#1 cleantech news, reviews, & analysis site in the world. Subscribe today. The future is now.

Clean Transport

Published on December 14th, 2015 | by Steve Hanley


Hyperloop Test Track Planned In Nevada

December 14th, 2015 by  

Originally published on GAS2.

Nevada is rapidly becoming the new Silicon Valley. Tesla is building its gigantic Gigafactory in the desert north of Reno. Faraday Future has just announced it will invest $1 billion in a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in North Las Vegas. Now comes word that North Las Vegas will also be home to a half-mile-long test track designed to determine if Elon Musk’s Hyperloop idea is just science fiction or the basis for an all-new means of transportation of the future.

First, let’s clear up a few things. While the original idea was Musk’s, he is not directly involved in its commercial development. He is, however, promoting a competition between two companies who are trying to find out if the idea is commercially viable. One of them is called Hyperloop Technologies (HT) and the other is called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT). It’s easy to get them confused.

According to Russian Times, the Hyperloop Technologies facility will be constructed in the Mountain View Industrial Park in North Las Vegas, near Faraday Future’s factory. The company says it has raised $37,000,000 from investors and expects to obtain another $80,000,000 by selling bonds. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is constructing its own test facility north of Los Angeles.

So, what is this Hyperloop thing, anyway? Think of it like the vacuum tube system that banks use to connect customers at the drive-up window with the tellers inside. Hyperloop vehicles would travel in a partial vacuum inside a tube. Less air means less aerodynamic drag. Now add in magnetic levitation and linear electric motors and you have a system that could transport people and cargo over long distances at speeds just slightly less than the speed of sound. LA to San Francisco would take under an hour. LA to NYC would happen in under 6 hours. Sounds good, huh?

Hyperloop station“The physics of it works,” John Hansman, aeronautics professor at MIT tells the Associated Press. “The real question is, can you get it to a point where it will be cost-competitive with other means of transportation? That’s a big unknown.” Elon Musk estimates the cost of the LA to SF link at $9 billion. That’s considerably less than the $68 billion that the proposed high-speed rail line between the two cities is projected to cost.

James E. Moore II, director of the transportation engineering program at the University of Southern California, tells Autoblog that a lot of safety, comfort, and system questions have yet to be answered. Among other things, the tube the vehicle travels through will have to maintain its partial vacuum for hundreds if not thousands of miles. In addition, magnetic levitation depends on small and very critical tolerances between the vehicle and the propulsion system. Can the system be built in such away that the tubes remain properly aligned from end to end, especially in a state that features the San Andreas Fault?

Oh, one more thing. There will be no sightseeing along the way. The tubes will have no windows and the Hyperloop vehicles will have no central aisle. It will be as narrow as possible to keep aerodynamic drag to a minimum. It will be like riding in a horizontal elevator. That means no food or drink during the trip. No bathroom breaks either. The more you know about the Hyperloop, the less it seems like something that will replace air travel any time soon.

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

  • dRanger

    This article is incorrect on one technical point – Elon’s proposal does not include magnetic levitation. That technology is very expensive and unnecessary. The Hyperloop capsules float on air bearings where the air is supplied by a large compressor turbine at the front. One other point – traveling in a windowless capsule is no different than flying at night through clouds and people manage to survive that experience quite nicely.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Generally when I fly, even in the daytime, we’re required to keep the shades down.

      I read a piece recently by someone who had just taken a demo ride on Japan’s new maglev train. He reported that the view out the window was just a blur at 300 MPH.

      Personal video screens. Link them to your laptop/smart phone if you like. You could bring your own movie, get some work done, play your favorite video game.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Crikey! They tell us to put the blinds up in Australia. It’s so if the plane crashes rescuers can look in the window to see if you are good looking enough or not to be worth pulling out. But it is only a landing and take off thing.

  • Kyle Prell

    Side by side tubes with only one car in each tube that travel in opposite directions. Each section two hundred kilometers long. 24 minute travel time between stops. Aerotek shape that directs minimal air under the body of the vehicle for lift. Titanium or graphene wheels for incidental contact with motors that keep the wheels spinning at corresponding velocity.

  • Harry Johnson

    This is a fun idea but a $9 billion price tag is the most fantastic part. The 19 mile Shanghai maglev cost $1.2 billion and that’s with no vacuum tube.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Los Angeles to San Francisco is about 615 km. The Shanghai maglev cost $43.6 million per km. Maglev from LA to SF would cost $26.8 billion. If built in China. US construction and real estate costs would probably be considerably higher.

      If the Hyperloop works it looks to be a major change in the way we travel long distances. Who wants to poke along in a maglev that only goes 300 miles an hour when you could get there over twice as fast? ;o)

    • Joseph Dubeau

      The 9 billion does not take into account the land cost.
      They have a pretty good solution in Europe, it called the train.

      • Bob_Wallace

        And how fast is that train?

        Last spring I flew from Paris to Madrid. I really wanted to take HSR but it would have eaten up a travel day.

        • Peter Waegemans

          And how expensive! Damn!

        • Joseph Dubeau

          “On 15 December 2013, direct double-decker TGV Duplex high-speed trains started running from Paris Gare de Lyon to Figueres, Girona & Barcelona at up to 200mph. Paris to Barcelona centre to centre in around 6h25 for the 1,073km (667 miles), compared to almost 5 hours by air once ground transportation, check-in time and airport security are included.
          2 trains per day run all year round, increasing to 4 trains a day in summer.”

          6 hours 25 minutes by train versus 5 hours by air.


          • Bob_Wallace

            Except that I was going to Madrid. That’s a 10 hour trip from Paris on HSR.

            “Paris / Madrid by TGV/AVE (high speed trains), in 10 hours with a train change in Barcelona.”


            Plus I was already going to be at CDG which would have made the ground travel time to Gare Lyon greater.

            Eurorail requires a 45 minute pre-departure check in. That’s only 15 minutes less than the airplane requirement.

            We flew out at 7:30 and by noon were in our Madrid apartment. With groceries.

          • Brooks Bridges

            And once Tesla is well and truly launched and selling a million a year Elon can finally turn to electric planes.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Electric planes would require much higher capacity batteries and battery science is not one of Elon’s specialities.

            I expect battery research is going to be well funded by many different battery companies for many years to come. The battery market is going to be immense when you consider both EVs and grid storage. Fortunes are waiting for those who move the technology forward.

          • Brooks Bridges

            “battery science is not one of Elon’s specialities.”
            Really? If not, he has access to a lot of people who are, talking to him.

            I respect your opinion but I’d still go with Elon. He said that current battery capabilities were very near what’s required for an airplane – not trans-atlantic but definitely short haul. He envisions doing away with control surfaces and going with rocket type propulsion/control. Said he’d be doing something in that area now but with Tesla and SpaceX he was afraid his brain would explode.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m looking at the irons he has in the fire. He says his main interest is space travel, EVs seem to be more of a “community service” issue.

            As far as I know Tesla has sponsored no battery research, has hired a battery expert to help them sort through the various technologies that might be making their way to the market.

            Of course we’re all guessing….

  • Martin

    Well it sounds like it would be perfect for freight but I am not sure for people ( who would like to be stuck in a place for more than 1 or 2 hours with no bathroom?)

    • Bob_Wallace

      The first pod design was a sit down and stay there model. Other designs are more the size of a commuter jet. Toilet included.

    • sjc_1

      I think freight is the market, there are medical, electronics and other freight where time is important and they will pay the price.

      • Bob_Wallace

        The cost and speed should make the ‘loop very popular with shippers. There should be a mixture of people and freight using the tubes. Freight is likely to be the ‘filler’ when demand for passenger space is down.

Back to Top ↑