Explaining Elon Musk’s Hyperloop
Elon Musk first introduced his Hyperloop concept in 2013. Imagine the ability to travel from Montreal to Toronto in just thirty minutes. Musk’s “fifth mode of transportation” would be capable of just that, travelling at speeds in excess of 700 mph.

Musk’s 2013 design outlined an efficient alternative to our current, fossil fuel-dependent transportation systems that has inspired physicists, engineers, designers, and students to collaborate on a super-fast, low-friction transportation solution that may just be the future of global travel.

So How Does It Work?

In his own words, Musk fancies the Hyperloop “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table.” While, with Musk’s help, the idea has gained impressive traction of late, it is based on the ‘very high speed transit’, or VHST, system that was originally proposed back in 1972.

The original system was to be comprised of a magnetic levitation train functioning inside a low-pressure transit tube. Musk’s design would employ a system of tunnels, each with one or more transportation pods for moving passengers to and from various locations. The design can be likened to the vacuum tube systems used in many drive-thru banks, but the difference in scale presents new problems.

Any object in motion will encounter a certain degree of friction. This is one of the principal challenges facing any mode of transportation. There are several proposals for reducing friction for the Hyperloop concept. One relies on air bearings instead traditional wheels. This would give minimize friction by making the pods effectively float on air, much like the existing maglev train in Japan.

Another proposal utilizes passive magnetic levitation. This design places magnets directly on the underside of pods and would work with aluminum track. Active magnetic levitation trains currently require powered tracks with copper coiling, which drives up their cost.

By sucking air out and lowering the pressure in an established Hyperloop tunnel system, this futuristic venture would further decrease resistance to pods, making the system infinitely more energy efficient than our current modes of transportation.

How ‘Far Out’ is the Hyperloop Concept?

While the idea may remind us of the popular ‘Jetsons’ cartoon, the future may not be as ‘far out’ as some of us once imagined. A Toronto-based startup called Transpod was founded in 2015 to answer the challenge set forth by Musk when he originally unveiled the Hyperloop concept.

Sebastien Gendron, founder of Transpod, says his team is working towards revealing its first prototype of the Hyperloop at InnoTrans, the world’s largest rail show. The show takes place in September in Berlin, and if their concept goes over well, says Gendron, he would hope to complete the first commercial prototype by 2020.

“The objective is to get a better customer experience than what you an experience on an airplane or train,” says Gendron. “Something smooth, so people won’t really feel a difference or feel like they’re in a tube.”

For Musk’s part, he told CBC News, “There is definitely a bit of research and development to do to succeed to reach those speeds. But clearly the physics is here today and clearly feasible.” As with any major change, one of the biggest hurdles, convincing the powers that be of the tangible benefits of a new system, remains.

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Posted by: DSR
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Tag: Business Start Ups
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