The Hyperloop Competitions at SpaceX: Let’s make this happen!

Although the political left does not like Donald Trump as president including Elon Musk, (who I think is a wonderful person) I would have never entertained an idea like the Hyperloop before the Trump inauguration.  Now after the first week of Donald Trump’s presidency the Dow closed at over 20,000 for the first time and many big ideas started moving forward, then the wonderful company of SpaceX hosted the Hyperloop competition in Los Angeles at their facility inviting colleges and engineering organizations from around the world to compete with designs of their own fresh perspectives in a very capitalists manner.  The Hyperloop is a radical transportation innovation that is wonderfully revolutionary.  When I was a kid I had something I played with like this design called Rocket Tubes for the Micronaut toy line.  Now under the sponsorship of Elon Musk the reality of Rocket Tubes is coming to life and taking its next evolutionary step.  Prototype designs have been gathered at SpaceX during the weekend of January 28th and 29th to see which works best in head to head competition.  Before Donald Trump’s presidency I couldn’t see any path forward for these liberal leaning dreamers—but under Trump’s presidency and perhaps his daughter Ivanka taking over in the years to come to keep continuity in the White House—Hyperloop as a transportation device may happen on a large continental scale.

Hyperloop is essentially a large rocket tube that allows passengers to travel at around 1000 miles per hour inside.  That means travel to Disney World in Orlando from Cincinnati would be one hour from a Hyperloop station in theoretical Monroe in the northern suburbs to the Kissimmee station at the gates to the famous theme park.  There are already plans for a Hyperloop line from Columbus, Ohio to Chicago, which would only take 30 minutes of travel time.  There is another proposal for a line from Columbus to Pittsburg in less than 15 minutes.  So for Ohio residents wanting to attend a Steelers game, just get on the Hyperloop and you’ll easily be in Pittsburg within 15 minutes. It takes longer to walk across a parking lot once you’ve parked at a stadium.  But first there are thousands upon thousands of engineering feats that have to be invented and that is the purpose of the Hyperloop competitions mentioned at SpaceX. As you are reading this just click the link above and you can see what’s left of them since most of my readers are on the east coast and will still have time to view the last entries of the day at that link.

In my old toy Rocket Tubes there was a large compressor that injected air into the tubes to move a little Micronaut man in a capsule through the tubes on a bed of air.  The compressor filled the tubes with airflow that actually overtook the weight of the capsule holding the man.  I played with that thing for hour and hours year after year.  I think I got the toy around 10 or 11 and it still worked when I got my first car at 16.  I loved it because it appeared to be a vision into a world of tomorrow.  Now the Hyperloop is that next generation of thinking and instead of just using compressed air to create a bed of air to ride on, the vehicles are expounding on the levitation magnets used in other high-speed rail around the world.  But, the Hyperloop technology further utilizes the removal of that air to create a close simulation to the vacuum of space to take away that wall of resistance that would otherwise build up at the front of the vehicle.  That is how the speeds can be so extremely fast.  Inside the car even at such high speeds you could sit as you would a train with a little drink on a table in front of you and watch the world literally go by outside at a 1000 miles an hour—and your drink wouldn’t spill.  Pretty cool.

As I’ve said about the sky car projects that are now becoming a quick reality which will take traffic to the air as opposed to ground congestion through major cities—having a Hyperloop line would be a tremendous asset—particularly for the shipping industry.  It would really benefit DHL, FedX, and Amazon by getting products from the west coast to the east in the same day as opposed to the expense of flying it against the weight restrictions of air travel.  And many of the Hyperloop lines could exist along existing highway routes—that big grassy area that sits between north and southbound lanes, or east and west, could easily hold a Hyperloop line without disturbing property owners with new acquisitions of property to get a nice network across the country within a short period of time—a decade or so.

Around the world I can think of fine examples of how the Eurostar has greatly helped transportation in Europe, which I plan to visit very soon to see for myself.  And then there is the bullet trains in Japan which I have some personal history with.  For instance I was meeting people for dinner recently in Kobe, Japan who were from as far south as Himeji.  I was staying at the Oriental Hotel and was meeting at the Ikuta Road steakhouse for dinner. By highway Himeji was about an hour to the south so I was emailing my guests as they were about to board the bullet train thinking that I’d get to the dinner location way ahead of them–after all I had a driver picking me up as I was heading to the elevator and from there the drive was only about 5 minutes. By the time I made it down to my car, spoke to a few people, drove down all the one way roads to arrive at the steakhouse, my guests were there, very relaxed and unhurried.  Those same people could easily get up to Tokyo for a night out by the same means, the train works very well in Japan—and its fast. I’m not big on big mass transit projects and traditional rail is just too slow and cumbersome.  But when it comes to the examples listed there are times when it’s just the right thing.  The Hyperloop would be the next generation of these transportation systems and could let us take advantage of great distances for further economic expansion.

Before Donald Trump the cost of the Hyperloop would have been prohibitive.  With 20 trillion in national debt and a world spinning out of control economically with China controlling all the chess pieces, there wasn’t much chance of the Hyperloop getting funded in America.  Too much regulation and bureaucratic red tape would have stood in the way.  Its one thing to dream of these things at SpaceX but quite another to get politicians to see the reason to fund it—the political will just hasn’t been there.  For instance, the Eurostar was privately funded, but it is still upside down and shows no sign of recovering the cost because there just isn’t any way to have enough people travel on it per day to justify the enormous cost of digging under the English Channel and building all the infrastructure to make it happen.  It’s a technical marvel—but was entirely too expensive for two economies that have been stagnant for years—the socialist country of France and the heavily restricted economy of England.  But in the United States with a projected economic expansion rate of over 5% with Trump’s policies, there may be a huge chance to pay down our debt, and actually come out ahead for the Hyperloop network in the 2020s—about the time that the engineers from this Hyperloop competition work out all the bugs with technical innovation.  It won’t take long.

My advice to Elon Musk is to drop all the discussion about carbon taxes and environmental thinking when talking to Donald Trump at the White House because that’s not going to happen.  It would also be good to stop complaining about his immigration policies.  The borderless world concept is done in America so if you want people to embrace Tesla, and to give Hyperloop a chance, you have a friendly president to those technologies so long as you don’t use more regulation to move people from oil based vehicles to electric ones.  My next car may be a Tesla and I’m not a green economy advocate. I would just want a Tesla because it most intelligently applies power to the wheels that hit the road as opposed to what’s out there.  I think the Tesla is a wonderful rethinking of the personal car.  I fully support Trump opening up the coal mines and drilling for oil in the United States so that we can have an economic renaissance like the UAE is experiencing with excess cash from their oil industry alone funding exciting new projects.  But I am open to new methods coming along to replace what we’ve had.  I am ready to see a leap in technology from a combustion engine to a Tesla, or from a commuter train to a Hyperloop—so long as what comes next advances our civilization.  The carbon tax issue and other environmental concerns from the political left will work themselves out if we truly move into space as a human race—where there are full cities on Mars within a hundred or so years and the moon becomes a base of operations for deeper space travel.  We can’t restrict ourselves on earth economically, technically, and politically by fighting the wrong battles.  The human race has to leave the earth and these kinds of technologies take us to that point.  So keep the politics out of the Hyperloop and we could very well have them all over the United States over the next thirty years because they make sense.

With that said the Hyperloop races were very inspiring and provided a glimpse into the kind of nation and world we can become.  I know I’m ready for such a world.  I would love to leave for Orlando at 8 AM in the morning after grabbing a quick breakfast at McDonald’s and arriving an hour before Disney World opens so I could take advantage of the early open to pass holders.  After a day of fun I could be back with my family for dinner and never feel like I had just traveled all day needing to recover after sitting for so long.  The Hyperloop would make such a trip as common as driving to the grocery store for milk, and that would greatly expand our internal economic output, and GDP.  For instance it would greatly benefit me professionally to be able to same day ship from California to West Chester, Ohio because often lead times on things I need mostly involve transit times and ridiculous shipping costs by air.  Hyperloop could dramatically reduce those costs—so it’s very exciting.  But first, we have to get through this infancy period with a president who gets it and can sell it to the politicians.  And that’s what Donald Trump can do that others had no chance at before.  So make friends, keep dreaming, and let’s make this happen!

Rich Hoffman


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