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back to article We'll build Elon Musk's Hyperloop ... if you lob us ONE-MEELLION dollars

Elon Musk's futuristic Hyperloop public transport system took a tiny step closer towards becoming reality today as a name was chosen for the company which hopes to start work on the superfast tube train. Headed up by Dr Marco Villa, former director of mission operations at SpaceX, and Dr Patricia Galloway, a former president of …

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Coat

It all sounds

Completely loopy to me.

Sorry i'll just get my coat.....

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No chance in hell

The project as stated grossly underestimates the costs and the physics problems, and grossly overestimates the number of potential customers. This cannot work.

This is not the first attempt to have a levitated train-like vehicle in a vacuum tube. It's hard. And this project does not even go for full vacuum, so you have to fight air resistance.

I'm sure you can get a nice salary by trying for a few years to make it work. But you will not make any money by investing in it.

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Re: No chance in hell

$15M/mile for loop

£200M/mile for HS2

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Re: No chance in hell

Hell, Edinburgh's new (unfinished) tram system is costing around £100M per mile...

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Re: No chance in hell

Brunel had a stab at it even, but maintaining pressure seals with leather proved too much. It's a great idea, would love for it to work, glad someone's trying again in earnest.

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FAIL

@Cliff - Re: No chance in hell

Wrote :- "Brunel had a stab at it even, but maintaining pressure seals with leather proved too much. ... glad someone's trying again in earnest"

This is nothing like Brunel's system, which used a 15" diameter tube external to the train with a piston running in it to propel the train. The Hyperloop puts the whole train in a partial vaccum tube to reduce the air resistance, a fact nothing to do with the propulsion which is said to be by linear induction motor..

Incidentally, I followed links and ended up here :- www.jumpstartfund.com/idea/index/refinelist/ , where, when I clicked on the Hyperloop project, I was told i needed to sign in to learn anything about it. Idiots - is that any way to whip up interest (and funds)?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No chance in hell

To be fair, building "track" across masses of empty land is going to be cheaper than puging through towns and cites lihe the HeathrowextenSion2

And of course he could meam LA to SanFran in the same way Ryan air class as landing in Brussels as being in Madrid.

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Re: No chance in hell

>maintaining pressure seals with leather proved too much.

Only because they treated the leather with fat (to protect it from the sea air) and the rats ate the fat and the leather.

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Re: No chance in hell

"Only because they treated the leather with fat (to protect it from the sea air) "

I think if they'd not lubricated it with fat the leather would have worn out faster than the rats could get at it

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Re: No chance in hell

"$15M/mile for loop

£200M/mile for HS2"

The excess pocketed by various party members when their land is sold to the government to pay for it.

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Re: No Chance in Hell

Of course it won't work!

The Wright brothers took to the air in 1903, achieving what most people said was impossible. 65 years later the first Jumbo Jet flew.

The simple lesson from history is that engineers regularly achieve the impossible.

My experience is that "Well that won't work" really means that the speaker has no idea how to achieve the particular goal and won't accept that there may well be someone who does know how.

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Unhappy

Re: No Chance in Hell

"Of course it won't work!

The Wright brothers took to the air in 1903, achieving what most people said was impossible. 65 years later the first Jumbo Jet flew.

The simple lesson from history is that engineers regularly achieve the impossible."

Actually the story is worse than that.

Around 1890 a (at the time) very famous aerodynamicist said it could be done for about $70 000 (a very big bag of cash back then), hired a team of of the brightest and best and set to work.

5 years later they had failed. :)

Meanwhile 2 brothers running a bicycle shop went back to basics, realized the text books were wrong, identified the core problems and cracked the problem.

The rest is history..

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The simple lesson from history is that engineers regularly achieve the impossible.

That was before they invented modern management methods.

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@Pierre Castille - Re: No Chance in Hell

Wrote :- " engineers regularly achieve the impossible. ... "Well that won't work" really means that the speaker has no idea how to achieve the particular goal "

I am an engineer and have never achieved the impossible, nor do I know of any who have. If they did, it would not be "impossible" would it? I think you mean that engineers achieve what might *look* impossible to others (like you?).

The Hyperloop is certainly possible, but the issues are whether this idea is practicable, worth the cost, and has any point to it. On practicability, I am dubious about the ability (ie the effort, not the possiblity) to maintain even a modest partial vacuum over so long a tube, junction arrangements (there needs to be at least a depot connection on the simplest line) and about emergency evacuation methods.

On costs, the figures I have heard are ludicrous under-estimates; so risible they are not even worth discussing. On whether there is any point to it - any high speed transport times (including aircraft) are dominated by the time to get to the terminus. Speed is thus a benefit of diminishing returns, and so, despite the more dramatic raw speed, the Hyperloop does not offer that much advantage over "conventional" high speed trains trains which at least can continue at slower speeds at each end of their journey over well-established conventional lines into existing transport hubs.

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Re: @Pierre Castille - No Chance in Hell

high speed transport times (including aircraft) are dominated by the time to get to the terminus."

Agreed. So what if you van travel 300 miles in half an hour. That's not all that quickly if there's delays at each end and the damn thing only "launches" every 45 mins and you just missed one.

It can be just as quick to fly or drive or use a conventional train.

On the other hand, it could still be a fun way to travel :-)

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Re: @Pierre Castille - No Chance in Hell

I believe the pods are much closer together than 45 minutes, and I cannot see your argument that driving or planes will be as quick as this.

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Re: @Pierre Castille - No Chance in Hell

@Pierre: right on the money about getting to the terminal and so on.

When will people step back and look at the whole picture, from the consumers point of view.

Years ago, I used to have to travel beTween Toronto and Montreal for a day, getting in early and returning late at night. Did I want to cab it to the out of town airport, fly or overnight in an expensive hotel and red eye in the neXt morning?

NO WAY! I used to take the overnight train, an old fashioned transport device that even pulled over to let frIeght trains pass, snug in my bed center down town to centre downtown complete with a cocktail bar!

Cheaper, more convenient and so, so old fashioned and low tech.

Lessons need to be learned here.

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The principle is completely sound. The success (or otherwise) of implimentation will depend on whether the right materials can be found, and the skill of the engineering team.

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The Future

This was one of the future tech ideas in a kids technology book I got for Christmas off my auntie when I was about 10. Great idea . . but keeping the air out of the tube is going to be a little bit of a challenge.

I want one anyway :-)

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"Of course it won't work!

The Wright brothers took to the air in 1903, achieving what most people said was impossible. 65 years later the first Jumbo Jet flew.

The simple lesson from history is that engineers regularly achieve the impossible."

I don't think it's a matter of anyone thinking this is physically impossible. It's a matter of thinking the cost estimate is WAAAAAY out of whack. (Not the $1 million for a demo... but the full tunnels.) I mean (from skyscrapercity.com -- and this thread's from 2006 so not even counting the last 7 years of inflation!):

"Seattle Central Link Univeristy Extension

$1.7 billion / 3.15 miles = $540 million/mile"

"New York 2nd Avenue Subway

$16 billion / 8.1 miles = $1.975 billion/mile "

They do comment a lot of this cost is from land acquisition and also because NYC has very hard ground to bore thorugh.

"In Minneapolis, a 1.38 mile (7,300 ft) twin-tube tunnel (bored) was built recently for the Hiawatha LRT line. Earth-pressure-balanced methods was the type of boring used (not sure what that means). The cost was $110 million. So that's about $79.7 million a mile."

"In New Delhi (India), 65 km of metro/subway has been built so far at the cost of $2 bn.. $30 mn/km.

In Mumbai, metro construction is begining for a 146 km network by 2021 at estimated cost of $5 bn.. $34 mn/km. "

(This comes to $48 million a mile for New Delhi and about $55 million a mile for Mumbai).

I just can't see these guys making a maglev, vaccum-sealed tunnel while also cutting 75% of the cost of a conventional tunnel.

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Having read that, it's worth noting that many of the initial technologies have been scaled back to more realistic levels.

1. IIRC they won't be using magnetic levitation. Instead they'll use air cushions.

2. It will be only a partial vacuum, not a complete one that would be difficult to maintain. To reduce air resistance, the cars will have vacuums at the front to draw in air and use as part of the air cushion system which can also be propelled at a backward angle to assist in propulsion.

3. Most of those high estimates are because they're tunneling. The hyperloop hopes to avoid this by using above-ground tubes. As for right of way costs, they also plan to utilize existing rights of way by running most of the tubes above and along the Interstates (which ALREADY have state rights of way).

I'm not saying it will or won't happen. I'm actually neutral on the Hyperloop; it's ambitious, yes, but since the scaling down of expectations things are looking more possible then it once was.

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"cutting 75% of the cost of a conventional tunnel."

They may know about the Chinese drill sleds.

See Earth Afire

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Boffin

No tunnel

The nice thing about Hyperloop is they don't even want to make a tunnel - they plan to make it a tube on pylons, rather like some natural gas pipelines (only larger). So there are at least useful costing models available. Not saying their calculations are necessarily realistic, but boring through California rock is not involved.

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Interesting comparisons. I guess a lot depends on manpower involved. The New Delhi / Mumbai projects seem a LOT cheaper than the US ones, possibly due to cheaper labour (and cheaper land? )

This is mostly going to go through empty land, and because it's an elevated tube on stilts there will be a lot less issues / costs with land acquisition. And no drilling involved maybe sharply decreases the cost of labour? I don't know, maybe not. I'm sure elevated construction + vacuum has it's own set of problems / costs.

On the whole I agree with you that a claim of $6bn is very optimistic, I make that $10mln/km, 1/3rd of the cheapest comparison. Plus, metro systems and drilling are fairly well understood, lots of prior art and best practice. Hyperloop is completely new tech so even if $6bn were somehow theoretically possible it will lend up costing minimum double that

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Er

>I just can't see these guys making a maglev, vaccum-sealed tunnel

They're not proposing a tunnel. It's elevated - mostly over state-owned land (highways).

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RTFA

"I just can't see these guys making a maglev, vaccum-sealed tunnel while also cutting 75% of the cost of a conventional tunnel."

You really ought to read up on what hyperloop is - not what you think it is.

They're not proposing a maglev, vacuum-sealed tunnel.

They're proposing a partial-vacuum, which is important because levitation is by means of air bearings, not hundreds of miles of magnets. Acceleration/Deceleration is by means of linear motors but that's it.

So you're making life easier for yourself by doing away with the expense and complexity of trying to maintain a perfect vacuum, and actually using that fact to your advantage.

Costings are still hysterically optimistic though. As others have said, you might well be able to build out 95% of the tube near budget adapting existing pipeline technologies, but it's the last few miles getting into the cities to terminate at existing mass-transit hubs (i.e. somewhere useful) that will be expensive and controversial, even if you are only buying small plots to place pylons and overhead rights.

Terminating at an out-of-town location with a shuttle train or bus in (akin to an airport) negates most of the gains you've made with a short travel time.

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This post has been deleted by its author

My suggestion to you.... "meal it orally".

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Likely

Yes, it is daring from an engineering perspective. Yes, it hasn't been done before.

But remember that all of the great engineering triumphs of the last 10,000 years meet these criteria. The 7 wonders, powered flight, the Apollo program. Name your favourite.

Mr Musk has a proven habit of achieving what he sets out to do. I’m willing to bank on his track record.

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Fast horizontal elevator?

Interesting idea, but how often would you want to ride in what is essentially a fast horizontal elevator? I think it might more sense to rethink it in economic terms of network linkage where you can actually justify the cost in terms of sufficient numbers of human beings who have to move between points.

At least in my case, I certainly doubt that I would often want to ride an elevator for 30 minutes at a time.

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Re: Fast horizontal elevator?

Except you can pretty much say the same thing about a TRAIN, and the ride's longer.

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Re: Fast horizontal elevator?

Trains have windows - technologically unnecessary - but psychologically important to the people who will be paying the bills. I seem to recall it was the lack of windows that doomed the blended wing airliner.

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Re: Fast horizontal elevator?

The Channel Tunnel seems to work fairly well, though. You're underground for about half an hour (roughly!) and there are windows, but there's noting to see through them.

Just stick a TV in the capsule and blast the passengers with adverts for half an hour and you'll be fine. :)

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Re: Fast horizontal elevator?

Except you can pretty much say the same thing about a CAR, and the ride's longer.

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Re: Fast horizontal elevator?

Wrote :- "The Channel Tunnel seems to work fairly well, though. .....there are windows, but there's noting to see through them."

There is a big psychological difference between having no windows, and having windows that look out on a tunnel.

They made the mistake of thinking windows did not matter in London's early tube trains [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_and_South_London_Railway], which did have windows but only tiny ones high up in order to read station names (which were on a strip high on the station walls). People felt claustrophobic, despite the advantage of high back seats that were enabled; in fact the carriages were nicknamed "padded cells". After that, tube trains were built with conventional windows.

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Is HTT a Doc Smith reference?

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Don't think so. HST (hyperspatial tube), maybe.

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My first thought was AMD's HyperTransport Technology. It sure almost sounds the same...

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Coat

excellent mad scientist name

Dr marco villa. I wonder if he changed it from "villain". Just a white cat and leather arm chair required now. And my coat of course.

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fpx
Thumb Up

If you build it, they will come. If people can get from A to B at a decent price and convenience, they don't care if it's via tube or else. People gladly suffer from the inconveniences of air travel because it gets them places. There will always be some that will avoid the tube because "it's a deathtrap," but there are people saying the same about Airbus' aircraft, Toyotas, or the subway.

History is littered with failed vac-train projects, from utopian stories in ancient comics to Swissmetro, which as recently as 2009 imagined a series of tubes throughout Switzerland. We know that it's possible in principle but that the economics are not viable. So there's a lot of skepticism to overcome.

Musk does bring a few fresh ideas to the table: Use partially-evacuated tubes, not a vacuum. Use an air cushion to "fly" with only occasional boosts of magnetic acceleration. Use an elecric pump to avoid a build-up of air pressure ahead of the train.

It's possible that these ideas may reduce the cost to a price point where it becomes economically realistic. I can't judge that. Building a test track will go a long way to prove the concept and cost estimates. I just wish they would build a full-sized track instead of a scale model. But for $1M they are lucky to get a few props and computer simulations.

On the other hand, we didn't believe that Tesla and Space X would turn into such a success either. So while I take the Hyperloop with a grain of salt until the first one is built, I don't want to underestimate Musk's vision. Maybe this guy does have the smarts to pull it off.

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Scares the willies out of me

700 mph within inches of something stationary?

That's 313m/s.

Say a car weighs about a tonne

Kinetic energy is 1/2mv^2...

So 48 MJ, enough to heat 283 gallons of water to boiling point, or about 10kg of TNT equivalent.

... I was going to research what sort of damage that would do, as in "how much TNT do I need to..." but I'd rather not scare GCHQ.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, but we already have trains. As Samuel Johnson didn't say, this "would be like putting wheels on a tomato - time consuming and completely pointless"

Why not try solving another great engineering problem - the space elevator? Although that will need a major jump in materials technology compared to hyperloop which is doable today.

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Go on then, solve the elevator problem. You can do that whilst other people work on the completely different problem of efficient earth borne transportation.

It's never an either or situation - the preferred argument of the uninformed. There are plenty of engineers (and probably money) around to do BOTH.

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Quite agree - if they aren't going to do the "straight line to the opposite side of the earth" tunnel thing, then what is the point? If they stay overground, then it is no more or less than a high-speed train, which is an awful long way from the "unprecedented concept" they are claiming.

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The thing about a space elevator is that it's an engineering problem more than a practical one. This tube is both.

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There is something to be said about SPEED, though. Getting from A to B faster than a train but with less hassle than a plane would a boon much as the automobile ("horseless carriage") gained fans when it started appearing at the turn of the last century.

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Tragically Elon didn't pick up the phone to El Reg

Because I reckon we could have come up with much better names for the company. Who wouldn't want to see CHER* straddling California for the next couple of centuries?

*California Hyperloop Eliminates Railroad

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Go

More creativity needed but criticism often points the way. I think that the vacuum idea is wrong and that the tube should be treated as a 'wind tunnel' as found in aeroplane or automobile research. The linear induction motors may not need be continuous but at critical points as in inclines. Use of air cushion with suction at front and expulsion on the sides / rear also is envisioned. Vacuum is not a good for human survival in crisis situations.

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Pint

1973 calling

Anyone remember Genesis II or Planet Earth...

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