in the (hyper) loop

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Entrepreneur Elon Musk is about to publish an “alpha design” for Hyperloop, an entirely new form of public transportation that is faster than the bullet train and potentially self-powering. Details are slim, but it’s clear that Musk (as always) has lofty ambitions. In the past he has described it as a “cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table,” although that says little of the underlying technology. In an interview last year, Musk described Hyperloop as the fifth major tent pole for modern transportation, placing it on a pedestal beside planes, trains, boats and automobiles. “This system I have in mind, how would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes three or four times faster than the bullet train… it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do,” he said. “You would go from downtown LA to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes.” He later added that it was possible for Hyperloop to be self-powered using solar energy; it would therefore generate more power than it consumed in day-to-day use. Hyperloop sounds like a too-good-to-be-true scenario. But Musk’s track record with Tesla and SpaceX shows him perfectly capable of delivering on ideas which many people think are unfeasible. Musk added on Twitter that he would be looking for “critical feedback” and “improvements” for the initial design once it’s released to the world next month. Hyperloop might still shrouded in mystery, but it won’t be much longer before we know a lot more about Musk’s intentions. Planes, trains, automobiles: take notice.

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this is not a toy

tesla two-seater

It might look like the ultimate in overprivileged Orange County go-karts, but this is not a toy. It’s the car of the future: the electric Tesla. I’ve read about it – fantasized about it even – but until now I’ve yet to see one up close. Lucky me then that the outdoor shopping mall in Newport Beach happened to have a Tesla Motors showroom nestled in between the Native Food Cafe and Neiman Marcus. With a trunk in both the front and the back it’s as mind-boggling as you’d expect. And despite a display of the bare chassis and battery, I kept wondering well, where is the big carbon-belching, environment-destroying combustion engine? Oh, that’s right, there isn’t one. As sexy as the two-seater Roadster looks it’s a bit difficult to get into. (You want to feel fat? Try getting out.) Much more practical is the Model S, a four door family sedan. Anyone who knows me is likely laughing at this point. I don’t even have a license, let alone a car. Yet there’s something about this automobile that excites my imagination: it’s revolutionary – and it works. (Having conquered the the electric car, Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk has his sights on interplanetary travel next.) They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, to quote Ira Gershwin. But ha, ha, ha, I really do hope it’s Musk who gets the last laugh now.

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