Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Becomes Reality as Agreements Secured for 5-Mile Track in California

Back in August 2013, long before Tesla unveiled its plans to offer autopilot features on every new car via over-the-air updates and even longer before Tesla unveiled its plans for its massive Gigafactory and its range of Tesla Energy static energy storage products, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk introduced the world to the idea of the Hyperloop: a super-fast, brand-new type of mass-transit for the 21st century.

Unveiling his design in a preliminary technical paper called Hyperloop Alpha, Musk set out the idea for a transport system which used a series of partially-evacuated elevated cylindrical tubes, large enough for a specially-designed capsule to fit inside. Powered by solar panels set on top of the roof of the tube and set in motion by a linear electric motor set into the tube itself the capsules would travel on a cushion of air at speeds of up to 800 miles per hour, he theorised.

The original sketches which started it all.

The original sketches which started it all.

It would be a better, cheaper solution to the $60 billion+ Californian high-speed rail project being planned between Los Angeles and San Francisco, he argued, but admitted that his endeavours at SpaceX and Tesla Motors meant that he would not have time to pursue this project personally. Consequentially, Musk invited academics and investors alike to take up the challenge for themselves to turn the Hyperloop into a reality.

Now it’s happening. Back in January, Musk announced in his usual way that a Hyperloop test track would be built for companies and student teams to test out their Hyperloop pod designs, “most likely in Texas.” But as National Geographic reported last week, multiple companies now exist with the sole purpose of turning Musk’s vision into a reality — and one of them is ready to build a five-mile test-track in California.

Located alongside Interstate 5, construction on HTT’s track should be finished by 2017, with the five-mile stretch ready to accept passengers by 2018.

Enter Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), a company formed by JumpStarter Inc. CEO Dirk Ahlborn to specifically turn Elon Musk’s idea into reality. Not to be confused with Hyperloop Technologies — a completely separate firm following the same dream — HTT says it has secured the necessary agreements needed to break ground on a five-mile test track near the town of Quay Valley, California.

Located alongside Interstate 5, Ahlborn told National Geographic that  construction on the track should be finished by 2017, with the five-mile stretch ready to accept passengers by 2018.

Although HTT’s system is based on Elon Musk’s own technical paper, using a partially-evacuated tube to provide a low-pressure environment for the pods to travel through, it has expanded on the original Hyperloop Alpha paper with its own 76-page white paper, which expands on Musk’s original concepts. It adds some additional proposals to the original idea, including adding large, 4-foot diameter wheels with a curved surface to each capsule to facilitate high-speed cornering.

Interestingly too, HTT, hints different pods could be programmed to offer different speeds and comfort levels, with freight, economy and first-class pods all available.

HTT wants to turn Elon Musk's vision into a reality (image: HTT)

HTT wants to turn Elon Musk’s vision into a reality (image: HTT)

“Maybe in one capsule, people would like to feel the speed a bit more and then for the 80-year-0ld, it’s a little softer and slower,” Ahlborn told National Geographic.

Ultimately, HTT and its various rivals are aiming for a future where Hyperloop terminals link large parts of the U.S. together along hyper loop corridors, allowing people to travel between major cities as easily as they can fly on an aeroplane today. One day, Hyperloop technology may even join different continents, crossing the Pacific or Atlantic ocean as easily as someone may travel from California to New York.

One thing is clear: as long as these early prototypes function as planned and they can meet the low-operational costs promised by Musk and others, hyperloop is here to stay, because as a society, we need an alternative to expensive, carbon-intensive airline travel.


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  • Cowpocalypse_Now

    Talking about going between continents is more than a bit of a stretch when a prototype has not even been built yet. There well be plenty of technical challenges before ground is ever broken on the first mile of a real tube as opposed to just a 5mile prototype.

    • Thats_just_excessive


      • Cowpocalypse_Now

        And your point being? Did you even read my post or just jump to the first unrelated example you could think of? You are implying that I am saying it can’t be done which could not be further from the truth. At least not the over land hyperloop part.

        • Nate A Higgers

          shut up

        • Thats_just_excessive

          Would you prefer a reference to steam power likened to Satan’s Breath?

          • Will B

            Yes! 🙂

          • Cowpocalypse_Now

            Keep listening to those random voices in your head if it makes you happy.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Why? It’s the best way to portray silly people shouting at clouds.

        • Falcon365

          Do they RealLLY bother you THAT MUCH?

        • sebastianwrites

          Well I believe him…

          But he’s not entirely right… I’m a penguin, and I take issue with that STATEMENT!
          Quack, Honk… or whatever penguins do!

      • Amadeus Xonora Esser Stroemer

        God forbid someone questions the feasibility of a hypothetical solution

    • Falcon365

      huh? the stretch is what it is all about ding bat

  • The idea of a car in a vacuum tube = old. Drag increases as the square of the speed and as a direct function of air density.

    twice as fast = 4 times the energy needed. In a total vacuum drag from air = zero. Friction drag will remain.
    They will find the best compromise of reduced pressure and power to drive.

    Making a vacuum tube between two points is simple engineering. Making it transparent is costly since clear plastic costs more than cement. Why transparent? Make people happier than speeding down a tube at 500+ miles per hour.

    Motive power? A central rail with a halbach array, (https://www.google.ca/search?q=drag+in+air+chart&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=SrJ1VdXyBIShyATOnoLAAw&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1920&bih=951#tbm=isch&q=halbach+array) possibly super conducting? The Japanese have played with this in full pressure air, some of their lessons can be used.

    This is a straight line, design and build = quite possible.

    As for distance. A long trip might be OK, in a reclined seat. Across the ocean = deep high pressure tube all the way.
    Air planes win since they need no roadway in the air.

    Make it as big as a train to walk around in = more comfort.

    That said, quite doable SF to LA. You would need two tunnels, one each way, and you might have more than one exit station.

    careful control needed to avoid crashes. Long sweeping curves – if there are any curves.
    Ignore the wing area term in the equation, it defaults to the front of a sphere plus the cylinder shape

    • Joe Viocoe

      Who is suggesting transparent tubes?
      That is just some non engineer, artist’s rendering

    • Bob_Wallace

      “Friction drag will remain.” What friction are you talking about? “capsules would travel on a cushion of air”

      “Make it as big as a train to walk around in = more comfort.” Would make it too expensive. The answer is probably to limit the distance of a single leg of a journey. Hard to say what a future ocean crossing might look like. Perhaps a potty break in Alaska before heading on to South Korea, then Japan….

      “You would need two tunnels, one each way, and you might have more than one exit station.” Or one “metro-sized/Chunnel-sized” tunnel with multiple tubes. Most likely there would be lots of stops along the way. One set of tubes might be a rapid shoot between LA and SF or Sac. Along the way in the Central Valley there could be other stations with some capsules running a local transport system at high speed rail speeds or greater. Perhaps a twice a day zipper between Fresno and SF or LA, get it up to speed and feed it into the fast tube.

      “careful control needed to avoid crashes” Embed a lot of sensors along the route. If there’s a change in speed for any capsule the system would react. (Lots of redundancy. Sensors are cheap and monitoring could be done with very inexpensive computers running simultaneously.)

      The large initial problem is likely to be mountain routes. it might be necessary to go over the Tehachapis and SF coastal range at slower (HSR) speeds, reserving top speeds for zipping up the Valley. It that goes well tunnels could be bored and routes adjusted. The main E/W routes might need to be along the southern border, at least until demand justified boring through.

    • Sirò

      The Hyperloop uses a linear induction motor to accelerate and decelerate the capsule, it is not a vacuum tube.

    • ftbotsb

      & what if the air is blowing at say 600 mph inside the tube? & your pod is moving at 400 mph relative to the VoA

    • Seth

      And nobody said anything about transparent tubes, you’re looking at promotional material. Here’s a detailed explanation if you want to get hip to it.


    • Will Davis

      friction drag? but they were going to use electromagnets to levitate the capsule.

  • Joe Viocoe

    Click bait headline that attempts to change the meaning of the word “reality”.

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  • Tao of Lepton

    What a waste of taxpayer money. There is no such thing as CO2 toxicity – in deed, its even good for trees.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Low quality trolls on this site…

      • david bowie

        nobody wants your paid for politicians passying taxes called “green friendly” just so you feel chpper about driving around in your petro car. you are nobetter than anyone else.

        stop force feeding people green energy when “green” is about as political as it gets.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Congrats. You took the quality of trolling even lower.

          • Mark Greene

            The oil and gas industry has hired all the decent trolls and sent them to Congress. This guy is a third stringer at best. I thought we’d never run out.

    • JoeLearner

      I was looking to see who was fronting the funds. I didn’t think I saw it in this article.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is, I think, so far funding by crowdsourcing and operating largely on volunteer labor. At some point they will have to seek additional funding.

        • JoeLearner

          I saw that part, but no way is this whole project being funded that way.
          I just have a feeling it’s our federal government that will put up the funds. My guess is a bunch of people working for HTT will become very wealthy no matter if this works or not.

          • Bob_Wallace

            First, people who do innovative and useful things often make a lot of money. I’ve got no problem with that. I’d rather that people who do good, useful stuff make money than people who are in the fossil fuel business.
            Second, at some point a massive rollout (coast to coast, for example) might take some federal assistance. But it looks like the cost might be low enough to make the project profitable while charging modest ticket prices. If the federal government provided loan guarantees like they do for nuclear plant construction that might be all that would be needed. That would allow low financing rates from private sources with taxpayers taking the risk of non-completion.

            Remember, this system is going to first have to prove itself on a small five mile track. And then someone might build a straight line from Fresno to Sacramento, or another limited distance, easier to build route. It’s highly unlikely anyone would launch immediately into a very large scale build-out.

          • JoeLearner

            I assume you don’t consume fossil fuels since you have such a bias against them. (unlikely so what does that make you?)
            There are a lot of people who use the force of government to get wealthy. I don’t believe the government should be providing blank check to businesses in hopes it might doe something for the people while getting those who know how to make government work wealthy. I don’t believe Warren Buffett lobbying the government to pad his checkbook is good government usage.
            When someone invests their own money to prove this concept is viable and cost effective, then yes the government could help, but not until it is proven viable, and that is going to take big dollars.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I minimize my fossil fuel use. I drive about half the US average, make about 90% of my electricity with solar, heat with wood and purchase carbon offsets to offset my carbon sins.

            “I don’t believe the government should be providing blank check to businesses in hopes it might doe something for the people while getting those who know how to make government work wealthy”

            The government doesn’t, generally. Of course we taxpayers fork out between $142 billion and $250 billion each year to cover the health damage caused by burning coal. Does that bother you? How about the trillions we’ve spent on oil wars and homeland ssecurity?

          • JoeLearner

            “The government doesn’t, generally.” – uh Solyndra?
            We spend more money covering the health damage caused by over eating. While you may not like fossil fuels, it keeps people warm, that keeps people from dying. so there is that. It also gets people to work to help them pay their bills, so there is that too.
            Your carbon offsets make you feel better, but it’s really just getting someone who leveraged government connection to get rich. Way to give your money to the 1% voluntarily. BTW – your wood heating is REALLY bad for the environment. But you probably already know that.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Solyndra was a good-sounding program back when the Bush administration started advocating for it. It failed largely because it was undercut by rapidly falling PV panel prices. No one (of any note) had predicted solar panel prices would fall as rapidly as they did. Had Solyndra succeeded it would have created a lot of good American jobs.

            Out of that total package, of which Solyndra was a small part, a remarkably small number of failures occurred. As of May, 2013 –

            “Losses to date in the Department’s loan programs represent about 2 percent of the $34 billion portfolio and less than 10 percent of the $10 billion loan loss reserve that Congress set aside to cover expected losses in the programs.”

            Since then the Solyndra building, which the federal government owned when the company went down, has been sold so losses were even less. Plus, a lot of the money “lost” was spent on salaries which meant taxes and more local economic activity, resulting in more taxes.

            “We spend more money covering the health damage caused by over eating. While you may not like fossil fuels, it keeps people warm, that keeps people from dying.”

            Neither of which is a valid reason to continue using fossil fuels. We can reduce fossil fuel healt damage separate from dealing with overeating. And we have non-fossil fuel options that also keep people from dying.

            My carbon offsets go to a local forest for upkeep and improvements. None of the “1%” have a finger in that pie.

            I live quite far from densely populated areas. My wood particulates are spread over the forest. But thanks for your concern.

          • JoeLearner

            your wood particles contribute to global warming much more so than nuclear power. Shut down your wood heater and get on board.
            Who is going to pay to convert all those conventional heating systems to solar?
            Solyndra was not good sounding for Bush, this is not the proper role of government.
            If the government helps develop the hyperloop, then it should own the technology. Then HTT or any other company wanting to use said technology should be paying the government for the privilege. But what is likely to happen is the government will put up the money necessary to develop the technology and HTT will reap all the benefits.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, I’ll get right on that and make a critical pile in the middle of my livingroom next winter. Man, will I be warm…. ;o)

            Solyndra sounded good to the Bush administration, not for it. Nearing the end of his term Bush folks pushed on the DOE to finish funding Solyndra but there was still some unfinished paperwork that needed to be submitted. The approval process rolled over into the Obama term and was approved by the very same individuals who had been working on the committee when Bush was president.

            When a new administration comes to office they do not simply stop all ongoing activity and study everything before continuing. Most activities continue while new secretaries are being nominated and confirmed. The bureaucracy keeps on grinding.

            “Who is going to pay to convert all those conventional heating systems to solar?”

            Some will be paid for as new buildings are built. Others as worn out systems are replaced. And some when owners run the numbers and determine the payback time. And there was no mention of using solar for heat. That’s a voice you heard in your own head.

            “If the government helps develop the hyperloop, then it should own the technology.”

            If the government did total funding then I think you would be right. But the government seldom totally funds something like this. Federal support is helping to build Vogtle and Sumner reactors. The federal government will not own them.

            ” But what is likely to happen is the government will put up the money necessary to develop the technology and HTT will reap all the benefits.”
            Clearly that is not happening. The project is getting close to breaking ground while using zero federal tax dollars.

          • danny king

            The same way the ‘gubmnt’ put up funds for the jet engine, the central processing unit, the rocket engine, the magentic resonance imager, the communication satelite, the internet, immunology research, telephony, radar, et al etc etc?

            You are EXACTLY right, what a waste of tax payer money! /s

          • Alexander

            Trains, Planes, and Automobiles have all come to fruition due to government grants and investment. No company in this country would ever be able to get the entire start up capital required to fund a project like this without the government. In fact, There would be no planes, trains, or automobiles without the grants and government investing that helped expand these methods of travel across the country.

  • I am from the future and in the future this is reality. Unfortunately a lot of you die in the A.I. wars of 2045

    • vendetta07

      what about the gear wars? i heard about it from rick’s friend

      • Hankderb

        And the gears, they turned for a thousand years, Until the dark day that they stopped!

        • Falcon365

          I remember the gear days. Only one tiny little notch in the main gear shaft and that changed the whole thing.

  • Ned Bately

    I’m sure all the negative comments here are pretty much the same thing that the Wright brothers had to endure. If it were up to these kinds of people..we’d still riding around on horse and buggy.

  • Jake Fousel

    I don’t see what the problem is. If they send a chimp 5 miles in 22-23 seconds safely, then scale up from there!
    Quit being pussies about it, I’m 40 years old I don’t have all fuckn damn century to wait for this!! (unless you other pussies get out of the way of DNA modifications and advanced genetic alterations so that I can live longer…then I can wait a bit longer)

    Waster of taxpayer money?? Come on seriously?? That’s such a rube’s argument and intelligence is wasted on that debate.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Acceleration rate is real. The chimps that got blasted into space did not have an option. Humans are going to require more comfort than chimps. That means that runs need to be long and straight in order to achieve and maintain speed without putting heavy g forces on passengers.

      I’m betting if the five mile track works then we’ll see some damn fast movement toward the first long straight track. But, remember, research to be done before we can call this a workable concept.

  • Cheerful Clips

    Everyone know that automobile will never catch on, human beings will not survive if traveling 20 mph or more. Stick with the well proven horse buggy, and the single bareback horse sports model. Any Wall Street stock analyst with his own tv show is who you really ought to be listening to. Stay Tuned.

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  • just someone old

    https://twitter.com/HyperloopTech here photos of hyperloopconstruction

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  • Anthony

    Who the hell wants to sit in a windowless tube hurtling down another dark tube at high speed? not I.
    Try instead a maglev tandem-seating micro-vehicle(polycarb) with ceiling to floor views. Request a single cabin, or a multi-seater, or bind any number together for a family or group.
    The infrastructure can go on t-bars between freeway lanes, the mass-produced pylons are light and cheap since the vehicles are very lightweight.