How Hyperloop could put a rocket under the electric car

Elon Musk's amazing rapid transport system isn't just a pipe dream – it could kickstart a green transport revolution. Here's how

Elon Musk is, basically, the real-life Tony Stark.

Witness the way he's cheerfully published an outline for Hyperloop, a revolutionary new transport system, leaving it to others to refine – because he's too busy focusing on private spaceflight and the electric car to give it his full attention. All he needs now is a rocket-propelled suit.

Big business

The Hyperloop system would carry passengers – and possibly vehicles – in a series of travel pods, whooshing through tubes in a partial vacuum at hundreds of miles per hour.

Musk's not just pushing Hyperloop out of the goodness of his heart, though – he's also a businessman. And Hyperloop could be key to building the charging network for his Tesla electric cars.

As Musk points out in his 57-page PDF proposal for Hyperloop, "by placing solar panels on top of the tube, the Hyperloop can generate far in excess of the energy needed to operate." As well as being used to power Hyperloop in inclement weather conditions, "The energy could also be stored in the form of compressed air that then runs an electric fan in reverse to generate energy, as demonstrated by LightSail."

Road to the future

The proposed Hyperloop route would follow Interstate 5 – meaning that Musk would have access to excess stored energy running along a major road route from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It would give him the perfect opportunity to create a network of Tesla Supercharger stations across California, providing free power for drivers. Although Tesla's beavering away expanding its network, it currently only has 16 Supercharger stations in California.

Musk's other interests dovetail nicely with the Hyperloop proposal, too – as chairman of solar power company SolarCity, Musk is understandably keen to push a major investment in a solar powered public transport system.

For all that it seems Hyperloop is a sci-fi pipe dream, if implemented it could form the spine of a green transport infrastructure running from San Francisco to Los Angeles. And it's one that we can't wait to see realised – seriously, vacuum tubes connecting cities? Between Hyperloop, lab-grown burgers and the approval of a jetpack for human flight, it feels like we're living in the Jetsons all of a sudden.