Hyperloop One – Won’t Work and Here’s Why


OK, so a friend asked about the “Turning Radius” of the Hyperloop the other day, stating that if you pull anything higher than 2 g’s (or so) with ordinary passengers, you are liable to either make them throw up, or pass out. I agree. So, I looked up what that turning radius might be: FORTY MILES! What?

My conclusion: It won’t work. You gotta factor in that the bloody thing has to go up and down hills also, and you’ll easily pull more than 2 g’s if your ascent is more than about 1% (if your turning radius is 40 miles that is!). Not only is it unworkable, somehow or other, he’s selling this to folks and not telling them these DETAILS!

https://www.theverge.com/2013/7/18/4534476/how-will-elon-musks-hyperloop-work

Full disclosure: OK, so I’m just a semi-retired Software Engineer, but I did used to work for a company that built tube systems for Hospitals (primarily). Those tube systems are tricky. There’s lots of parameters, and variable factors that all influence both the “Ride” as well as the safety of the contents and operators. E.g., one system I was sent to analyze and fix one time at Ronald Reagan Hospital (UCLA) was sending radioactive isotopes from the Cyclotron to the PET / CT Scan lab (Nuclear Medicine). Those isotopes have a half-life of about 15 minutes. So, they must get there quickly and … safely.

We had designed a new system to send the carriers (lead-lined plastic carriers that ended up weighing in at about 15lbs) at 60mph from one station to the other. It was a simple point to point system, no stops along the way, just the two stations, and only 1-way operation (one carrier at a time). Something messed up in the design, and a carrier slammed into one of the stations (during testing) at 60mph, and shook the entire building! No kidding! You could hear it from anywhere in the building when it hit the floor! And obviously, if that had had real radioactive contents inside it, there would have been a HUGE mess to clean up!

Anyhow, I fixed the issue, it was a simple fix. But, I really just wanted to point out that these things are tricky, and even with LOTS of years of engineering design behind the system (our engineers were the best, no kidding, with combined totals of hundreds of years of experience!), you can still have “Failures”. Our system didn’t transport people. A failure in the Hyperloop system, at the speeds Elon Musk is trying to achieve will most likely only result in death.

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2 thoughts on “Hyperloop One – Won’t Work and Here’s Why

  1. Hypothetically, I love the idea, but it does seem implausible. I’d love to see something like this work, but I’m not counting on seeing it happen in my lifetime.

    • I should give a bit longer explanation why Hyperloop won’t work – as advertised. I don’t believe for a second that it will achieve anything like Mach 1 speeds, or anywhere near that as a matter of fact, however, I do believe it will get to 200-250mph with not too much difficulty. It may even get to 300mph, but that’s about all we’ll see for the next 20 years or so.

      The reasons why I believe it will not achieve higher speeds are mainly mechanical, but the implications of mechanical failures (as well as mechanical limitations) mean that any failures result in significant probability of death for the riders (the occupants of the sled, or vehicle, or whatever you call the thing inside the tube).

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