Info on Elons's HYPERLOOP?

In the D11 conference Elon mentioned that he might spill some beans about the hyperloop after the pack swap announcement...they had some Q&A from the audience and someone asks to deliberate, but if he did "it will be the news tomorrow" he said. which makes me think its gonna be sweeeeet. the hyperloop sounds like it will be awe inspiring.

specifically, the question is at 50:00

I shoulda added that Musk has a great track record and has worked well with government at all levels. Politicians are more likely to approve projects with him than with relative unknowns.

"Good enough for government work" is a standard jest phrase. Sorry I can't bring you up to speed on the whole cultural matrix required to interpret it. Google it and read a few essays.

The fact that Elon is foregoing the patent process smacks of Benjamin Franklin.

Although there is something very noble about developing a concept and publishing it for all to use and benefit from it, I expect that Elon's plan will have a very direct (and potentially profitable) tie-in with solar energy (Solar City) and energy storage (Tesla).

Even if none of the technology ends up being proprietary, this is the classic business strategy of "growing the pie". The hyperloop idea is not as much a distraction as people think - there are sound business reasons for Elon to push this idea and it may not be as crazy as starting an electric car company 10 years ago.

@ PorfirioR


Perhaps his stature, and we hope a practical plan, will launch the project without needing his every day involvement, much like Ben's stove.

Battery availability is looming as a constraint on growth, without adding to the demand!

There are enough barriers to entry with the Hyperloop without creating another one with a patent, so open source makes sense. Patents are more of a headache and not as good as most people think they are. I think it will become a bit like railroads in the US in the early days, where many companies will get involved, but any route or link between two points can only support one or maybe two roads, so the fool who builds the last duplicate track (3rd, 4th, 5th...) will be doomed to losing money. Actually, they would all lose money, but at least the most established ones can hopefully hang on and buy out the competition. But all that hardly matters, because the real goal is to eliminate the need or use for oil in transportation. I hope it succeeds, because that's long been my personal obsession, too, to move toward making oil obsolete, even though I've felt mostly helpless at that goal.

I will add a couple more pennies to my two cents.

I agree with Brian that battery availability will be a constraint. However, I see a surplus on the other side of the battery lifecycle looming over the horizon. Soon enough there will be thousands (millions?) of EV batteries looking to be re-purposed as they reach their end-of-life as EV batteries.

I have also been thinking lately of the other implications for this new technology - it could be transformational to our society like the car and the airplane were, but much quicker and in ways we can't imagine.

Imagine if you could live somewhere where the cost of living is very, very low. Let's also say that the same place can act as a logistics hub with cheap warehouse space. It could be even a place that does not yet exist. Then imagine that, even while living there, you could work anywhere within 500 miles.

You could theoretically create a community of people who work in very high-income business centers (San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago) but commute there via hyperloop from places where the cost of living is much cheaper and the quality of life is better. During non-commute hours, the hyperloops could be used to ferry cargo to the cities from the logistics hubs, which could be co-located with runways for cargo planes (until we no longer need those). Meaning that the hyperloop would not only revolutionize how those commuters live but everyone else in the city served by removing trucks off the streets and airplanes from the city's airport. In other words, 100% of the population involved would benefit even if they never use the hyperloop. This would create a mutually-beneficial network of node pairs in the hyperloop network.

Eventually, you could even have a cargo-only hyperloop network from all the seaports to logistics hubs which would interface with the city-to-city network of hyperloops to deliver same-day cargo anywhere without ever using fossil fuels. Thereby potentially reducing/eliminating the need to ever find a zero-emission equivalent to the tractor trailer truck.

The hyperloop (or something like it) has the potential of bringing a new industrial revolution combined with a social revolution. This is probably what Jeremy Rifkin had in mind in "The Third Industrial Revolution" (, but that sounded so utopian that I never thought I could imagine it being possible in my lifetime.

Ok, maybe that was more than two cents...

Keep in mind that the purpose of patents is to make knowledge and designs publicly available, as opposed to closely held trade secrets or ideas that go to the grave with their developers. The patents must be detailed enough so that those "skilled in the art" can replicate the object or process.

In compensation for revealing all, the inventor gets a decade or two of exclusive right to use/market the invention. Then it's fair game.

Hyperloop could be designed as follow:
1. Vacuum inside a loop. No air resistance.
2. Capsule inside floating on magnetic "rails". No friction. Magnetic rails could propel the capsule.
3. Reverse fields for regenerative braking. Saves big on energy.

The problem is that such a system would cost big$$$. Most people who are in a hurry can fly. Otherwise, just drive. CA is better off spending the money to pay off the state debts, cut taxes, etc. Their taxes are way too hi.

I am long Tesla, but Elon needs to focus on SpaceX, Tesla and his family. Leave Hyperloop to the politicians. Mars voyage? Right! Let Gov Moonbeam dream that one.

It does seem that he may lend his ideas, name and prestige to the Hyperloop but he is not going to stay up all night feverishly working out gasket retention issues. Musk has said that colonizing Mars may be mankind's most important next step. It is his focus, not a side project.

That is why he started a rocket company, something that has nothing to do with electrified transportation, but a lot about going to Mars.

He fully intends to make the trip himself.

Nope. No vacuum. Pressure gradient, higher at rear, less in front, maglev. "Crash-proof, inexpensive". QED.

This is what made me interested in Elon as a person in the first place. I think that we are destined to spread life to other planets and Moon and Mars seem to be the logical next step.

Also, I have been toying with the idea of having magnetic roads that propel cars instead of the cars moving and repel each other so there can't be a collision. I have read they are working on it somewhere....

I do a bit of science fiction writing and wrote about vehicles similar to the hyperloop. Something that is in an underground tube and is moved by magnetism or some other energy source we still have to invent. Therefore, I think Elon is one of the most fascinating personalities of our time.

My heroes have never been the Mother Theresas or Dalai Lamas. Human goodness lasts only until the next war that turns people into animals again.... But progress is something fascinating that has no end in sight.

I apologize for being philosophical. I just wanted to explain why I think this is the most exciting thing that we can witness at present.

With maglev, there may be electrical propulsion, but the Hyperloop is "cheap and crash-proof", so I think it is simpler: pressurized, not vacuum. Air pressure fore/aft is manipulated to propel modules (or at least eliminate resistance). I call it the Suck and Blow system.

You raise interesting points and I agree with most or all of what you said in your recent posts in this thread. I would add that following the trend of the last decade or so (decreasing or stalled prices for many things as a result of increased competitivity, masked by rising oil and other natural resource prices), I feel that we will soon reach a paradigm shift where the cost of transformed goods falls another level, falls down another floor if you will, because of improved technology (the maturing of older techniques as well as new ways to design, make, and manage, largely due to software) and increased competitivity. I'm not sure commuting long distance will be a growing trend, because of capacity issues and in the face of new technology that allows telework, but I do see a technology like the hyperloop really hurt some industries like air travel and rapid courriers. A revolution in freight is also possible, but it would have to be based on cost rather than only speed, because most cargo is not worth rushing, and competitive costs may take a while despite lower operating cost because of the massive infrastructure that would need to be built first. Naturally, it would go to the highest bidder first (i.e. rich business people), until capacity is increased progressively until it reaches glut proportion (if ever), at which point competing truck and rail routes will be in for huge losses. Before such massive build-up, the technology will need to be proven, refined, and made easily scalable, which could take decades, especially if there are a few snags along the way.

So yes, if lower cost and faster transportation occurs, that could cascade into yet higher global competitivity, which combined with a new batch of technology, will probably make traditional work almost an archaic concept. Unemployment will probably be high unless those "spare workers" can repurpose themselves as designers, researchers, and technicians of the new machines. On the bright side of things, the cost of living could be even lower than it is now, generally speaking, especially when people have an alternative to oil thanks to things like EVs and the hyperloop. Although a minority of people might be extremely busy and sought after, most people will have more free time than ever and the hardest time ever feeling useful. Among this majority of people, problems of depression and mental illness could be a very significant concern, which will create a need for people to nurture their minds more effectively than today's entertainment options, possibly leading to a new industry that ultimately involves giving people purpose. That would be both very futuristic and arguably part of anyone's definition of an awesome future. Another possible bright spot would of course be the possibility to do things that are still today not even imaginable, as a result of new technology, knowledge, and progress. This will hopefully include advanced psychological care as suggested above, more advanced medicine available to more people, and a high quality of life overall that includes access to natural beauty.

Brian H,
I agree with you, but I think that patents are increasingly problematic in that they are a relic of the industrial age which is hardly worth pursuing in many cases. In some areas like with Tesla, they are essential, but often they are a lot of trouble to obtain and defend, and even then they leave you vulnerable to patent trolls (especially in the case of a small start-up, as explained by the article posted on these boards a few weeks ago, about innovators vs rent-seekers). In this context, releasing an invention as open source is a better option because it costs nothing and the idea becomes public domain and cannot be patented later on. You cannot be sued successfully for intellectual property infringement if all the knowledge is public. Like I and someone else suggested in another post, some people would already be advantaged in the hyperloop business, in particular Elon with a running start and ties to both Tesla Motors and Solarcity, not to forget lots of professional contacts to help him build it quickly if he wants to.

There are better ways for it to works, as described by Brian, me, and possibly others in this thread. For example: although they are not mutually exclusive, an acceleration related to the levitation system would not be needed because following the air flow should be sufficient, a bit like a log in a river. When considering these improvements compared to what you described, the cost would be very much reduced. Design and early testing would remain high, but if each pod no longer needs complex systems and is really more like a log floating in the water, then you can get huge economies of scale. I look forward to August.

ExtremeTech has some interesting speculations on how the Hyperloop might work.

@Brian - "Suck and Blow system"? Any reference to SpaceBalls?

Easiest way to eliminate air friction. Make your enemy your friend. "First principles" + cheap + crash-proof. Vacuum is a non-starter.

It is interesting that it seems as though the ET3 system is vacuum and the Musk system is air flow. Two sort of opposite approaches from people who evidently know what they are doing.

While both might work our similarly in theory (not saying this, just a maybe), the devil is in the details like how to route off capsules to different branches, loading and unloading them without losing/gaining air and so on.

My guess is that they system that allows for a better customer experience will prevail over one that is simply more efficient or faster.

The best technology doesn't always win, and even if Musk's system isn't as good, and this is a big if, he probably has a huge advantage over ET3 in actually getting it built.

Perhaps a vacuum system would require a stronger and more expensive tube. Maybe Musk's system could be clear plastic for a terrifying view of the ground going by at thousand of MPH (I think there would have to be video monitors for windows and the image would have to be slowed down to something more reassuring).

@ carlgo

I remember having seen an add which had tv screens instead of windows (maybe 2 years ago?). They could show the passengers the most beautiful landscapes, it was very nice.

Thinking of air flow, big losses through long runs and huge power requirements, vacuum vs air...

ET3 made mention of twenty pods passing by a point every second. If the tube is filled with pods, then there is little air volume to deal with and this might mitigate air handling issues in a pressurized system.

There is no front to this endless articulating practically solid loop of pods, so there is no wind resistance in the sense of pushing air. The longer the hull, the greater the speed. The pod train in the loop would be infinite in length.

There would be a disk or cylinder of air between each pod. Perhaps the air surface actually touching the loop's wall would be minimal and not cause friction and heat problems. Or, there could be bellows between each pod. it would be more like the air goes along for the ride, like air inside a jet's cabin, and does not slow things down.

If each pod, or a percentage of them, had a seal that at least loosely contacted the tube, then air in the tube could be pushed out of vents in the tubes and would not compress (add an air turbine for some energy recovery). Air would enter behind the partial vacuum that results and act to push the system forward, or at least not impede it.

Railgun motors would accelerate the pods, keep them moving as needed and send pods to exits and stops. Each pod would be a fan blade. There would be energy recovery as pods are slowed down, and in the vent turbines. Levitating rails would eliminate contact friction. This is pretty much all the food groups I think.

An expensive vacuum system would seem to not be necessary in this scenario, although it might have advantages in other ways.

Or, even crazier, think of it like a giant flywheel. It would not generate power, but it might provide for some storage and could aid in the evening out and redistribution of power, a coast to coast capacitor. Maybe there would be other ways to harness all this.

I do not understand the "cannot crash" part. It is, as they say, not the speed but the sudden stop.

Electricity will somehow have a functionality in the Hyperloop, I guess.

With the vacuum the problem is that the compartments have to be completely air tight and unbreakable. Imagine when a window breaks and everybody either suffocates or is sucked/blown out by air...

If everything is airtight, how do people get in and out?

Not sure if I understand the whole system, just trying to imagine how it works.

Moving air flow is more safe and practical, as illustrated above, but it would also allow to store energy in the system as Elon mentioned would be a feature. The only cost or limiting factor would be friction between the air and the walls of the tube, as well as turbulence. All of this could be optimized with computer models and wind tunnels, perhaps even with new technology to help reduce friction. As I once suggested, fast segments will be narrow and will slowly taper into big segments towards the terminals, where the huge diameter of the pipe will mean a very low wind and pod speed, safe "landing" into a docking hole or garage, and much less friction and turbulence for the air flow to turn 180 degrees.

I'm excited to soon find out about the hyperloop. I used to dream about high-speed rail that would be faster than planes and large enough to carry your car with you, but even just the speculation about the hyperloop already sounds better than what I had in mind. It sounds like the hyperloop could be mostly automated, affordable to ride, fun, and I hope you can just drive your Tesla EV into a pod and go, if you wish, although pods for pedestrians should definitely be available. Loading your Tesla in a pod could add to the safety while decreasing the cost, because you would benefit from the safety features of your car such as seat belts should anything happen. Such car-ready pods could also be simpler to build because they wouldn't need seats since you're bringing your own.

Hyperloop sounds crazy ... but simulation says it just might work

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