Hyperloop – The Fifth Mode
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.