High-speed travel

‘Hyperloop’ travel idea gains fans, backers

The Associated PressAugust 23, 2013 

Hyperloop Travel

In this June 22, 2012 file photo, Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk holds up a bottle of wine given as a gift from one of their first customers, right, during a rally at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. When billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk published fanciful plans to shoot capsules full of people at the speed of sound through a tube connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, he asked the public to perfect his rough plans. From tinkerers to engineers, the race is on.

PAUL SAKUMA — AP

— Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk urged the public to polish sketch plans he released last week for a “Hyperloop” that would shoot capsules full of people at the speed of sound through elevated tubes connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco.

From tinkerers to engineers, the race is on.

A Utah firm hustled out a model using a 3-D printer. A Pennsylvania company is testing a virtual Hyperloop with sophisticated computer software.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants ad space inside capsules, and in San Francisco, enthusiasts interested in “making Hyperloop a reality” will meet over beers.

Meanwhile, Musk himself has shelved the project and returned to his established future-is-here transportation ventures: luxury electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. and the rocket-building company SpaceX.

In principle, the Hyperloop is doable.

The concept pulls together several proven technologies: Capsules would float on a thin cushion of air and draw on magnetic attraction and solar power to zoom through a nearly air-free tube.

Because there would be so little wind resistance, they could top 700 mph and make the nearly 400-mile trip in about half an hour.

Actual construction would hinge on challenges far more complex than advanced engineering – those involving money and politics.

The $6 billion Musk projected as the cost was a terrific lowball to some. Others suggested his timeframe of a decade to completion was naive – that getting political backing and environmental clearances, much less land to build the tubes on, would be hugely time-consuming.

Conspicuously absent was a commitment that Musk would sink substantial money into the project anytime soon – if ever. On a call with reporters, Musk suggested he might build a “subscale” test version in a few years if the idea was floundering.

One thing Musk was clear about: The public should participate in questioning, modifying and, ultimately, perfecting his proposal, which is available at http://www.spacex.com/hyperloop.

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