless) or partly evacuated tubes or tunnels, allowing for theoretical speeds of thousands of miles per hour.
The high cost, however, of maglev and the difficulty of maintaining a vacuum over large distances has prevented this type of system from ever being built. The Hyperloop resembles a vactrain system but operates at approximately one millibar of pressure.
The concept is proposed to operate by sending specially designed ‘capsules’ or ‘pods’ through a continuous steel tube maintained at a partial vacuum. Each capsule floats on a 0.5-to-1.3-millimetre layer of air provided under pressure to air-bearing ‘skis’. This is similar to how pucks are suspended in an air hockey table, thus avoiding the use of maglev while still allowing for speeds that wheels cannot sustain.
Linear induction motors located along the tube would accelerate and decelerate the capsule to the appropriate speed for each section of the tube route. With rolling resistance eliminated and air resistance greatly reduced, the capsules, in theory, should be able to glide for the bulk of the journey.
Schematic of a Hyperloop capsule: Air compressor on the front, passenger compartment in the middle, battery compartment at the back and air bearing skis at the bottom.-Wikipedia.
In the Hyperloop concept, an electrically driven inlet fan and air compressor would be placed at the nose of the capsule in order to ‘actively transfer high pressure air from the front to the rear of the vessel,’ resolving the problem of high speed transport in a tube that is not a hard vacuum, wherein pressure builds up in front of the vehicle, slowing it down. A fraction of the air is shunted to the skis for additional air pressure, augmenting that gained passively from lift due to their shape.
The capsules, which are proposed to be 2.23 metres in diameter for the passenger-only version, are projected to reach a top speed of 1,220km/h so as to maintain aerodynamic efficiency. The design proposes that passengers will experience a maximum inertial acceleration of 0.5g, considerably less than a commercial airliner on takeoff and landing.
At those speeds there would not be a sonic boom. With low-pressure warm air inside the tubes, Musk hypothesises that the pods could travel at high speeds without crossing the sound barrier. The initial design envisions using turntables to turn capsules at each end of the tube.