Mechanics & Locomotion

Dec 1, 2016


Elon Musks original idea (first presented in 2013, by the boss of the American technology company, Tesla), which sounded like a futuristic unachievable vision, is taking form on the dry landscapes of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, along with the propulsion tests, which are occurring in the Nevada desert, in the United States of America (EUA). The original idea is a mix of science fiction and applied physics.

The presentation movie shows a business man in Abu Dhabi and who, within an hour, must travel 99 miles (160 kilometres) to the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to attend his mother's birthday: he goes out, takes a long time on traffic to cover a short distance, and, afterwards, already on Hyperloop, he runs the all 99 miles in less than 12 minutes!

Sounds surreal? Well, believe it, it's closer to reality than you can imagine. We've seen this already in science fiction movies. Outside the worlds orbit, where there is nothing which we chose to call vacuum, a small propulsion can catapult an astronaut for tens of thousand miles away.

That is precisely what Tesla and Space X's boss aims with this project. It's all about a capsule transportation system, for passengers and cargo. These capsules will move inside leak proof metal tubes, with controlled and particularly low pressure.

One part of this innovative concept is based on high speed Japanese trains, in which the train carriage is suspended to avoid contact with the tracks, thus reducing the friction levels and increasing speed. With the difference that in these trains, the cars are suspended by magnetic levitation, then using the magnetic system polarization for the propulsion; while in this project, the capsules will float with the help of an "air mattress": a constant pressurized jet which will make the capsule float, while the powerful electric engines propel the capsule through the low-pressure metal tubes.

The tests done meanwhile in the Nevada desert, in the EUA, reveal some fabulous numbers. The transport capsules will be able to go from zero to 100 km/h in just 1,1 seconds, and they'll be able to achieve top speed of 1220 km7h, much higher than the most of the regular passenger's aircrafts.

Shervin Pishevar, founder of Hyperloop One, as recently revealed that this transport system will be a reality in 2020, in more than one single place in the world, and also that the prototype tests at natural scale will occur during 2017, on the same track which welcomes the propulsion tests, in the Nevada desert.

The original idea would be to maintain the tubes in a total vacuum condition in order to eliminate all air resistance thus achieving higher speed. However, this was set aside, as it would import great difficulty regulating the vacuum chamber and any air invasion could be fatal to the all system.

This transport doesn't require any kind of driver, as the capsules will be operated by the complex air pressure control system, accelerating or braking as the pressure increases or decreases inside the tubes.

This does not intend to be a subway alternative system, for the tubes are above the surface and not under the ground. And also, because the Hyperloop is more focused to travel high distances in a short period, and not that much into small connections within the cities. Power supply for all the electric parts of the system is done using solar panels installed closed to the metal tubes.

According with the actual development companies of the Hyperloop, the medium cost of a single trip within this system will be around 20 to 30 dollars (20 to 30 euros) for passenger transportation. Rather less pleasant is the amount estimated for the all installation of the system. The first proposed course for the construction of Hyperloop was meant to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco, EUA, with a full length of 600 kilometres and has an estimated cost of 7,5 billion dollars (seven billion euros), considering the possibility to transport vehicles too. This would get short to six billion dollars (5,6 billion euros), in case the alternative to carry only passengers is considered.

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