Earlier this week Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX released a whitepaper explaining how the long-mooted “hyperloop” would work.
Bloomberg covered the announcement:
In Musk’s vision, the Hyperloop would transport people via aluminum pods enclosed inside of steel tubes. He describes the design as looking like a shotgun with the tubes running side by side for most of the journey and closing the loop at either end. These tubes would be mounted on columns 50 to 100 yards apart, and the pods inside would travel up to 800 miles per hour. Some of this Musk has hinted at before; he now adds that pods could ferry cars as well as people. “You just drive on, and the pod departs,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek in his first interview about the Hyperloop.
Brad Plumer isn’t convinced that Musk’s plans are feasible:
Musk claims a Hyperloop would be ridiculously cheap, with tubes from San Francisco to Los Angeles costing just $6 billion or $7.5 billion (depending on whether the pods could transport cars). That’s just one-tenth the cost of California’s tumultuous high-speed rail project.
But is this low price tag really plausible? Even if the Hyperloop technology did work, there’s good reason to think it’d be a lot pricier than Musk is letting on.
Several experts quoted by the BBC share Plumer’s skepticism:
Mr Musk claims his plans would come in well under the cost of the high-speed rail infrastructure being built around the world, including in the UK.
But others are far from convinced.
“From personal experience of high-vacuum systems,” says Mr Muttram, “maintaining a high vacuum and the quality of alignment needed over such a long distance in an earthquake area would need some innovative engineering, and the infrastructure cost-quoted looked optimistic to me.”