Tesla CEO Elon Musk Planning Hyperloop Tube Transport System Photo:

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Tony O'Kane | Jul, 19 2013 | 2 Comments

Elon Musk, the visionary behind Tesla Motors (along with PayPal and commercial spacecraft operator SpaceX), will announce plans for the Hyperloop transport system by August 12 this year.

Musk's Hyperloop system resembles what might result from the unholy union of a train and a pneumatic tube.

Designed to transport people and cargo vast distances at great speed, Hyperloop will use a network of long tubes under total vacuum, with passengers riding in pressurised pods.

Because each pod is moving in a vacuum, there's a complete absence of air resistance - the primary barrier to achieving high speed.

Result? Each pod could theoretically travel at supersonic speeds, without ever technically breaking the sound barrier.

Previous supersonic air transports like Concorde were prohibited from going supersonic over land, due to the loud sonic boom created when speeds over Mach 1 were achieved.

Because Hyperloop doesn't actually create a supersonic shockwave and is propelled by magnetic levitation, it should be almost completely silent. Musk himself describes it as "a cross between a Concorde and a railgun".

Speeds in the region of 1280km/h are being predicted, which would cut the time for the LA to San Francisco commute to just 30 minutes. That's twice as fast as a direct commercial flight and much faster than high-speed rail.

According to Elon Musk, building the Hyperloop system could cost less than a high speed rail network spanning the same distance.

Musk's plan also envisages the entire system being powered by solar panels atop the tubes, which would make it one of the most energy-efficient modes of transport.

It's a bold plan and one that seems fraught with potential pitfalls. However, one could say exactly the same thing about launching an all-new, all-electric car brand, not to mention starting up a commercial spacecraft company - both of which are already on Musk's resume.

We'll find out more about Musk's plan for revolutionising long-distance transport on August 12.

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