What is a Hyperloop?

The Hyperloop makes use of evacuated tubes and magnetic levitation.
The Hyperloop makes use of evacuated tubes and magnetic levitation.

Dreaming of the future of technology is one of humanity’s favourite past times, and nothing has caught the imagination quite like the Hyperloop. The Hyperloop is a concept that improves upon the traditional train by making use of evacuated tubes and magnetic levitation to allow a pod to travel at speeds close to the speed of sound.

Development of the Hyperloop

Elon Musk coined the term hyperloop in 2012 when he first said that he was thinking of “a fifth mode of transport” while at an event in California. He drew inspiration from the work of Robert Goddard who developed the vactrain concept. A group of engineers from his companies Space X and Tesla worked on modeling concepts, and early system designs were published on the company’s blogs. Elon Musk has made the hyperloop concept open-source which has allowed and encouraged others to take up the idea and develop it further. Space X built a nearly 1-mile long track for its pod competition. Experts, however, appear sceptical over its practicability raising issues not only with the expense but also with the risks of developing the technology.

How Does the Hyperloop Work?

At its core, the Hyperloop would consist of passenger capsules traveling through tubes that have had most of the air within them removed by pumps to reduce friction. The capsule would be enclosed in reduced pressure within the tubes to reduce the air resistance which would allow the capsules to travel at speeds similar to those of an airplane. Most models of the hyperloop make use of magnetic levitation to keep the capsules of the track thus reducing linear friction. Elon Musk’s model would be powered by solar panels making it energy efficient.

Riding the Hyperloop

Critics of the system argue that the experience of riding in a hyperloop would be unpleasant since it would be narrow, sealed and windowless. They also argue that the passengers would be subjected to high speeds, high noise levels, a lot of vibrations and jostling, and lateral G-force on bends in the route. This has been countered by Virgin Hyperloop, who say that a journey via hyperloop would feel similar to riding a plane or an elevator. They assure passengers that though the systems will be fast hey will accelerate at the same tolerable G-force as that of taking off in a Boeing 747. To provide entertainment for the passengers, Elon Musk suggested that beautiful landscapes will be displayed in the cabin.

Costs of Taking the Hyperloop

Elon Musk had suggested a route for the Hyperloop from Los Angeles to San Francisco that would be $20 a ride. Virgin Hyperloop One, on the other hand, is yet to offer a concrete price, although they state that their goal is to make the Hyperloop affordable for everyone. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is aiming for a low ticket price while remaining profitable. The route would most likely determine the price, the cost of developing the system, and the profit expectations of the company.

When and Where Can We Expect the First Hyperloop Ride?

The technology is still in development, and the earliest projection for a working system is 2021. Most companies have mapped out routes in the US and Europe.


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