Elon Musk proposed that his 700-mph hyperloop could travel faster than a Boeing 747 — so where is it?
A hyperloop would revolutionize travel, so it’s understandable people are hyped up about it.
Others point to holes in the idea that make it seem much more likely to remain a fantasy than become reality.
The proposal Elon Musk brought to the table a decade ago is really a dream more than two centuries in the making. But the closest humans have come to a hyperloop is high-speed rail, which hits speeds over 280 miles per hour and regularly travels 217 mph.
While such transit is ubiquitous in China and available elsewhere, it does not exist in the United States save for Amtrak’s 150 mph line from Washington, D.C., to Boston.
Three years ago, Business Insider defined the hyperloop as “magnetic pods levitating inside a tube at more than a thousand kilometers per hour.” A trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco would take just 45 minutes and cost less than $100.
But despite a successful human test ride in 2020, another industry outfit, Virgin Hyperloop, ended its pursuit of human hyperloop travel in 2022 as well, shifting its hyperloop focus to cargo transport. HyperloopTT is in the same boat, having shelved a project in the United Arab Emirates.
The New York Times reported the main issue is developing the infrastructure to support a new mode of transportation. Funding, government buy-in, and risk-averseness are problems, too, TransPod co-founder and CEO Sebastien Gendron said.
The Toronto-based company may have a leg up in the race with its proposed Edmonton-to-Calgary line, as it could begin construction in spring 2024.
The reason hyperloop holds so much promise — and draws so much criticism — is that it combines the magnetic levitation technology of high-speed rail with the removal of air resistance, enabling super high-speed travel but also presenting questions about safety, cost, and energy efficiency.
So, even if hyperloop is not the answer to China’s high-speed rail takeover, it could lead to an answer.
“There are so many good things about pursuing hyperloop that, even if it’s not the answer, it will have generated lots of ideas and allowed people to think things through,” Hugh Hunt, professor of engineering dynamics and vibration at the University of Cambridge, told the Times.
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