Boring Tunnels Will Be 100 Times Cheaper and Paid For With Bricks from Tunnel Dirt

The third generation Boring Tunneling machine will start construction next year and it should be 15 times faster than existing tunneling machines. The first generation machine made the first Hawthorn demo tunnel for 10 million. The Boring company could bring down the cost of tunnels by 20 to 100 times.

The Boring company will massively bring down the cost of tunnels and they could even be paid with the bricks that are generated from dirt.

Elon Musk wants to become his moleman company to make many layers of tunnels. Traffic will be relieved with dozens or hundreds of layers of tunnels. Traffic would become fully three dimensional.

They are only using guidewheels on autonomous electric vehicles. They will have a vehicle once a second.

The system is backwards compatible with the existing roads.

The elevators will be assembled from pre-fabricated modules.

43 thoughts on “Boring Tunnels Will Be 100 Times Cheaper and Paid For With Bricks from Tunnel Dirt”

  1. I don’t understand why the price of the tunnel “scales exponentially with diameter”. And why would it be easier to drill quickly with a smaller drilling machine? I would much rather travel in a tunnel that could have two lanes, so if a car brakes down you could move around it, or if a an accident happened you could walk out of the system. The system that Elon envisions seem very claustrofobic, and if a single car brakes down, it is stuck in the tunnel, with no chance of towing it with another vehicle. And by the way, it seems that no SUV can enter his tunnels (too high)…

  2. Don’t forget about the microseismic technology coming out of the frakking industry. The Boring company will know exactly what is in their path BEFORE they start to tunnel. It will save a lot of expense and time and make it faster. 15x? I assume Elon has done the back of the envelope calculations and probably isn’t to far off.

  3. That’s why, if a Mars colony does depend on solar power, it ought to be an SPS. Conveniently, due to the lower gravity an “Areostationary” orbit is only about 17,000 km up, half as high as geosynchronous. Eases the antenna requirements.

    But even with an SPS, you’d want enough ground based power to cover life support.

  4. Pretty much the safest place you can be during an earthquake is in a tunnel. In all the major earthquake areas that have tunnels there have been no reports of damage.

    In the 1989 Loma Prieta (San Francisco) 6.9 earthquake a length of elevated highway fell.  Well over 100 buildings were destroyed. A 76-by-50-foot (23 m × 15 m) section of the upper deck of the Bay Bridge fell onto the deck below  The bridge was out of service for a month.

    Sixty-three people were killed and almost 4,000 injured.

    BART (underground light rail) suffered only a small amount of cosmetic damage at one station.  The system was shut down for six hours while inspections were carried out and full service was restored within 12 hours.  One train was in the Transbay tunnel during the quake and the operator detected no motion.

    The LA Metro subway went into service in 1993 and experienced the 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994.  The subway suffered no damage and has not been damaged in the many smaller earthquakes that have happened since.  

    In the Northridge quake 57 people on the surface died and about 9,000 were injured.  125,000 people were made temporarily homeless.

    Seven major freeway bridges in the area collapsed, and 212 were damaged, disrupting traffic in the Ventura-Los Angeles region for weeks following the earthquake.

  5. ” stuff that’d normally go into a dump ” <– Well, it’s fill in some other construction project, but yeah.

  6. Additional, and major, factors include surface wait times, elevator-car engagement times (try aligning your car in an automatic carwash conveyor system sometime), elevator to car-sled drop time, car-sled to conveyor system engagement time does the line have to be stopped for each new car to join it?), standing start to 150mph acceleration time (these are human beings we’re talking about, and whiplash is not just a way for lawyers to get rich, it is a real thing). Then, all the preceding in reverse at the other end.
    Subways are and always will be, much more effective and scaleable, and that’s before calculating lost space for Musk tunnels that could have gone to basements, subways, utilities, etc.

  7. Parking lots and sidewalk pavers? Cobblestone streets?

    Save on concrete and asphalt. Use them on projects closeby and cut shipping costs.

  8. Smaller diameter tunnel. Liquid cooled drilling surfaces with harder ‘teeth’. Faster rotation. Continuous spoils removal. Continuous tunneling. Tunnel liners installed right behind the TBM, no stopping to install. Electric powered, no need to install systems for venting engine fumes.

    Apparently current TBMs dig only a small portion of each hour. If Boring can get close to full time excavation then there will be a huge increase in tunneling speed.

    We’ll see. But seeing how Musk has done stuff like making blazingly fast EV sedans and landed rockets on barges at sea it doesn’t seem too wise to bet against him.

  9. $10 billion is the cost for a finished mile, not just tunneling.

    The stations are already built. They’re surface streets and sidewalks. Pods travel to the surface for unloading and loading. They drive themselves to the elevator that takes them to their next tunnel adventure.

  10. Didn’t he specifically itemize how you can make it a faster process in ways that have almost nothing to do with what you’re cutting through?

  11. the $1 billion per mile cost is in the US, and even in the US it is sometimes $200 million. It is $50 to 150 million in most other places. But yes the potential is vastly cheaper and monetizing the dirt and using it place. I will follow up with how this is all world and game changing…again from Elon.

  12. When the Sun is potentially covered by dust for months and you’d die if you happen to be without electricity in your settlement for a day or two, you stop being lenient with faraway Earth and its slow bureaucracy.

  13. A good drop in the cost of low quality bricks might increase their use in home construction as a structural material, not just sheathing. As is generally the case, lower the price and the market expands.

  14. Fortunately, not only does Mars have untapped Uranium reserves, but due to the loss of water, what water remains is rather enriched in Deuterium. As a result, CANDU style reactors should be very easy to manufacture on Mars.

    I expect that the Martian colonists will be building their own reactors fairly early, and likely without asking permission of Earth.

  15. Don’t need HEU when you can lob Deimos at Earth.

    But yes nuclear power in space is going to be a serious Earth-vs Moon Mars fault line.

  16. 17 pounds? Pavers locally are around $1-2, ranging from a low of 48 cents for a standard red concrete brick weighing under five pounds, to $2.08 for a 12x8x2 plate that weighs about 15 lbs.

    I agree, though. shipping them via USPS will definitely eat your budget fast. 😉

    Even if brickmaking only subsidizes the tunneling instead of paying for it completely that’s still making decent use of stuff that’d normally go into a dump.

  17. A $1.20 paver is 17 pounds, so most of that cost is actually in shipping it. The arbitrage opportunity for the Boring Company is that their bricks will be made and stored in highly dense urban centers (where the projects will tend to be run), so they can just pay the warehousing costs, which are a fraction of that.

    Total demand for bricks, blocks, and pavers was $8.9 billion in the USA according to a quick google. So there is a limit on how much they can likely sell. So yeah, they can pay for it with dirt but that limits them to maybe $500 million in total tunnels dug per year.

  18. I don’t know, man. State of the art a hundred years ago was to hammer-drill a hole in the wall, pack it with gunpowder, blow it out and then shovel away the remains.

    State of the art for drilling the Chunnel was a lot better – but very slow, even through soft layers.

    This is a significant improvement.

  19. Paris line 14 extension was $450 million per mile. $1 billion per mile is not an acceptable baseline number unless you’re into feeding parasites.

  20. Musk’s definitely thinking about sending a boring machine to Mars ASAP.

    Living spaces on Mars require to be radiation and vacuum protected, and underground buildings fit both characteristics. Same for transportation systems joining communities over there. It would be nice that even if you have to leave your car or train and walk on foot on the tunnels, everything happens in a nice sealed environment with breathable atmosphere.

    I imagine that these tunnels could become the equivalent of roads and highways on Mars, with periodic and predictable airlocks, stairs and points of access along their path, to ensure anyone on the surface looking for a safe haven finds it.

    Doing this cheaper than others on Earth is a nice way to get this self-financed and eventually done on Mars with proven technology.

  21. How Elon Musk can say/think he can construct tunnels 15X faster is a joke.
    The ground/material predicts how fast any boring machines going to perform.

  22. Add vacuum and conductors and it is low cost underground high voltage electric transmission lines. $10M/mile is more than cheap enough already.

    Urban electric transmission and distribution costs are in the $100s of millions to billions per mile.

    Same basic story for gas & water lines.

  23. actually that overstates it. The $1B per mile are for completed subway projects including the stations, signalling systems, etc. Can’t compare cost of just drilling a tunnel to that.

  24. The bricks, too, are useful on Mars. While I advocate underground habitats where most of the internal pressure is countered by fill dirt over the top, (Dirt bags, as Goatguy calls them.) you would have a large need for bricks for arches and domes to handle the transition to Mars pressure, and internal safe spaces in case of deflation.

    But I think on Mars they’ll probably use polyethylene as a binder for the bricks. Barring finding extensive hydrated mineral deposits to make cement from, of course. On Earth cement is mostly made from limestone, and you’re extremely unlikely to find that on Mars, it’s a biologically derived mineral.

  25. I expect a good deal of it is due to the smaller diameter. Conventional underground tunnels are huge relative to what’s going through them.

  26. The headline actually understates it. Typical tunneling cost is $1 billion per mile. They already built a 1.14 mile test tunnel for $10 million, using their first-generation machine.

    They’re about to deploy the second generation which is 3X faster, and starting work on the third generation which they think will be 15X faster. Just raw speed will make it cheaper, and they’ll likely gain other efficiencies with experience.

  27. I don’t see what they’re doing so differently than all other tunnel engineering experts that makes them think they can be 15x as fast.
    Is it about continuous dirt removal? Better material for the ‘teeth’?

  28. Only idiots. Between pressed dirt block with a light cement fraction for purely decorative purposes, to crushed rock aggregate, it’s a fine plan. It does not have to be low value fill.

  29. Well, he is a Bond villain, so he need a volcanic lair, and lava tunnel mars bases are technically still part of a volcano so…

  30. So if he asks for kilopower nuclear reactors to power the initial mars base, it’s actually a long term play to get HEU for nuclear weapons to arm the martian independence league…

  31. Musk has long term thinking! Everything joins up, is scalable and is part oh his global plan, whichever globe it is!

  32. “Lairs”

    Mars Lairs perchance? Because that’s how I envision things. Need lots of space to do mundane things like grow food? Just drill long looping tunnels to and from your underground habitat.

    Because people on Mars will live underground.

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