Hyper­loop – The Fifth Mode

HWM (Singapore) - - Think - BY JAMES LU

For al­most a cen­tury, man has had four modes of mass trans­porta­tion: boats, trains, au­to­mo­biles and aero­planes. There may soon be a fifth. Se­rial com­pany founder Elon Musk, head of Tesla Mo­tors, SpaceX, and So­larCity, has pro­posed a new mode of mass trans­port that would carry pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles through tubes at speeds of up to 1220 kph (just 15 kph un­der the speed of sound). He calls it the Hyper­loop.

While cur­rently just a con­cept, in the­ory, the Hyper­loop would op­er­ate within a low air pres­sure tube sys­tem (to dras­ti­cally re­duce air re­sis­tance) join­ing two des­ti­na­tions. Mul­ti­ple ve­hi­cles would ride through the tube at the same time. Each ve­hi­cle would be equipped with a large tur­bine that would suck air in at the front, and push it un­der the ve­hi­cle to cre­ate an air cush­ion, sim­i­lar to how a hov­er­craft op­er­ates. To reach near su­per­sonic speeds, ini­tial ac­cel­er­a­tion for each ve­hi­cle would be achieved via high-power lin­ear in­duc­tion mo­tors po­si­tioned along the tube, with ve­hi­cles then main­tain­ing speed through their own on­board elec­tric mo­tors.

If the con­cept works, not only would the sys­tem en­able ex­tremely fast travel be­tween des­ti­na­tions - the ini­tial pro­posal was for a tube link­ing Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco, a dis­tance of 570 km, which Musk es­ti­mates would take just 35 min­utes via hyper­loop (it cur­rently takes 11 hours by train) – Musk also claims that the sys­tem is cost ef­fi­cient, bud­get­ing just US$7.5 bil­lion for the pro­posed route, mak­ing it much cheaper than any other high speed trans­porta­tion sys­tem cur­rently in use, such as the ma­glev train used in Shang­hai.

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