While you might think that billionaire entrepreneur might have his hands full already via his intests in the rocket firm SpaceX and the Tesla electric car maker, now it seems he wants to get into train travel as well. Well – more correctly air-cushioned tube travel. Elon Musk has released a paper describing his Hyperloop design which is reminscent of those pneumatic message systems that were used by department stores in times past.
The Hyperloop system relies on a compressor to pump air from the front of a passenger carrying pod/capsule, to provide an air cushion for it to to travel on and increase the air pressure behind it. While this will provide some propulsion, most of this will actually be provided by battery powered electromagnetic motor system similar to that used by Tesla’s automobiles. The entire tube running from Los Angeles to San Fransisco is run by batteries recharged by solar power generators placed on the top of the tube which in turn will be mounted on earthquake resistant pillons. The Hyperloop train will be capable of running at transonic speeds.
Comment by David Todd: Presumably, Elon Musk will also want to run one of these on Mars once his planned colony is formed. If the system takes off on Earth (there remain some safety and practical issues to be addressed including magnetic field strength, rescue issues, the dangers of decompression, and the time taken for passenger security checks), it could become a major competitor to airlines on this and other short haul city pairs. Well until someone comes up with a passenger carrying Sea Harrier that is.