The Chief Operating Officer of “Hyperloop Transportation Technologies” announced on friday that they had filled for a permit to build a 5-mile track in Quay Valley, California. The company is one of many developing Hyperloops, which were first proposed in their current form by Elon Musk in 2013.
Hyperloop technology has been around for decades on smaller scales, mainly for high speed package transportation, and Musk insists that the general idea is capable of being scaled up. The concept is relatively simple, reduce as much friction from the “track” as possible so that the capsule being propelled can easily attain greater speeds. This is done by creating a low pressure environment within a closed tubular circuit to reduce air friction, and using magnets to both suspend the capsules and propel them, eliminating the friction of conventional tracks (Musk originally envisioned an “air hockey table” style levitation).
Musk maintains that the Hyperloop would be able to reach speeds of 760 miles per hour (1223.1 km/h), and consistently uses the example of making a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 35 minutes. He estimates this track would cost between $5 billion to $6.5 billion, significantly less than the High Speed Rail that has been proposed for the same trip, which would cost $65 billion and travel 5 times slower. The concept also has the benefit of being self powered, with solar panels being installed along the entirety of the track.
It is unlikely the San Francisco to Los Angeles Hyperloop will be built however, due to heavy criticism of its projected cost and effectiveness from the technologies opposition, and its inability to transport as many people per hour as a High Speed Rail. Though it should be kept in mind that Musk has previous experience in transportation with SpaceX and Tesla Motors, which were also deemed impossible and impractical, until they succeeded. The track in Quay Valley, if approved, will be built by 2018.