Green Cities

The Future of Green: The Hyperloop

**This is the second installment of our new blog series: The Future of Green. Every other Friday we will post a blog about a cutting-edge and futuristic innovation in the world of green technology. Technology is one of several barriers that stand between today’s society and a sustainable future. The innovators we highlight through The Future of Green are shattering those barriers. Make sure to tune in every other Friday for a glimpse into the future of energy and sustainability. When Elon Musk has an idea, people listen. So when the man behind PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX started floating the idea of a “fifth mode” of transportation about a year ago, there was a lot of excitement—and skepticism. On Monday, Musk finally released the Alpha design for the “Hyperloop.” His vision has the potential to revolutionize travel. In short, the Hyperloop would be an elevated tube through which small capsules travel. Elon Musk’s Alpha design lays out a plan for a Hyperloop extending from Los Angeles to San Francisco with the capacity to transport passengers between the two cities in just 35 minutes, at an average speed of 598 miles per hour. The passenger-only version of the Hyperloop would cost approximately $6 billion, while a version allowing for the transportation of cars and people would cost $7.5 billion. Musk’s vision is certainly not the first of its kind. Engineers and inventors have long tried to overcome the traditional barriers to high-speed transport: friction and air resistance. Their efforts, though, have been largely unsuccessful. Many of these models try to overcome the friction problem by using magnetically levitating trains.

Musk’s Hyperloop is slightly different. The passenger capsules travel through the steel tube, floating in approximately one millimeter of air that is forced through openings on the bottom of the capsule. The tube, itself, will be a partial vacuum, virtually eliminating air resistance. Linear induction motors, much like the ones found in the battery packs of the Tesla Model S, will be located along the tube, dictating the acceleration and deceleration of the capsule. Each capsule will also have an inlet fan and air compressor on the front, allowing it to “actively transfer high pressure air from the front to the rear of the vessel,” further minimizing the problem of air resistance. The Hyperloop will be powered by solar panels located on top of the tube and will be entirely emissions-free. The fact that the tube is elevated will also help to reduce the environmental impact.

Musk’s Hyperloop was largely prompted by California’s $70 billion proposal to create a high-speed railway along California’s coastal corridor. According to Musk, “I don’t think we should do the high-speed rail thing because it’s currently slated to be roughly $70 billion…I think it’s probably going to be close to $100 billion. And it seems like it’s going to be less desirable to take that than to take a plane.” The rail system would also be significantly slower than the Hyperloop. Elon Musk is clearly paving the way for the future of green technology. His Hyperloop vision is something to keep an eye on over the next several years. Earth Day Network was proud to present Musk with the Climate Visionary Award at the fourth annual Climate Leadership Gala in May. Did you miss the first edition of The Future of Green? Check this out: Floating Offshore Wind Turbines in Maine. Stay tuned for the next installment of The Future of Green!