Short answer: It’s a solid maybe.
Long answer: Last week, Hyperloop One, Los-Angeles-based company, ran its first test of its aluminum and carbon fiber passenger pod inside an 11-foot-tall concrete tube in Nevada. Using only electric propulsion, the 28-foot-long pod reached 192 mph in 5 seconds.
192 mph in 5 seconds.
The pod starts out with its 16 wheels down, then lifts them as the magnetic levitation — or maglev, to the cool kids — system kicked in. Maglev is the same system that the famously fast bullet trains in Japan use. But hyperloops will use maglev inside tunnels with most of the air sucked out so there’s hardly any resistance to overcome. Still, the Hyperloop One test wasn’t as fast as a Japanese bullet train, which can travel at speeds up to nearly 400 mph.
Which is all very cool — and, like all new technology, very expensive. It’s going to take tons of capital to build the pods and the tunnels, and it’ll have to be cheaper than a plane or Amtrak ticket to convince people to shoot through tunnels between New York and DC or San Francisco and LA.
Switching medium-distance travel, like getting from one large metro area to another, from oil-based fuels to electric-based propulsion systems is going to be crucial if we want to step down the climate change process. It’s unlikely we’re going to stop people from moving about the country, but it would be great if that movement were less likely to melt polar ice caps.