LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes: Paypal founder Elon Musk unveils 800mph Hyperloop 'trains'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Technology described as a cross between Concorde, a rail gun and an air hockey table

Los Angeles

Billionaire inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk has finally unveiled the “Hyperloop”, a proposed public transport system which he claims could take travellers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just half an hour. The same journey takes one hour by plane and almost six by car.

Mr Musk, who published the plans for his ultra-high-speed alternative in a blog post, said it could be delivered to consumers far more cheaply than plane travel, and with the regularity of trains.

The 42-year-old tech mogul inspired Robert Downey Jr’s performance as genius industrialist Tony Stark in the movie versions of Marvel Comics’ Iron Man. He founded Paypal; the high-end electric car-maker Tesla Motors; and SpaceX, a space exploration venture. His stated aim is to establish an 80,000-person colony on Mars.

Mr Musk first mentioned the Hyperloop more than a year ago, suggesting his invention would be solar-powered, safe and reliable regardless of weather conditions. He has described the technology involved as a “cross between Concorde, a rail gun and an air hockey table”. The concept involves firing frictionless, magnetically levitated pod vehicles through a near-vacuum tunnel, reminiscent of the tube systems traditionally used to transport documents from floor to floor at office buildings and banks.

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Mr Musk said the tubes would be mounted above ground on columns. The pods would move as fast as 800mph. “The safe distance between the pods would be about five miles,” Mr Musk said, “so you could have about 70 pods between Los Angeles and San Francisco that leave every 30 seconds. It’s like getting a ride on Space Mountain at Disneyland.” Passengers would experience a  G-force no greater than that of a sports car. The ride, Mr Musk said, would be “supersmooth”.

Yet Mr Musk also said last week that the technology remains “extremely speculative”, and he is too preoccupied with Tesla and SpaceX to go to work on the Hyperloop himself. Instead, he released the plans so that other firms and interested individuals might develop and improve on them.

A sketch of billionaire U.S. entrepreneur Elon Musk's proposed A sketch of Elon Musk's proposed "Hyperloop" transport system  

On the right track: High-speed railways

Elon Musk says his Hyperloop train would cover the 382 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes.

If a similar system was built in Britain, a 30-minute journey at the same speed would take passengers all the way from London to Derry in Northern Ireland.

The fastest train currently in operation is Shanghai’s Maglev locomotive, which has a maximum speed of 260mph (418kph). It would take the Maglev more than two-and-a-half hours to travel from London to Derry.

A sketch of billionaire Elon Musk's proposed A sketch of billionaire Elon Musk's proposed "Hyperloop" transport system

Hyperloop capsule in tube cutaway with attached solar arrays Hyperloop capsule in tube cutaway with attached solar arrays  

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world