Elon Musk ‘Hyperloop:’ Is Tesla Founder’s High-Speed Transport Doomed To Fail? [VIDEO]

By Philip Ross on August 13, 2013 2:00 PM EDT

elon musk hyperloop
Elon Musk’s “Hyperloop” plans. The high speed transport would propel travelers at 800 mph using a system of air pumps and magnet. (Photo: Twitter/Elon Musk)

Elon Musk's "Hyperloop," a high-speed train that would propel pods through a tube at speeds of 800 mph, has been revealed. But experts say the superfast railway that would use air pressure and magnets to accelerate travelers between cities is a thing of science fiction. Is Elon Musk's "Hyperloop" idea doomed to fail?

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Musk, who joined Tesla Motors in 2004 and founded SpaceX, a space transport company, in 2002, as well as PayPal in 2001, first proposed the idea of a superfast mode of transportation about a year ago. On Monday, the 42-year-old inventor and entrepreneur, who was born in South Africa, published a blog post on the Tesla Motors website detailing how the Hyperloop would work.

Elon Musk's Hyperloop would be an elevated tube made of steel through which aluminum pods would travel. The tube would sit atop columns that are 50 to 100 yards apart, and the pods would travel at speeds up to 800 mph -- meaning a trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco would take just 30 minutes.

Musk says the project would cost between $6 billion and $10 billion to implement, much cheaper than California's proposal for a $70 billion high-speed train. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the uber-successful inventor and CEO has even bashed California's idea for a superfast train, calling it too expensive and too slow.

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Musk explained his own idea for high-speed transportation. Musk explained Hyperloop by saying:

The pod is accelerated to velocity by a linear accelerator, which is basically a rolled-out electric motor. The air in the pod is going maybe 200 to 300 miles an hour, and it is low-density.

He continued:

When you arrive at the destination, there would be another linear electric motor that absorbs your kinetic energy. As it slows you down, you put that energy back into a battery pack, which then provides the source energy for accelerating the next pod and for storing energy for overnight transport.

Sounds awesome, right? And it's not like the technology for Hyperloop is decades away from being discovered; it's already here.

"Ever since pneumatic tubes showed up in offices decades ago -- newspapers used them to carry stories to machines where operators spit them out in lead type for the printing presses -- people have dreamed of traveling through the cylinders at high speed," Poughkeepsie Journal notes.

But some experts say Elon Musk's Hyperloop simply isn't feasible.

"If a prototype of the Hyperloop -- Elon Musk's futuristic superfast train -- ever gets built, it will have to overcome some very significant engineering challenges that may or may not be solvable," Sam Jaffe writes for the blog Navigant Research.

"The biggest concern with this plan has to do with temperature," he continues. "The pod will be compressing air and expelling it downwards and backwards. All that air compression creates an enormous amount of heat, which can damage the pod and its machinery."

Also, there's the issue of earthquakes. The posts holding up Elon Musk's Hyperloop would have to withstand some major shaking, meaning there'd have to be some kind of shock-absorbers in place.

Furthermore, there's the issue of whether or not the human body can withstand traveling at that high of speed. USA Today notes that the human body is not capable of sustaining such extreme g-forces at those speeds, especially when turning, so the tubes would have to be pretty much straight.

Lastly, as Forbes writer Tim Worstall points out, we've got something else on the way: Google's driverless cars. "Speed of travel just isn't as important as it used to because we've got these [cars] on the way," Worstall writes.

He argues that the point of high-speed travel is to cut down on the time business men and women waste while on the road. But because we can now have uninterrupted connection to the office or coworkers via mobile phones and laptops, fast travel "doesn't have the same benefits we used to calculate it does."

Thus, a car that drives itself and lets the passenger sit back and chat, text and type away is just as appealing to a modern business traveler as a seat on train. 

The Young Turks reports on Elon Musk's Hyperloop in this video uploaded to YouTube:

Read more from iScience Times:

High-Speed Tube Transport: How Can Tourists Travel From New York To Beijing In Two Hours? [VIDEO]

Time Travel Video: If Not A Cell Phone, What Was Woman In 1938 Video Talking On?

Cheetah-Cub Robot: Swiss Search-And-Rescue Cat Robot Runs At Record Speeds [VIDEO]

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