Elon Musk says he will be building a test track for his 700 mile-an-hour Hyperloop system. He says it will most likely be a five-mile long loop somewhere in Texas.
The basic concept of Hyperloop is that rather then trains, passengers would travel in capsules within a tube with reduced air pressure. Each capsule would be moved by switching on and off a series of ultra-powerful magnets, which would also stop the capsule hitting the side of the tube. The capsule would be a millimeter or so above the ground, travelling on an air pocket similar to the way pucks move in air hockey, reducing the problems of resistance. Solar panels above the tracks would contribute towards powering the system.
The idea has concepts that no doubt many of us have thought about at some point (possibly when inebriated.) The difference is that as co-founder of PayPal, making him worth an estimated $8.3 billion, Musk has the money to do find out whether it could really work.
Musk has previously discussed the idea that the system would be most useful for travelling between cities that are too far apart for easy driving, but close enough that flights aren’t always good value and the time lost to ascending and descending is more significant. One prime example seems to be San Francisco to Los Angeles, where the Hyperloop would theoretically cut journey time to well under an hour.
If a Hyperloop system ever came to reality, it could be more efficient than flying for passengers. Musk has talked about the idea of capsules seating perhaps half a dozen people, with each capsule departing when it was full rather than having to operate to a fixed timetable.
Now Musk says he want to produce a test track, something he admitted to the Texas Tribune “sounded good last night after a couple of drinks.” He says that as well as testing his own capsule prototypes, he could make the track available to other organizations working on similar technologies.
Musk also suggests the track could host an annual race for pod vehicles designed by engineering students.