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Elon Musk’s Hyperloop: Plan Or Fantasy?

Submitted by on August 14, 2013 – 8:47 amNo Comment

On Monday, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk sparked the nation’s imagination by proposing an ultra-fast “Hyperloop” train from Los Angeles to San Francisco. And while experts seem to agree that the feat is theoretically possible given existing technology, does that mean it is actually a realistic venture?

Musk posted a 57-page pdf file to his blog, outlining his ideas for the project. The Hyperloop would consist of elevated steel tubes that move aluminum pods full of people at speeds of up to 800 miles an hour. The pods would rest on air cushions, and would be accelerated by magnetic fields.

Bloomberg Businessweek quotes a UCLA physics professor saying the project “does sound like it’s all done with known technology.

But Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic points out that the proposition still has a lot of unknowns, not the least of which is its shaky numbers. Musk claims the project can be done for as little as $6 billion, almost $62 billion less than the statewide rail system set to begin construction in California next year. Madridal says Musk’s budget includes only $1 billion for “land and permits.” While Musk claims that the elevated tracks would use up little land, that’s still a modest budget for 700 miles of track.

Musk himself seems to acknowledge the Hyperloop is an interest, not a priority for him. He tells Businessweek that he posted the plans “as an open source design” to field suggestions, and that he wishes he “had not mentioned it,” given his pre-existing business responsibilities.

Musk is currently the CEO of two companies: SpaceX, which is dedicated to private space travel, and Tesla Motors, which is developing electric cars. Musk also co-founded both companies. He originally rose to prominence by developing PayPal, which was sold to Ebay for $1.5 billion.

California currently has a much-derided plan to build a high-speed rail system from San Diego to Fresno. It would have a top speed of 220mph, which is in line with the speeds of other high speed rail systems around the world.

What do you think of the Hyperloop?

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