Garage Science: How To Make A Hyperloop

Today in Garage Science I am going to take a look at how to make a Hyperloop!


And you thought air travel was scary.

By now you may have heard that a proposal by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk to create a new and fanciful form of transportation using pods shooting through tubes may soon become a reality. In his spare time the visionary behind Tesla and SpaceX jotted down the schematics for a supersonic “Hyperloop” system that supposedly could deliver passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a half hour or less (or your pizza is free.)


Companies like Hyperloop Technologies have sprung up in the two years since Musk proposed the Hyperloop in an effort to make this futuristic dream come true. Since Musk was already busy building rockets and electric cars he gave away the design, hoping others would be motived to build a Hyperloop. However, now SpaceX itself is holding a competition for teams of designers and engineers to build their own versions of the Hyperloop pods and have them tested at the forthcoming Hyperloop Test track currently being built in California.


Looks like a bunch of old sewer lines.

The pod races should start sometime this summer. Hopefully Anakin will get his working in time. Here is a group from the Rochester Institute of Technology working on their pod design:

So exactly what the hell is a Hyperloop and how do you make one? The Internet might not be a series of tubes, but the Hyperloop is. To break it down, essentially it is like if you added:

One of those old school bank pneumatic tubes:


Plus a floating, high speed maglev train:


Equals a Hyperloop!


OK, so it is a little more complicated than that. While this gives you a good visual approximation of how a Hyperloop would look and operate, the proposed designs thus far have moved away from using a vacuum tube with electromagnetic suspension. Essentially the Hyperloop pods will levitate on a cushion of air more like an air hockey game:


To accomplish this electric compressor in the front of the pod pumps air to the back of the pod:

An electromagnet pulse gives the pod the initial push to get going before the air compressor takes over and keeps the momentum going.


Then linear induction motors placed along the tube at various points would keep the pods moving with additional thrust. Each pod would  be powered by the lithium ion batteries used by Tesla electric cars. These in turn would be charged by solar panels on top of the tubes.


When the full scale Hyperloop is completed they hope to have each pod hold 28 people in 14 rows of 2, traveling through the tubes suspended above the ground. While Musk says if designed correctly this new, “fifth” form of transportation, (in addition to trains, planes, boats and road vehicles) will be safe, I’m not so sure traveling at near Mach 1 in a tube qualifies as “safe” for any reason. Hopefully they test this thing out a lot before any humans go for a ride.

Follow Phil Haney on Twitter @PhilHaney