American Entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX suggested low-pressure filled tube-like structure for superfast traveling between two cities separated by distance of less than thousand kilometers. His idea is to provide friction-free duct-like chamber for passenger-seated pods/capsules and even cars fitted with electromagnetic system supporting magnetic force. The technology is also referred as Hyperloop.
Though Elon Musk finds supersonic planes can be cheaper and faster but they are not the right choice for distances of less than thousand kilometers. Hyperloop is suggested as energy and cost-efficient replacement for high-speed bullet trains.
Hyperloop is basically a low-pressure tube built over or under the ground. The concept is similar to old pneumatic tubes used to send packages across buildings. The passengers seated in a capsule or pod which is fitted with electric compressor fan on its nose to suck high-pressure air from the front to the rear. The pod is also fitted with air cushion to act as suspension system. The tube is fitted with external linear electric motor to accelerate it to subsonic speeds.
When it comes to the cost of building it, Elon musk says it costs several billions of dollars to build the tube, but is going to be cheaper then building a bullet train rail system, as per his calculations. The pods and motors can be built within a few hundred million dollars, as per his estimation. He concludes the total cost of hypercube between Los Angeles and San Francisco would cost less than US$ 6 Billion. The one-way ticket price as per his study is $20 between these two cities.
The idea here is to save the friction losses to the maximum best by creating space-like(or high-altitude) environment. It's like simulating high-altitude air travel or space travel.
Though looks impractical on immediate basis, further innovations on this idea can surely make efficient and high-speed transportation possible between cities. Imagine traveling from Bangalore to Hyderabad at a cost of Rs1500 within an hour. For a country like India, where millions of people travel between cities, technologies such as this can help in leapfrogging in implementing economical and also high-tech mass transportation. This is surely interesting material for research in transportation in Indian institutes.
To learn more on this visit www.spacex.com/hyperloop