Some people said Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Hyperloop dream a couple years ago was just to drum up publicity but now a first stage in its becoming a reality is underway.
Plans by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies are for a 5-mile test track near the central California town of Quay Valley to begin construction by 2016 and prove the concept.
Not quite up to 760 mph speeds on this stretch of land far shorter than an LA-to-San Francisco or LA-to-Las Vega run, the vacuum capsules will reach speeds up to 250 mph or more and human test subjects are intended to get rides.
According to the Daily Mail, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Dirk Ahlborn initiated communication with Musk’s SpaceX firm, and proposed working with his team to make it happen.
Ahlborn’s team consists of around 100 engineers who also work at leading organizations including Boeing, NASA, Airbus, SpaceX and more.
About 25 UCLA graduate students are also at work for the project proposed on 7,500 acres of land along Interstate 5.
It’s a complete from-the-ground-up effort, of course, given something like this has not been done before.
“They look at this like a blank sheet of paper on which they can realize their fantasies,” said UCLA professor Craig Hodgetts to the Daily Mail.
The suspended tube is really a macro-sized adaptation on the idea of what you might see at a drive-up bank window where the transaction papers and such are sent via a vacuum tube. Of course extra details go into the system but the idea is minimal resistance, maximum speed, reasonable cost.
The end goal of the project if it gets that far would be capsules that carry six to eight people departing every 30 seconds to destinations. Tickets are estimated at $20 each way, and travel would be faster than the speed of sound.
It take time to get up to these speeds without subjecting human occupants to inhuman g-loads, thus the five-mile track won’t be capable of maximum velocity, but it is an important first step.
Time to build the first full-scale route proposed through the Central Valley is estimated at seven to 10 years. The price estimate Musk put on it is $6.2 billion – just one-tenth of a proposed high-speed train line the state of California also in the works.
Concerns over earthquakes or other potential eventualities have been raised by skeptics.
Compared to a high-speed rail or airplane, Musk sees the whole endeavor as the most elegant, cost-effective, and efficient solution.
At last report, Musk said he would not be taking a direct role in the system, but would delegate it.
“I have to focus on core Tesla business and SpaceX business, and that’s more than enough,” he previously said to Tesla investors.
“If nothing happens for a few years, with that I mean maybe it could make sense to make the halfway path with Tesla involvement,” Musk said.
For the initial five-mile test track, Ahlborn and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies intend to solicit $100 million through crowd-sourced fundraising to finance this first step.