The Hyperloop is a concept that was originally proposed by Elon Musk.
The premise is to use pressurized pods that ride on an air cushion inside a vacuum tube for high speed transportation. To achieve this, Musk proposed:
- Floating the passenger pods on a thin layer of air to reduce friction (much like an air hockey table).
- Using an inlet fan and air compressor at the front of a passenger pod to transfer high pressure air from the front to the rear for propulsion.
- Ensuring the passenger pods travel inside vacuum tubes to reduce air friction (one of the main problems encountered with traditional high speed rail).
Hyperloop technology has been released as open-source, and multiple companies are actively developing it. Hyperloop 1 is one of these companies, and has recently performed a propulsion system test which accelerated a prototype Hyperloop pod to 116 mph in 1.1 seconds. For comparison, a Lamborghini Huracan takes over 6 seconds to accelerate to 100 mph.
In addition to this recent testing success, Hyperloop 1 has also obtained 80 million in financing from investors that include include GE Ventures.
This conceptual technology is still years away from commercialization. To help speed the process, Elon Musk is building a short Hyperloop test track outside of SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne, California.