Hyperloop Alpha is a concept for an ultra high-speed transport that would travel at over 700 mph. It is also the winner of our highly coveted Most Righteous Sounding Name Award. If anyone else had proposed it, we might laugh it off as crazy. Not this time. Not when its the brainchild of billionaire genius Elon Musk.
Elon Musk is the closest thing we have to a real life Tony Stark. After founding and selling PayPal, he started SpaceX (also a winner of the MRSNA) and built the first commercial rocket to send a payload to the International Space Station. Then, he went ahead and started building profitable electric cars with the creation of Tesla Motors.
When this dude says he has an idea, people listen.
Musk’s disappointment with California’s approval of a relatively slow (think sub-200mph) and expensive “high-speed” rail between LA and San Francisco, spurred him to create something better. Hyperloop Alpha is his solution. It would be ideal for trips up to 900 miles. Anything more than that, and supersonic jets become more suited to the task due to infrastructure constraints. Musk has said building the Hyperloop system would cost under $6 billion, compared to the “several tens of billions proposed for the track of the California rail project.”
The loop would be made of tubes stacked on top of pylons and would mostly follow the relatively straight highway. The inside of the tubes would be kept at low air pressure to reduce drag, but a complete vacuum would be too tricky to maintain. People would gather in pods that ride on a cushion of air, sort of like an air hockey table. A magnetic levitation system, similar to current bullet trains, would make the tube too expensive. Instead, the pods would have a giant compressor fan on the nose which would do four things: It would keep the pods from pushing air through the tube like a syringe, it would help produce the air cushion to ride on, it would generate trust for acceleration, and it would make the pods look freaking awesome.
The entire system would run on electricity gathered from solar panels and use technology that already exists today. Sadly, Musk is too busy shooting rockets into space and building electric cars to invest serious time into the Hyperloop. Although, he did say he might build a prototype:
“Maybe I would just do the beginning bit, create a sub-scale version that is operating and then hand it over to someone else. Ironing out the details at a sub-scale level is a tricky thing. I think I would probably end up doing that.”
Go check out his highly technical proposal and then let him know when you’ve invented teleportation, because he thinks that would be awesome.