Today Elon Musk unveiled his plans to build his Hyper Loop rapid transit system. In a funny turn, the concept is an old one. Using the similar design to the old Beach pneumatic rail transit systems created in New York city in the 1850’s. In this above ground elevated evolution of the BPRS, passenger capsules would travel at 700+ miles per hour in a zero-pressure tube creating a possible near frictionless transit. In Elon Musk’s SpaceX white paper on the project a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco would only take 30 minutes
As this is an elevated enclosed tube already existing highways would not be affected. You literally build over the road without even having to worry about closing traffic. Not only that but with modern earthquake building technology the tube lines would be both weatherproof and virtually disaster proof. Seating in concept designs show no more than six to eight passengers. But it would also be possible to allow transport of freight or even people in their own cars, similar to how traditional trains do now.
One very interesting bit of the envisioned project is it uses the same electric motor technology as the Tesla S car, but placed in a modified configuration and placed about every 70 miles. With placement of solar panels along the entire stretch of the hyper loop elevated tube more energy than actually need would be produced. But what would you do with all this excess power? Well the current range of Elon Musk’s Tesla S is 200 miles between charges. With the newly announced “battery swapping” stations cars could literally “top off the tank” with diagnostically tested freshly charged batteries in 90 seconds.
This ultimately solves one of the biggest complaints for detractors for electric cars, the lack of infrastructure for rapid charging electric car stations. As more Hyperloops build out, a nationwide network of electric “filling stations” would automatically be created. The real kicker of the San Francisco to Los Angeles hyper loop proposed project is it is only estimated to cost $6 billion. In retrospect the cost of the proposed California High Speed Rail is now reaching an estimated $68.4 billion. For this cost you could build out a hyper loop that not only covers San Francisco to Los Angeles, but also down to San Diego and out to Fresno and further east. You can read more in-depth into the proposed Space X HyperLoop White Paper for cost analysis as well as other aspects of the project.
Below is a gallery of historical and modern depictions of “Tube” transit