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.


20 thoughts on “A Practical Project for the Hyperloop

  1. David – The idea has been around in SF for a very long time. I would rather the capital be spent on something more useful like an orbital elevator (which may or may not be feasible, but Mr Musk’s proposal is in the same boat).
    Aside from economics, my immediate concern with the hyperloop is this: if there is an accident or a breakdown what are the passengers going to do? Outside is a vacuum…

    • I think the main barrier is customer acceptance – i think thats what you are saying too. If it breaks down – am I going to die? But if it means that I step into a capsule and a few minutes later I am somewhere else – albeit with a few Gs – then that is good and I would accept that. If the others survived.

  2. Logically the Hyperloop should terminate in the city centre and should integrate with existing transport. The hyperloop-alpha.pdf proposal acknowledges the need for “additional work” on the station design. Loading/unloading is a bottleneck that needs to be solved. Inevitably the final design of the station design will be technically complex and not cheap, but using the system will be rather clinical and boring. Nothing to see once the capsule closes. No sensation of speed (only acceleration like when a plane banks). Boring wind and turbine sounds. Noiseless smooth acceleration. There has better be good wireless Internet lol. I agree that private pods must be added to the design – charter capsules.

  3. Indeed, let’s invent the wheel again! This “hyperloop” seems silly to me.
    Look to France (and Europe) with the high-speed train networks that enables you to travel between tha major cities in hours, not days. The French started their high speed train service between Paris and Lille, and soon nobody bothered to fly anymore. Why bother with first slogging out to the airport, be present an hour (or two, for international flights), maybe wait in a long line for check-in (not all airports offer check-in machines), and then go thru security, havnig to strip and make sure you don’t have anything sharp with you, nor more fluid than 100 ml. And then wait by the gate, then shuffling into a cramped plane, then fly for a short hop, then shuffle out again and then try to find transport into the next city from some airport located in the middle of nowhere.
    Wheras with high speed trains, you transport yourselves to the city centre, with a ticket you booked on-line, you may, if you have ice in your stomach, arrive more or less at departure time, no security hassle, enter a comfortable car with large windows, be whisked to the next destination, and then exit in the city centre, no need for airport shuttles or similar hassles.
    America had this before, but allowed cheap air fare to undermine the passenger trains (and of course, cheap buses on the National Highway System as well).
    My point is: High speed conventional rail technolgy, allowing travel from city centre to city centre is here now. Europe uses it, Japan uses it, China uses it. There is no need for silly hyperspatial “pods”.

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