Elon Musk’s experimental hyperloop train test track coming to California
Update: After lengthy negotiations, the hyperloop test track will be built in California. Although the train will theoretically hit 800 mph, the tests will be conducted at around 200 mph.
Original Post 1/18/15: Inventor, entrepreneur, and one really bad day away from becoming a real-life Iron Man Elon Mask has another, potentially society-altering project in the works.
Musk recently spoke onstage at the Texas Transportation forum, where according to The Verge he confirmed the development of a new facility dedicated to testing his proposed air-rail, high speed hyperloop train system that travels faster than the speed of sound. He didn’t know exactly where the new test facility will be, but he did confirm via Twitter that it will be “Most likely in Texas.”
Musk first unveiled the idea for the hyperloop train back in August 2013, teasing travel speed of up to 800 mph. The reveal was very much just conceptual, but Musk claimed that a working hyperloop train could send passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in under 30 minutes.
Low price, high speed
Given the massive leap forward in travel technology, the cost would be relatively low. Musk estimated that a passenger-only train stretching the length of California’s I-5 corridor between San Francisco and LA would cost around $6 billion. A larger train with room for transporting cars would cost around $7.5 billion. To put that in perspective, California annually budgets $12.5 billion for California Department of Transportation, and $3.2 billion for the California High–Speed Rail Authority (HSRA).
The hyperloop would use a tube that remained at low pressure to lessen the friction of the train. Compressor fans would also be mounted on the front and back of each aluminum pod, further cutting down the friction as the air is transferred from the front to the rear.
Musk went on to show that the hyperloop’s footprint would also be kept to a minimum. His proposal calls for an elevated track with support pillars placed every 50-100 feet apart. In the initial I-5 plan, Musk suggested the train could even run in the median between lanes of the highway in most cases, and where it can’t, it could divert over private land with minimal disruption.
Part of the reason Musk chose that stretch of I-5, between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is that the hyperloop is designed for city pairs that are around 900 miles apart. The train needs a longer stretch to fully accelerate, but anything much longer would cost more to operate than standard plane travel.
When Musk first announced the plan, he said a working hyperloop train could be up and running within four years or less, but at the time he was – and remains – committed growing Tesla Motors and SpaceX.
SpaceX is currently testing a new, reusable rocket that shows promise, even after failing during its first test. Tesla, meanwhile, is in a little more stable of a position after announcing a new lineup of cars with autopilot.
Musk is also busy with the development of several other projects, including satellites that beam down Internet, and more.
The next step in the hyperloop is the construction of a test facility that includes a five-mile test track. Musk tweeted that along with the development of a hyperloop train for commercial applications, the test track would be for “companies and student teams to test out their pods,” as well as potentially anyone else that would like to experiment on it.
The test track is just the first step in order to make sure the fundamentals are all in place. A true test will require a much, much longer tube to judge the speeds, but it is a step in the right direction.
More immediately though, next up for Musk is a second test of the Falcon 9 rocket, which will make a second attempt at a controlled landing on a floating platform, in February. More news on the hyperloop trains shouldn’t be far behind though.