Clean Transport

Published on July 17th, 2013 | by Important Media Cross-Post


Hyperloop To Start Testing This Year. Theoretical Speed Of 4,000 MPH. (VIDEO)

July 17th, 2013 by  

Editor’s Note: “Hyperloop” is apparently very much the wrong term for this, as this technology is not the same as what Elon Musk is reportedly working on.

This article was first published on Gas2.
By Chris DeMorro.


America has been embroiled in a debate over the wisdom of spending billions of dollars on a national high-speed rail network. A small Colorado company called ET3 has other ideas though, calling for a 4,000 mph “Hyperloop” system of vacuum tubes that could connect New York with LA in under an hour.

The “hyperloop” idea has been around for decades, and was most recently floated by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, though it is unclear if he is at all involved with ET3’s project. Called “evacuated tube transport,” the hyperloop system would essentially shoot six-person capsules in a frictionless vacuum tube, allowing for theoretical speeds of up to 4,000 mph. Talk about making air travel obsolete.

ET3, which, as commentator Icoreyl pointed out never calls their system a hyperloop, but rather an ETT, or Evacuated Tube Transport, hopes to conduct a three-mile test of speeds up to 370 mph of their system within the next two years, and claims their system would cost 1/10th the estimated cost of high-speed rail, and 1/4 the cost of a freeway. Icoreyl also notes that passengers at those speeds would experience no perceptive change in gravity. I’m terrible at math, which includes physics, so thanks for the refresher course, Icoreyl.

Imagine being able to step out for a business lunch in LA, and return home to New York for dinner? We may get our first taste of hyperloop travel if China follows through with its plans for a 1,000 KPH maglev/vacuum tube train.

It’s not the kind of thing I expect to see in my lifetime, but science fiction has a funny way of becoming science fact, don’t it?

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  • Danny

    I told my son to absorb this historical announcement. In anticipating this exciting announcement, I designed the low air pressure, air skid, magnetic periodic propulsion, and suspended tube (to solve land rights) closed to Elon’s, but my idea of having fans on the side of the tube to propel the air was not necessary, because the capsule+propulsion already serve the duel purpose of pushing the capsule and the air. I also missed the necessity of air sucking in front of the capsule. It is a very fun exercise. My son (11yr) reads the paper and understand why he need to do math and write paper with perfection. Musk is the next Jobs. Musk rocks!

    Ironically, I think China will be the first to build superloop! That will be the more powerful kick at US than Musk did.

  • bryanirving

    Room for 6 eh, what about larger dinner parties?

  • jburt56

    Why stop at only 4000 mph?

  • Wayne Williamson

    We can’t even get a simple maglev train working for a reasonable cost and this is being promoted like we can do this now. Maybe in 50 years, but not now.

    Not to shatter the dreamers, I think it would be really cool and should be pursued, but anyone saying this would happen anytime soon is lying.

  • RamboSTiTCH

    How do you shunt air and not the passenger cars?

    • agelbert

      Big pumps, strategically placed valves in the tube and air tight passenger capsules..

  • Steeple

    Cheaper than High Speed Rail? No way!

    • agelbert

      Tally Ho, oh defender of fossil fuels sans logic or scientific data.

      You may be too young to remember, but there was this excellent rock and roll singer called Roy Orbison a long time ago. One of his songs, with a slight twist at the end, applies to the quixotic hope you fossil fuelers have of maintaining alive the public’s love affair with fossil fuels.

      Just run-ning scared,

      afraid to lose,

      so afraid,

      that you might choose…

      The new version of the song ends like this:

      You turned around, and walked away, From meee! lol!

      Sell your fossil fuel stocks or be poor. And try to substantiate your claims for a change.

      Have a nice day.

      Typical phases of resistance to renewable energy, as described by Dr. Herman Scheer are as follows:

      Phase 1 – Belittle & Deny the Renewable Energy Option


      Phase 2 – Denounce & Mobilize Against the Renewable Energy Option


      Phase 3 – Spread Doubt & Misrepresent the Challenges in the Disguise of General Support


      (Note: reaching Phase 3 doesn’t mean that Phase 1 & 2 will disappear.)

      • Will Baxter

        Huh?! What makes you think that guy was defending fossil fuels? Interesting verse, but that doesn’t have anything to do with Steeple’s comment.

      • Steeple

        Explain to me what High Speed rail has to do with Renewable Fuels.

        Feel free to make your case as to why high speed rail is the best solution for transportation, especially in a country like ours where the population centers are spread apart, sprawling and difficult to obtain right of way through.

        I have to admit that I favorite Roy O song though is Only the Lonely

        • agelbert

          “Explain to me what High Speed rail has to do with Renewable Fuels.”

          Everything. As long as electricity is the source of power for a train, as it is in the high speed rail type train, and any portion of said electricity comes from fossil fuels, it’s a bad deal. High speed rail will compete with other forms of mass transportation like the evacuated tube. Depending on the distance, one may be superior to another but over all, the evacuated tube is more efficient because it does not need a large electric motor, numerous tranformers and a power cable network to move it and the people in the evacuated tube. Like an elevator with counterweights only uses energy to move the weight differential the people on board represent, so it is with the evacuated tube capsule.

          At this time, high speed rail needs electricity from coal power plants. That is not only stupid and dangerous to the environment, it’s inefficient as well. The energy to move the people should be limited to the capsule and the mass the people represent, not a large electric engine and all the multiple transformer and line costly infrastructure.

          THIS is what it takes to set up a high speed rail network. Do the math.


          “I have to admit that I favorite Roy O song though is Only the Lonely.”

          What is it with you people who love to abbreviate things so as to sound campy or hip? It’s Roy Orbison and yeah, I’m glad you like that song because it has a lot to do with the future of fossil fuels (thanks for the good gag line).


          • Steeple

            So what you’re saying is that it would be insane to spend $68B on a HS rail line if it were powered by coal-generated electricity, but it would be AWESOME if it were powered by electricity generated by renewables? Did I get that right?

            You may want to do an NPV calculation on the capital spend vs the expected fuel consumption on this venture and then reconsider how important the fuel component is, regardless of source.

          • agelbert

            “So what you’re saying is that it would be insane to spend $68B on a HS rail line if it were powered by coal-generated electricity, but it would be AWESOME if it were powered by electricity generated by renewables? Did I get that right?”

            No, you got it wrong.

            From least use of energy to most use:

            1)Evacuation tube AWSOME

            2) High Speed rail powered by Renewable Energy generated electricity NOT AS EFFICIENT and HIGHER MAINTENANCE COSTS

            3)High Speed rail powered by coal generated electricity SAME AS “2)” above but with environmental damage costs not justifying the investment UNLESS fossil fuel electricity source was going to be phased out with 5 years or less.

          • Steeple

            Since the line isn’t due on for another 16 years, you’ve got time

          • agelbert

            Yep. And I and millions more will make use of that time to stop the fossil fuel subsidy swag.

            Big Oil just celebrated 100 years this March of being massively babied by our so-called free market thanks to bought and paid for government of, by and for oil.

            According to IRFA, the list of current oil specific tax subsidies includes the following:

            Expensing of Intangible Drilling Costs

            Percentage Depletion Allowance

            Deduction for Tertiary Injectants

            Geological and Geophysical Expenditures

            Exception for passive loss limitations for oil and gas

            Enhanced oil recovery credit

            Marginal oil well credit

            Consider that the next time you try to estimate actual energy costs.

          • Steeple

            Yeah, we should never let businesses deduct their expenses from their income for tax purposes.

            That said, percentage depletion and any credits need to go.

  • beernotwar

    Of course every single entity involved in transportation from GM to Exxon to heavy rail manufacturers and road construction firms will be creating political pressure against this plan. It stands to eliminate air travel between big cities overnight. It will severely curtail auto travel and possibly even freight between major cities as well. This is a revolution in transportation and it will only get done over the twitching corpses of industries with immense political clout.

    • Tom G.

      @beernotwar:disqus : Excellent points.

      Maybe some of this resistance can be won over by partnering with union workers like iron workers and electrical workers that will be gaining thousands and thousands of good paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. Certainly Civil, Mechanical and Electrical engineers will jump on board such a project. And then the environmental groups will most likely see the value. And then there will be the construction companies like Bechtel and Fluor Daniels and others who see multi-billion dollar projects up for bid around the country. And of course lets not forget some investors who just want to make a few million on a project. And lets not forget all of the vehicles/pods or whatever they end up being called that run inside these tubes. Is it possible that Boeing or Lockheed might want to build a few thousand of these?

      Maybe – and this is where you really hit the nail on the head; this might be the defining battle of our lifetime if you happen to believe in a low or no carbon lifestyle. But looking on the bright side, some entirely new infrastructures will be needed, for example; new transportation systems or vehicles to make the last 5-100 miles to your destination possible. This just might be the thing that jump starts battery powered vehicle sales.

      Your posting has real merit and I gave it a big like.

    • agelbert

      Well said.

    • melvin lafleur

      well, elon could always take it to china if he is shut out here. they do big things in china while our congress keeps pointlessly voting to repeal obamacare

      • Bob_Wallace

        Oh, come on. The House Republicans have only voted to repeal Obamacare 39 times.

        Rumor has it that once they’ve voted to repeal another 30, 40 times they’ll be ready to start working on less important issues like job creation, infrastructure improvements, education, all that minor stuff that concerns only people who aren’t rich like them.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    Elon Musk’s Hyperloop and ET3 vacuum tube transport has nothing to do with each other. please delete the name Hyperloop and rename this article, because it is nonsense and contains plain disinformation.

    Vacuum tube transport is currently plain science fiction and it does not have near term applications.

    • agelbert

      Well, you are right that there is no commercially made people transporting evacuated tube but wrong that it is science fiction. You know those evacuated tubes that move around bank deposits in banks? That is actually harder to do thermodynamically that moving a much larger tube. Why? because, the larger the space in cubic units, the less the air differential (i.e,energy expended to pressurize and depressurize is more efficiently applied) needed to move a capsule.

      The principle can be demonstrated in bicycle tire pressure versus the large inflatable structure. The tiny volume of the bicycle tire requires around 60 psi to keep the bicycle supported. An inflatable life saving device used to pull trapped people out from under cars or trucks used about 20 psi to lift much more weight. A large passenger capsule in a tunnel of 100 to several thousand km long would only need about 10 psi (atmospheric pressure at sea level is 14.5 psi) to get the capsule moving. The greater the differential, the greater the speed but you certainly do not need a vacuum to achieve air friction free high velocities. It is quite doable.

      This aspect of air pressure behavior has aided in the design of inflatable wings for a human powered aircraft which remain rigid with a tiny fraction of pressure about atmospheric. We simply need to apply it. It is definitely not science fiction. You might say the bank deposit evacuated tube is a proof of concept for a much larger mechanism. This technology is already several decades old. Just research it. :icon_study:

  • JamesWimberley

    “…science fiction has a funny way of becoming science fact …”
    Remember those 1950s SF covers with everybody flying around in personal airplanes? Remember, indeed, the Concorde? Economics has a nasty way with most visionary schemes.

    • Tom G.

      Hi James – good post.

      I also wonder about the economics of some of the things we do in America. For example, the proposed high speed rail line from L.A. to S.F. I no longer live in California but did for about 30 years and remember traveling from L.A. to the San Jose area on pleasure trips a few times over that time period. While there was some traffic on the Interstate, it never seemed what I would call heavy traffic.

      I wonder how many people are traveling that route to conduct business activities. Maybe we would be wiser if we spent that money on inter-city transit where millions of people could have been served on a daily basis.

      We can leave the high speed stuff to people like Mr. Musk to build as a profitable business venture.

      • Bob_Wallace

        30 years later is very different from 1980.

        At times I5 is ‘bumper to bumper’ at 70 miles an hour.

        Try to get to Europe and experience their rail system. Especially high speed rail.

        And California high speed rail is a public/private partnership. It is expected to be profitable for the private investors.

        • Tom G.

          I lived in California for 30 years and last traveled the I5 in 2006 on a pleasure trip.

  • Tom G.

    I seem to remember reading about an idea like this in Popular Science magazine in the 1950’s. Finally long distance travel that makes sense and it will probably be mostly carbon free.

  • Erik Madsen

    Great post about an exciting technology. This is a tiny thing, but please have a look at the number of zeros in your link to the China maglev post. It should say 1,000 KPH, not 1,0000 KPH.

  • geoffderuiter

    Based on the conversations I have read, Musk’s Hyperloop will not be evacuated. I think it will be based around super high speed winds in the tunnels. I think this is a smarter approach because there is far less risk, and energy cost versus a vacuum. Either way this is a really cool development and it should all be announced and worked on soon!
    Here is an image that I have seen.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      yes, Elon Musk has confirmed that this John Gardi’s model is closest guess yet.

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