A Practical Project for the Hyperloop

When the storied Tesla Motors CEO promoted the Hyperloop, a proposed California high speed rail project between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes, instead of the 2 hours and 40 minutes on the VFT, people naturally got excited. But there are three questions. Will the ticket price be compeditive with existing air travel? Second, will the novel technology meet problems in research and development? Third, would consumers like being shot along a tube at almost supersonic speeds?

Given the price of an LA-FS link would be comparable with air travel, and the technology is conventional, the largest question is the third – consumer acceptance.

An alternative to test the third would be to build a smaller mass transit situation to augment or replace an existing airport shuttle service from check-in to terminal, or even between gates. such a system would operate in a mode where the capsules would spend half the time accelerating, and half decelerating. It would not reach the high speeds proposed in the hyperloop of 1000km per hour, and so provide an opportunity to trial consumer reactions and refine the technology.

How fast? A 0.5g force is an acceleration of around 5 m/sec/sec. Consider a 1 km run from the baggage check-in to a remote terminal. Double integrating we get the distance travelled as 5/2 times time squared. Solving for 500m distance we get a time of 14 sec to the half way point. The top speed will be 5t or 70 m/sec (or 256 km per hour). The entire trip with deceleration would take 20 sec.

If travelers are prepared to accept a 1g force in both acceleration and deceleration the entire trip would take 20 sec with a top speed of 100m/sec or 360 km per hour.

This would be sufficient to test the system even on these short runs.

But we all know the feeling of being treated like cattle that comes with the existing shuttle systems at Dulles and other major hubs.

Private, individual or dual pods may be the most desirable aspect to consumers, as they allow transport on demand, no waiting, and would take the ‘mass’ out of mass transport. This might be the major selling point.

Error in calculating Hyperloop ticket price

The semi-technical document on the Hyperloop mass transport system, recently produced by Elon Musk, estimated the price of a one-way ticket as $20.

Transporting 7.4 million people each way and amortizing the cost of $6 billion over 20 years gives a ticket price of $20 for a one-way trip for the passenger version of Hyperloop.

Multiply 7.4 million trips by two then by $20 over 20 years and you get $5.92 billion dollars which is about the $6 billion estimated cost of construction of the Hyperloop. So $20 is the price at which the cost of construction (very simplistically) is returned in 20 years.

The amortized cost is not the ticket price, which must necessarily include such costs as management, operations and maintenance, and financial costs such as interest on loans and profits to shareholders. Thus the actual ticket price of a fully private venture would be comparable to an airfare, at least $100 say.

The Musk document is poorly worded at best or misleading at best. Major media outlets universally quoted a ticket price of $20.

According to New Scientist

He also estimates that a ticket for a one-way Hyperloop trip could cost as little as $20, about half what high-speed rail service is likely to charge.

The Telegraph:

Hyperloop would propel passengers paying about $20 (£13) in pods through a 400-mile series of tubes that would be elevated above street…

The Washington Post

How the Hyperloop could get you from LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes for $20.

USA Today, Huffpost, Fox News, and all of the internet tech blogs simply repeated the same story. While this is one more example of the total absence or research in the media, the blame also surely rests on Musk, who should correct the misrepresentation immediately.

Hyperloop for Sydney – Melbourne – Brisbane link?

Elon Musk unveiled his concept for a new mass transport system consisting of capsules shot along a partially evacuated pipe at very high speed.

The details contain estimates of a capital cost of less than $10 billion and the cost of a one-way ticket of $20 — not bad. Compare that to the estimated capital cost of $100 billion for a very fast train (VFT) system, a reduction in the transit time between Los Angeles and San Francisco from 3 hours to 30 minutes, and the proposal looks very attractive.

The numbers would be similar for an equivalent system in Australia. The VFT has been costed at over $100 billion for a Melbourne to Brisbane link – but given this estimate is probably optimistic, it comes in at the same price for a similar distance as the Californian VFT proposal.

The savings on capital cost come largely from the greatly reduced land acquisition of an elevated system. It has been the high capital cost (that would have to be borne by the taxpayer) that has made the VFT uneconomic in the past. (Of course, a colossal waste of public money never stopped the Greens from advocating it.)

The Hyperloop would radically change that part of the equation. As Elon said:

It was born from frustration at his state’s plan to build a bullet train that he called one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world.

If tickets on the Hyperloop were comparable with air and bus transport of $100 – or more given the travel time between Brisbane and Sydney would be around 60 minutes – would provide an adequate margin for an entirely privately-funded venture.

Cold Fusion a Victory for the Free Market

Free marketers and global warming alarmists alike should be heartened by the handful of companies that claim a zero carbon emissions commercial energy plant based on a safe cold fusion (CF) reaction. An Italian company demonstrated a product called E-Cat in 2011, and a Greek company named Defkalion also provided a profession demonstration of their Hyperion product.

The distain for CF by the mainstream government-funded research community and the lack of government funding support is well known. Cold fusion results are routinely and categorically rejected by physics and engineering journals and there has been virtually no support from government funding agencies, except for the military.

Meanwhile, the lack public benefit from government subsidies of green energy sources is an embarrassment. Subsidies for renewable sources such as wind and solar – $88 billion in 2011 – dropping due to political backlash from increasing electricity prices. Hot fusion research over the last 50 years – $50 billion – is no closer to break-even, let alone a working power plant.

One could argue that funding research on government priorities has been deeply harmful to research. If young faculty members in physics find a field promising, but can only secure grants in government-determined priority areas, they are incentivized to focus on politically motivated fields. Keep activists out of research funding!

Nevertheless, the field has progressed thorough the efforts of professionals working in their spare time and amateurs experimenting in their garages, though marked by contradictory experimental results and outright mistakes, secrecy and paranoia by wanna-be entrepreneurs. There are dozens of theories, but none of them properly tested. Defkalion ICCF18 slides show a realtime mass spec system being designed which they hope will nail down what is happening in the NiH fusion processes.

Examples of Scientific Method

Note to global warming alarmists:

“Science is our way of describing — as best we can — how the world works. The world works perfectly well without us. Our thinking about it makes no important difference. When our minds make a guess about what’s happening out there, if we put our guess to the test and we don’t get the results we expect, as Feynman says, there can be only one conclusion: we’re wrong.”