Traveling at Profound Speed: The Hyperloop and Evacuated Tube Transport Systems

Heather Atkinson

Have you heard of the Hyperloop? What would you get if you crossed a Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table? Apparently the answer is the Hyperloop, the brainchild of billionaire, engineer, entrepreneur Elon Musk, according to what he told interviewers at the recent All Things Digital Conference.

Nvate Hyperloop by Elon musk, vacuated tube transport by ET3, very high speed transit system by R.M. Salter

This is a mock-up of the proposed Hyperloop.

Unfortunately, this obscure little riddle is the only description he gave regarding his new transportation concoction, as Musk wanted to refrain from discussing it until after his priority Tesla update hit the newsstands. But what is the Hyperloop? It’s hard to tell with Musk’s elusive hints, but he has mentioned it before.

What is the Hyperloop?

“This system I have in mind, how would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes three or four times faster than the bullet train… it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do,” Musk said in a 2012 interview to Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily. “You would go from downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes. It would cost you much less than an air ticket, than any other mode of transport.”

“I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system,” Musk continued on what some people have called a crazy idea. “There’s a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries. Yes, this is possible, absolutely.”

The Hyperloop Trasnport System on SpaceX.com and Tesla.com

Elon Musk’s sketches and a paper detailing the Hyperloop transportation technologies involved has been posted on SpaceX.com and Tesla.com

Vague, you say? Most definitely. Too good to be true? Well, no, as it turns out. Musk may be keeping his intentions on the down-low, much to everyone’s eager disappointment, but plans for a sophisticated Hyperloop system have recently come to light in business and technology circles, and do you want to know the cool part? A plan to build a similar mode of transportation is already in progress.

Hyperloop: Moving at 4,000 mph with Evacuated Tube Transport

The company is called ET3, and the high-tech foundation they’re building the walls of their project upon is known as an “Evacuated Tube Transport,” which they say will undergo testing before the year is up.

According to a short video ET3 put together, the Evacuated Tube Transport is a futuristic system of airless vacuum tubes which will carry individual capsules that support up to six passengers on frictionless tracks, moving at speeds of up to 4,000 mph. It produces one G-force, and is faster than bullet trains and the standard passenger plane. Passengers riding inside the capsules will not feel any different than if they were riding in a car.

How the Hyperloop Would Work

To further outline the perks of a system such as this, not only is the Evacuated Tube Transport fast, but it’s efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly. According to ET3, there would be no need for scheduled departures, it would use considerably less energy, and the cost to build would be only a fraction of what it would cost to construct a high-speed railway, or even a standard freeway.

The ticket prices don’t sound too bad either; apparently a passenger would be able to get from Los Angeles to New York in about 45 minutes for a mere $100, as reported by DailyTech. So why hasn’t this been thought of before? Well, somebody already did.

An Idea: Very High Speed Transit System

R.M. Salter of the Rand Corporation released a paper in the 1970s outlining the details of the Very High Speed Transit System, or VHST, which consisted of an underground network of tubes that would propel passengers all over the country at impressive speeds.

“VHSTs tubecraft ride on, and are driven by, electromagnetic waves,” Salter wrote. “In accelerating, it employs the energy of the surrounding [electromagnetic] field; in decelerating, it returns most of this energy to the system.”

It sounds quite innovative for the time, yet Salter explained that the required technology was already present, just that the development would be problematic, which proved to be true since we have no VHST today.

Hyperloop Video: Now Watch this Scaled Down Hyperloop Prototype in Action

Maybe it took the current mindset of an environmentally-concerned people to fully accept the benefits of such a system, or maybe it just took the dedication of a handful, such as ET3 and Musk. After all, Musk is already sending people into space; who’s to say he couldn’t send people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour with Hyperloop?

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