When the hyperloop first triggered a craze in 2013, it was just an Elon Musk Big Idea–very exciting, maybe possible, definitely hard to believe. Now, five years on, a version of the futuristic, tube-based transportation system is taking shape in the Nevada desert. Some 35 miles north of Las Vegas, the terrain is all sand, rock, and spiky shrubbery, leading up to stunning reddish mountains on the horizon. It’s a world only isolated enough for Virgin Hyperloop One to build a giant white tube and not attract too much attention, apart from the few local tortoises that the secluded engineers have adopted.
“We did this whole building in around 10 months, ” says Kevin Mock, senior exam technologist. This is the first time the L-Abased company has let any media in to see its test website, and as we walk around one terminate of the tube, I get the full impression of its length for the first time. One one-third of a mile long and nearly 11 feet in diameter, and reflecting the orange of the determine sun, it’s just painted steel, wrapped with a few strengthening loops-the-loops. “It’s similar to a water pipe, but it was made to our specific specifications, ” Mock says.
The Big Idea reached the world when Elon Musk wrote a 57 -page white paper outlining his thinking for firing levitating husks, carrying passengers or cargo through nearly airless tubings, at hastens up to 700 mph. Busy running both Tesla and SpaceX, Musk invited anyone interested to make it a reality. Virgin Hyperloop One( originally known as Hyperloop Technology, then Hyperloop One, until Richard Branson came aboard as chair in December) is one of the companies that materialized to give it a shot.
The hyperloop endures the Muskian hallmarks of radical futurism, but its brilliance is in the fact that it won’t take a revolution to build one. It’s actually merely a collect of existing transportation and industrial engineerings. It’s a chimera, component elevated structure, metal tube, bullet train, pressure tank, and vacuum system, all smooshed together. The challenge is integrating them without smooshing paying passengers–or profit margins. Hyperloop One think it can launch a commercial system in 2021, which is why it’s out here in the desert, with its test tube, aka DevLoop. This is where the company works out the myriad engineering challenges, trying to make a system it can deploy commercially.