The Hyperloop

By Owen (KNE Intern)

While the successful Elon Musk is probably best known in popular culture for his involvement in the creation of PayPal and for being the CEO and co-founder of Tesla Inc., he is also the founder, CEO, and CTO of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation––commonly called SpaceX. Musk first made an official proposal for the original mode of transportation––so-called “Hyperloop Alpha”––on way back in August of 2013, but as someone who is not as involved in tech news as much as popular culture, I was not aware that an idea for anything like the Hyperloop until 2017. However, this year I’ve heard the name Elon Musk and the word Hyperloop many times from many different people. Upon further research, I realized that there is a reason for all of the hype about the Hyperloop.

First of all, there is some amazing technology that would be employed in the Hyperloop system. It would consist of a depressurized tube for a long, train-like pod that would carry passengers to their destinations. The air cushion between the pod and the track––created by tubes leading from an air compressor to the bottom of the pod––would almost eliminate friction against the track. Then the low pressure inside the tube––maintained by air pumps––would provide little air resistance for the pod to move through. This reduced resistance would allow the pod to reach velocities close to the speed of sound.

Another impressive aspect of the Hyperloop is the sustainability and practicality it offers, despite how extraordinary it may seem. Musk proposed that solar panels would be placed above the metal, depressurized tubes, resulting in a fully self-sustaining system. In addition to its sustainability and environmentally-conscious design, the Hyperloop would be extremely cost-effective. Compared to the high-speed rail system California proposed to build ($68 billion), the Hyperloop would be relatively cheap. However, there are some ambiguities about the price, which ranges from Musk’s minimum of $6 billion to Hyperloop One’s maximum estimate of $13 billion.

Why is this being so talked about in 2017? Back in January, SpaceX hosted an event at their 1-mile test track for university students to compete with their pod designs. The top three institutions of the competition were Delft University (Netherlands), the Technical University of Munich (Germany), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The final phase of the competition will occur this summer. The small group of teams that weren’t eligible to run their pods in January can still attend if they make the necessary changes. Be on the look out for this next round of competition.

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