All Aboard the Hyperloop!



As promised in July, SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk has revealed the details of his mysterious transportation innovation, the Hyperloop! And it's exactly what folks theorized it was in July — a high-speed transportation system where folks zip from Los Angeles to San Francisco in tubes.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports:

Almost a year after Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, first floated the idea of a superfast mode of transportation, he has finally revealed the details: a solar-powered, city-to-city elevated transit system that could take passengers and cars from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. In typical Musk fashion, the Hyperloop, as he calls it, immediately poses a challenge to the status quo—in this case, California's $70 billion high-speed train that has been knocked by Musk and others as too expensive, too slow, and too impractical.

In Musk's vision, the Hyperloop would transport people via aluminum pods enclosed inside of steel tubes. He describes the design as looking like a shotgun with the tubes running side by side for most of the journey and closing the loop at either end. These tubes would be mounted on columns 50 to 100 yards apart, and the pods inside would travel up to 800 miles per hour. Some of this Musk has hinted at before; he now adds that pods could ferry cars as well as people. "You just drive on, and the pod departs," Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek in his first interview about the Hyperloop.

Musk seems to think he can build this for between $6 and $10 billion, an estimate that should be greeted with a significant amount of skepticism. He doesn't seem to have any plans to directly pursue it, explaining he's focusing on his other companies. But he is going to publish an open-source design, so anybody who wants to can try to work on it themselves.

Follow this story and more at Reason 24/7.

Spice up your blog or Website with Reason 24/7 news and Reason articles. You can get the widgets here. If you have a story that would be of interest to Reason's readers please let us know by emailing the 24/7 crew at, or tweet us stories at @reason247.

NEXT: Russian Anti-Gay Law Will Be Enforced During Olympics

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. You know who else spoke of lengthy series of tubes?

      1. make that Falloppio

    1. Harry Tuttle?

    2. Al Gore

    3. Fee Waybill?

  2. e now adds that pods could ferry cars as well as people. “You just drive on, and the pod departs,”

    Well, he just lost the TOD people.

    1. Well, he just lost the TOD people.

      He never had them to begin with because in order to be more like enlightened Europe, we NEED trains.

      1. OK. I give up. Who are the TOD people? Timorous & obsequious Democrats?

        1. Transit-Oriented-Development. Obamabots who pretend to be grassroots.…..nley-kurtz

        2. Transit-oriented development; the guys who want you to live in a 100-story filing cabinet built on top of a subway stop rather than [gasp] have a yard that you can enjoy sunlight in, and [gasp] own a car that lets you not spend every fucking waking moment with your fellow cabinet people, and [gasp] have walls you don’t have to share with some motherfuckers with giant speakers playing Nicky Minaj all goddamn night.

          1. Also, Tod is the German word for death.

            1. Die Tod Die.

              1. I’m not sure that’s a complete sentence. “The death the”? I think you want the masculine anyway, so that would be ‘Der tod der’ which still doesn’t make much sense.

                “Die tod die Vernunft.” seems to pass google translate though.

                1. It’s a Simpson reference.

                  1. *Simpsons

          2. Transit-oriented development

            That sounds fucking awesome. If you can combine the pod apartment with the pod in the hyperloop, I’m in. Wall-E morbid obesity will be just around the corner.

  3. Musk stole this idea from me. I was planning to build a tube between my house and Canada where they have better hookers.

    1. Ha! You were just copying me! I already built a tube between my bowl of water, above which my weed is suspended by a smaller bowl that feeds into the water, and my face.

    2. “Better hookers” is like “better hummus.”
      Real food is better. (Without meat, it’s not a meal.)
      So is real sex. (Without an eager woman, it’s not sex.)

      1. If she’s eager for pay, that’s eager enough.

    3. Where the heck is your house? Most places have better than Canada.

  4. “This June 15, 2012 file photo shows SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk pausing during his commencement speech for Caltech graduates in Pasadena, Calif.”…..725412.php
    “Chief Designer”?

    1. Chief Designer. When you start your own space company, you get to choose your own title.

  5. whar is hat tip?

  6. Can I use a HyperPoopLoop to send my excrement directly to DC?

    1. No, it flows the opposite direction from DC.

  7. $6-10 billion? Not with union labor, and if they have to pay for the rights of way.

    1. If it’s elevated you could do almost all of it along the 5.

      1.| 8.12.13 @ 8:37PM |#
        “If it’s elevated you could do almost all of it along the 5.”

        A plumber once explained the costs to me: Long, straight lines cost nothing; when it starts bending, valving, etc, you start seeing costs.
        So you could run it from Bakersfield to Redding for cheap, so long as no one wanted to get on or off.

  8. I can’t wait for Stage I: the HyperLoop to Nowhere.

  9. If there are windows in it you might see something like in this video.

  10. “Musk seems to think he can build this for between $6 and $10 billion. . . ”

    Probably because he expect to not have to buy the land/pay for the inconvenience of having a large series of tubes pass over your house.

    With a little (more) government help, he’ll be right.

    1. I don’t think the airlines are going to be too happy if this turns out to be feasible.

      So they’ll be flinging lawyers, politicians and astro-turf groups at this thing.

      1. I think the airlines would have as much power to effect things as the bus companies did for airline deregulation.

        And its not going to turn out to be feasible for much the same reasons light rail is always less feasible than buses.

        If I’ve got a plane, I can send people between any number of airports (within my range) at will. If I want this ‘hyperloop’ I’ve got to build tubes between departure and destination points. Airports can be just a reasonably flat piece of tarmac.

        1. That could well be true, but there are some major advantages to the tubes. The potential speeds are amazing, and the tubes should be cheaper to elevate than train tracks. It should also be able to send a constant stream of mixed cargo, not just people. Of course, how realistic this is will depend a lot on how energy efficient the system is.

          1. I wonder what a few bullet holes in the tubes would do to it. How robust is its air suspension / propulsion in the face of damage?

            Heck, any damage; just kids throwing rocks or gravel trucks spewing souvenirs.

            1. 1 inch thick steel tube. good luck with that.

            2. “I wonder what a few bullet holes in the tubes would do to it.”

              Not much, apparently: it’s a low-pressure tube, not a vacuum, and is designed to deal with small leaks anyway. A few bullet holes in a tube meters in circumference and hundreds of kilometers long isn’t even going to be a rounding error in terms of air leakage.

        2. any number of airports with a flat piece of tarmac of sufficient length, terminal facilities, control tower, and radar. Unless of course your plane is a two seater prop, but that is fairly useless for commercial travel. And good luck getting that piece of tarmac built because you either need farmland or poor people for the approach routes.

      2. The really butt hurt parties if this works are all the municipalities that decided to screw over collect car rental taxes on visitors to their cities in order to pay for stuff like stadiums.

        If you can take your own car on your trip to a far away city, think how screwed Budget, Alamo and Hertz will be.

        And cities always pass huge tax fees on car rentals because they are paid for by people who can’t vote them out for this sort of highway robbery.

    2. But he is going to publish an open-source design, so anybody who wants to can try to work on it themselves.

      Musk isn’t even pursuing this any further. He knows its a financial disaster waiting to happen, no matter how much “government help” is involved.

  11. “In Musk’s vision, the Hyperloop would transport people via aluminum pods enclosed inside of steel tubes.”

    This has been talked about for years. I heard this pitched when I was a little kid–it was the solution to long lines at the gas station, back then.

    Anyway, the basic idea goes back to 1812. Working sections of this idea were built…back in the 19th century.…..sportation

    Oh, and working models have been show on television since Futurama debuted.

    Steampunk technology is only interesting if chicks pose with it (if it’s basically a prop), or if somebody actually makes something we can use. Call me when it’s actually built. …or if you need some help acquiring the land.

    If you want to impress me, design a warp engine. Or at least a Nivenesque Ringworld, so we can abandon the poor and Marxist to suffer on the surface of the planet.

    I don’t want to hear about the space elevator, and I wouldn’t step into a transporter beam unless you were holding a phaser to my head. Don’t those people on Star Trek realize that every time they’re “transported”, they die, and what comes out on the end is just an inferior imitation of you with the same memories?

    1. I can’t wait for Stage I: the Transporter to Nowhere.

  12. Thats one mean burger dude.

  13. Do people really travel that much between San Francisco and LA?

    1. Yes. The first time someone posted about the hyperloop there was incredulity that it would have much ridership, but the number of flights is very high so we can assume that ridership is high enough to make that necessary. I’d definitely pop over to SF more often if it were 30 minutes end to end. Shoot it takes me more than that to get from one end of LA to the other.

    2. at 20 bucks a pop they sure would. Amtrak can’t even do that to SD. Hell at 40 a pop in 30min people would be lining up.

    3. My company is based out of silicon valley, but has an office right outside of Burbank airport (where I worked for 5 years).

      Each day there were 3 flights in the morning and 3 in the evening. They were always 95% booked (such that booking less than a week in advance might mean taking the shitty flight). We generally had 10 – 20 people on each flight back in the day- though this has gone down significantly. But while our travel has reduced, the flights still remain heavily booked. There are certainly a LOT of travelers.

      That said, there are flights from LAX, Burbank, OC and Long Beach. And they fly into SJC, SFO and Oak with a travel time of about 1:10. If I had to spend 45mins to an hour driving to a single HyperHub, and an hour or more driving to my bay-area destination from the northern HyperTerminus, flying would still make more sense. The only way it would be attractive is if they could pick up or deliver you to different locations in both cities.

      1. you can make similar arguments about driving in LA or SF to airports. Plus LAX is a nightmare to get through. Burbank et al. are easy to get to and get through though.

        But since the proposed route is down the 5, the LA terminus would probably be in Sylmar with a short drive to Burbank.

      2. I think one of the unspoken advantages of this system (or maybe it’s been much ballyhooed) is that it’s practically pollution free compared to something like an airplane.

        Originally, they envisioned everyone having a connection to the REAL intertubes (we’ll call them) just like everybody now has a carport and a road running up to their house, too, so what they’re trying to do is replace both the car and the airport, eventually, with something you can park at your house.

        Like I said up yonder, they actually had a number of these systems up and running in 19th century. Here’s a picture of one of the cars they used, which, for being built in 1859, looks an awful lot like a car, doesn’t it?…..ch_Company

        If you’re running these along the interstates, you wouldn’t have to go to a central location like an airport to catch a flight, either.

        But to get started, I think you’re right that the way to go isn’t between two areas that are already well served. I think he liked the idea of running it between LA and San Francisco because that’s where California’s building the bullet train–and this is meant to be better idea than that.

        If they were really gonna build this, they should find two underserved markets: Phoenix to San Diego, or better yet, take us from the bedroom communities of Southwest Riverside County to northern Orange County.

        1. They’d have to build it so that it’s a better option that what people already have–that’s for sure. And you’re right that flying from LAX to San Francisco really isn’t a problem.

  14. Once SpaceX is able to lift objects into orbit, why not build a space elevator? Less right-of-way hassles (although some serious aviation issues) and it would be a cash printing machine.

    1. Unfortunately, if SpaceX builds the Space Elevator, it will be a government boondoggle, since Musk never does anything without extracting significant percentages of the cost from the government.

      With the government will come strings. Enough to ruin the space elevator for ever.

    2. lack of material that can resist the forces?

    3. Space elevators can really only be built at the equator.

      Then once you are up there it still takes a fair amount of energy to alter the inclination of your orbit to actually go anywhere.

      Bottom line: Space anything commercial is a fantasy until there is an energy source that is plentiful, has sufficient energy density, and is many times cheaper than oil currently is.

      1. I don’t think energy is the limiting factor on a space elevator, it’s the lack of a material cheap and strong and durable enough to build it.

  15. a solar-powered, city-to-city elevated transit system that could take passengers and cars from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.

    LA to San Francisco is 350 miles as the crow flies, which would be about 400 miles using the most optimistic land route. So, assuming nonstop service, the pods would need to average 800 mph. Add in 5 minutes of acceleration and deceleration on each end and they would have to travel about 1100 mph for most of the trip.

    Sounds total feasible.

    1. In 1864, using a single 30 horse power steam engine–only on the tube and with no engine on the car–they got three-ton cars up to 40 mph in one of these systems, for whatever that’s worth.…..Background

      1. Not much considering that the distance is 1500 times as far and the speed specified is 28 times as fast.

        Not to be a luddite, but it’s just not realistic.

        Perhaps, Lusk could prove that he’s not just a crony looking for a handout by using his own money to build a working prototype 10 or 20 miles long. Which would cost him somewhere under $100 million dollars, if his larger projection is anywhere near accurate.

        1. What I’m trying to get across, here, is that this isn’t anything new. It’s a new design, but it’s old technology.

          I have little doubt that if they could make a three ton car go 40 mph on a 30 hp steam engine in 1864, then with 2013 materials and technology–and an engine on every car in the system–it’s probably reasonable to think that they can get up to a speed that’s comparable to a bullet train, at least.

          At its most basic, this is the same technology they used to have at the drive thru at banks–before everything went online and through ATMs. Those message tubes were pneumatic tubes and they moved pretty quick…

          I don’t think the question is the technology. I think it’s the feasibility because of finance. If you can get the taxpayer to pay for it (not that they should), you can get it done, but just like those other pneumatic tube transportation systems in the 19th century, you’re going to run into how cheap competing technologies are and how expensive and difficult it is to get easements across all those parcels of land.

          Railroads were less expensive to build than tubes, and the railroads wouldn’t build the transcontinental railroad–because it didn’t make financial sense for them to do so–until the government gave them all the land on either side of the track they laid, basically, by way of eminent domain.

          1. I have little doubt that if they could make a three ton car go 40 mph on a 30 hp steam engine in 1864, then with 2013 materials and technology–and an engine on every car in the system–it’s probably reasonable to think that they can get up to a speed that’s comparable to a bullet train, at least.


            But his promise requires that it go at least 4 times as fast as bullet trains.

            I have no doubt that it’s technically feasible to build a pneumatic tube to SF that could average 80-100mph – which means that the trip would take 4-5 hours each way. Which would elicit a big yawn from the public.

            The time promise in his proposal is the selling point, and it is totally unrealistic.

            It would be like someone pitching a $10bn grant based on the promise of travelling from LA to NYC in 40 minutes.

            1. Why not just develop some hypersonic space airliners to do the same thing?

              I expect it would be cheaper.

      2. And not to be a total sourpuss but…

        Creating a track of elevated steel tubes that can carry significant traffic sounds cool as hell, but what he’s really talking about is a 400 mile long bridge – of the suspension variety, which actually runs in the range of $200 million+ / mile to construct. So we’re back to $80bn range, not including the rolling stock.

        1. I think he’s talking about hanging these tubes from existing bridges–I guess he figures that building them on stilts like that is going to be less expensive than digging tunnels underground.

          Where this might work is under the ocean. Forget about using it across bridges. Look for a situation like the Chunnel between France and the UK before that was built. You’re not going to have so many problems with getting the land to do it if you can lay that tube along the bottom of the ocean, too.

          And if you can roll out some tube between places like South Korea and Japan or Taiwan and mainland China, they might really have something. …not sure you’re going to save the planet from automobile carbon, that way, but you might be able to get something significant built.

          1. Maybe Musk should build his demonstration track from Long Beach to Avalon.

  16. I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned one of the human-factors problems: the size of the capsule. From the PDF, the capsule’s planned size: “The maximum width is 4.43 ft (1.35 m) and maximum height is 6.11 ft (1.10 m).” (p. 15) Firstly, there’s some kind of error there, because 1.1 meters is not 6.11 feet. All of the drawings and diagrams make it look like 1.1 meters is what was intended.

    But that’s crazy small. Those dimensions are exterior dimensions, so the interior space is going to be something like 1 m x 1 m in cross-section. You can fit in a space like that, if you are sitting on the floor in a reclined seat, which is what the drawings show (see figure 9). And all the passengers will sit in single file. They claim that seating will be 2×14 (see fig. 4)…yeah, good luck getting two reasonable seats side-by-side in about one meter. And there won’t be any windows.

    So even for the best of us, it’s going to be about as comfortable as a 30-minute ride in a Mercury capsule. It’s going to be completely unusable for anyone without good mobility. It’s sure as hell not going to be ADA-compliant without a major redesign.

    Linky to PDF:…..-alpha.pdf

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.