Nextbigfuture reader Tony Rusi Thinks he has Figured out Elon Musk’s Hyperloop

Previously we had discussed Elon Musk teasing that he would release a description of a radical new transportation method called hyperloopM

I (Tony Rusi) don’t think Elon ever said that the Hyperloop went 1000 mph. The average speed is near 760 mph. That is the average speed required to get from LA to SF in 30 minutes. It also happens to be the “speed of sound” at ground level. AKA “Mach One”. If the main train never stops, it will always be pretty close to that speed, and I think the main Hyperloop train cars never, ever stop. See why below.

This is Elon talking about the Hyperloop in a very recent interview with the LA Times.

“California high speed rail is starting up, but you’ve proposed an alternative — maybe solar-powered, maybe on a pneumatic track — you call the hyperloop?
I’ve got to find the time to write up the details. I’m going to put it on a blog and open-source the idea. Why are we, in the center of high tech, doing such a bad job [with high-speed rail]? It’s embarrassing. It says all sorts of wrong things about our state. I was thinking about what could be better, state of the art? That’s where I came up with the idea for a fifth mode of Earth transport, apart from planes, trains, automobiles and boats. The hyperloop could go from city center to city center in not much more than a half-hour.”

Tony Rusi Speculates on Hyperloop

(Below this, is solely my conjecture about how the Hyperloop actually works and might be built. And why it is such a good idea. It will amount to the largest sustainable energy and transportation project in human history.)

The Hyperloop is “crashproof” because the air between passenger cars acts like a brake. So it is highly unlikely the main “Mach One” passenger cars will ever be closer than 30 minutes apart. (If they ever got close to each other, it would have to be because of a massive breach in the tunnel wall.) I guess an act of terrorism, or a massive earthquake, a once in a quarter-of-a-million year earthquake, could do that. But it is a highly unlikely event. It is a loop because the positive air pressure circulates around a giant looped tube that has no dead end. This giant loop also stores energy for use at night in the form of momentum, or mass times velocity. This is the Hyperloop’s key secret. It stores a massive amount of energy. It will be the largest energy storage system ever constructed by mankind! These giant loops will have to be at least 4 miles in radius when they turn around, just to keep the g forces built up in the turn below half a g laterally. The main passenger cars are moving at Mach One, and never, never stop. If they did it would waste energy! Sides cars are added, and subtracted, at every intermediate stop, about half an hour apart along the loop, since the main passenger cars are always moving at 760 mph, the intermediate stops will have to be about 380 miles apart. That thirty minute interval will be enough time to transfer about 300 people on, or off one the main train passenger cars, and into the side cars that actually stop. Make no mistake about this, it is a megaconstruction project. Solar panels added to the outside of the tube will make it the largest single solar power plant in history!

China has already developed the “no-stop” innovation for high speed trains.

Chinese researchers also have proposed trains going 600 mph. So 760 mph inside a continous loop is not that far fetched.

I also think that the Hyperloop cars will not be made entirely of metal. I believe they will be made chiefly of ultrahigh specific strength woven webbing! Just like the Bigelow Aerospace modules that I had a little role in developing, and merely inflated. The internal pressure can be adjusted to create the proper seal gap between the tube and the passenger cars. The cheapest way to make the tube walls themselves may also be out of something like translucent pre-stretched Spectra Webbing! It is basically a large diameter fire hose. Sealing and passenger transfer are going to be the real tricks! Maybe Max Dejong has some answers here! He is a real genius.

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