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Hyperloop: Crazy or crazy awesome? (pictures)

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk delivers details about his "fifth mode" of transportation, tube travel.

James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
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Hyperloop transportation system

During a conference call on Monday, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk dished out the details of his "fifth mode" of transportation -- a lofty and innovative system that's unlike anything ever built.

Laying out his vision and answering questions on the futuristic-sounding plan, Musk sounded confident his big idea could get done.

The proposed cost for the Hyperloop transportation system, which wants to get you between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just 35 minutes, Musk says, is about $6 billion.

That sounds very cheap and fast compared with the current California high-speed rail plan, which is aiming for a 3-hour travel time for the same trip, with a current budget of $68 billion.
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Hyperloop passenger capsule

Musk says the sealed capsules that are part of the Hyperloop transportation system will carry 28 passengers each, traveling along the interior of the tube and departing about every 2 minutes from Los Angeles or San Francisco.
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Proposed route

The proposal for the Hyperloop has stations in Los Angeles and San Francisco with other stops planned along the way. The majority of the route, Musk says, will follow California's I-5 through the Central Valley, with the tube constructed in the median.
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Energy cost per passenger

A comparison of energy cost per passenger for a journey between Los Angeles and San Francisco for various modes of transport, including Musk's proposed Hyperloop.
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Hyperloop capsule configuration

Just as airplanes climb to high altitudes to travel through less dense air, the Hyperloop encloses the capsules in a reduced pressure tube. The pressure of air in the Hyperloop is about one-sixth that of the atmosphere on Mars, reducing the drag force of the air by 1,000 times relative to sea level conditions, and would be equivalent to flying above 150,000 feet altitude.

The Hyperloop capsules will travel at a proposed 760 mph.
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Hyperloop passenger capsule

The Hyperloop passenger capsule depicted here shows what the vehicle might look like with doors open at the station.
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Tubes of steel

This tube is made of steel, with two tubes welded together in a side-by-side configuration to allow the capsules to travel in both directions. Pylons placed every 100 feet will support the tube, with solar arrays covering the top of the tubes to provide power to the system.
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Compressed air reservoir and aerodynamic lift

The Hyperloop capsules are supported via air bearings that operate using a compressed air reservoir and aerodynamic lift.
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Compressor schematic

Linear accelerators are constructed along the length of the tube at various locations to accelerate the capsules. Stators are located on the capsules to transfer momentum to the capsules via the linear accelerators.

This diagram released Monday shows the compressor schematic for a passenger plus vehicle capsule.
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A closed loop system

The main Hyperloop route consists of a partially evacuated cylindrical tube that connects the Los Angeles and San Francisco stations in a closed loop system. The tube is specifically sized for optimal air flow around the capsule, improving performance and energy consumption at the expected travel speed.
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Cost breakdown

The proposed cost for the total system is about $6 billion, according to Musk.

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