Portal De Tecnologia y Ciencias

Portal De Tecnologia y Ciencias

martes, 19 de noviembre de 2013

Elon Musk reveals his Hyperloop concept, vowing LA-to-San Fran travel in 30 minutes

f there's a barrier to thinking about the future, it comes from being so wedded to the present. When steam-powered passenger trains arrived in the 1800s, doctors worried riders might die from asphyxiation if they went faster than 60 mph. In our own time, hydrogen cars have never gained traction in part because the benefits have yet to seem worth the trouble. Then there's Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk's new idea called the Hyperloop, which he revealed today: an elevated, solar-powered train-in-a-tube that could whisk riders at supersonic speeds up to 900 miles. It sounds fantastic, and according to Musk could be built for less than a comparable magnetic-levitation train — roughly $6 billion for a Los Angeles-to-San Franciso route that would cut travel time to 30 minutes for a $20 ticket. "It would be cool to see a new form of transport happen," Musk says. But do we really need it? The proposal from Musk — a 57-page paper full of aerodynamic engineering concepts and economic discussion points — has as much connection to reality as a comic book at the moment. But Musk, a billionaire who founded and sold PayPal before Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity, has the resources to explore ideas that most would turn down as unworkable, and once you build a reusable space capsule and a profitable electric car, why not broaden your horizons?
Musk describes the Hyperloop as essentially a solar-powered version of the pneumatic tubes once common in offices and drive-through bank branches. By riding on pressurized air, with a compressor fan at the front of the capsules, the vehicles could accelerate up to 760 mph without the disruptive sonic booms supersonic aircraft produce. And despite the speeds, Musk says the accelerations would be limited to no more than what passengers face today: "It would feel like you were riding in an airplane, like you're riding in a cushion of air." To survive in California's earthquake-prone geography, the Hyperloop would be built on pillars designed to cushion the tube from tremors, a system that Musk contends would be safer than trains today. In fact, Musk contends if the Hyperloop tubes were coated in solar panels, they would generate more energy than the system uses and should be better in every dimension — cheaper, safer, more energy efficient and pleasant to travel in — than the current alternatives. As for the economics, by Musk's calculations the machinery inside the tube is relatively cheap — about $60 million or so. While the tube itself would cost $6 billion to build along Interstate 5 in California, if the Hyperloop ran at regular intervals it could pay for itself with passenger fares of $20 a ride over 20 years, at several million passengers a year. Musk contends the Hyperloop would work best for distances less than 900 miles; longer than that, airplanes make better sense.
After saying at first he was too busy to pursue the idea, Musk said Monday he would at least take it a little further. "I'm somewhat tempted to build at least a demonstration prototype," he said. "I could do some scale version and hand it over to someone else...I would like to see it come to fruition, and it might help if I did a demonstration article." The whole plan seems outlandish at first blush — but the current estimates for California's high-speed rail upgrade stand around $65 billion, for trains that many critics, including Musk, contend offer few benefits over today's tangle of roads and rails. Los Angeles expects to spend more than $6 billion extending its subway system 10 miles. Whether it's the right track or a dead end, with the Hyperloop Musk has succeeded in offering a provocative alternative to a more expensive future.

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