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August 12, 2013

Hyperloop Proposed as Fifth Mode of Transport

by Matthew Hilburn

Inventor Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, SpaceX and PayPal, is proposing what he’s calling a fifth mode of transportation after planes, trains, cars and boats.

In a release posted today on the Tesla Motors website, Elon calls the Hyperloop idea a “safer, faster, lower cost, more convenient, immune to weather, sustainable self-powering and resistant to earthquakes” mode of transport compared to the high-speed rail link that has been approved to run between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The solar-powered Hyperloop as conceived, would be a tube structure that would shoot pods filled with passengers through the tubes at speeds approaching 1,000 kilometers per hour.

Watch related video of prototype drawings:

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He wrote that the system could be “some enlarged version of the old pneumatic tubes used to send mail and packages within and between buildings. You could, in principle, use very powerful fans to push air at high speed through a tube and propel people sized pods all the way from LA [Los Angeles] to San Francisco.“

While still very much a concept, Hyperloop was described by Musk last May as “a cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table.”

Musk expressed disappointment in the high-speed rail link set to run between the two cities.

“How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?” he wrote.

Musk said something like the Hyperloop would be the best solution for cities between 1,500 kilometers apart.

“Around that inflection point, I suspect that supersonic air travel ends up being faster and cheaper,” he wrote.

Musk said while he thinks the idea is viable, he won’t have the time to dedicate to it.

“I think I kind of shot myself by ever mentioning the Hyperloop,” he said during a Tesla earnings call last week. “I don’t have any plans to execute, because I must remain focused on SpaceX and Tesla.”