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Hyperloop and the Sci-Fi Fantasy

Reality Check for Hyperloop 

With the latest news that the Alberta government was interested in the Transpod Hyperloop, we felt it was time for an update on our previous story.

What are some of the critical problems in trying to make hyperloop become a reality?


It’s easy to destroy this system by making a small dent in the tube. Yes, it’s one inch thick steel, but there are easily attainable ways to dent one-inch steel. When you hit a small bump protruding inside the tube while going at 1,000 km/h nothing good can possibly happen regardless of capsule suspension design. As proposed the system is impossible to secure - Clem Tillier

Sudden Decompression 

The whole thing about hard vacuum versus partial vacuum is academic This is a 99.9% vacuum. In a sudden decompression the passengers cannot survive, regardless of whether oxygen masks are available. This is unlike an airliner where there is always sufficient residual pressure and oxygen to survive even the worst-case decompression event. - Clem Tillier

Thermal Expansion

 Due to changes in  temperature, the steel would change in structure. In bridges there are expansion joints to allow it to expand and shrink without compromising the structural integrity. The Hyperloop will require thermal expansion joints to function. Installing the joints on bridges is easy enough, however, they do not need to maintain a seal holding back billions of kilograms of force.

Phil Mason predicts the Hyperloop will require a joint every 100 meters. Over the entire distance, it would accumulate 6000 moving vacuum seals - all of which are a significant point of failure."A failure on any one of them would be disastrous to everyone inside"  Phil Mason - The Hyperloop Busted Video.


A proposed Hyperloop of 600 km with a diameter of about two meters,  will maintain a surface area of about four million meters squared. Given one square meter will experience 10,000 kg of force, the Hyperloop will have to endure nearly 40 billion kilograms of force over its entire surface.

A small compromise in the structure of the tube would result in a catastrophic implosion. If the tube became punctured, external air would tear into the tube, shredding it apart as it violently rushes in to fill the void. - Interesting Engineering - June 29th, 2017

Emergency Exits

Emergency exits in some form are required for the hyperloop. There are always emergencies that could occur in the tube and people must be evacuated. However, designing an emergency exit system that both accommodates sufficient safety and acceptable costs is complex.  What emergencies are critical and to what emergencies the system needs to be designed, is unclear.

A hyperloop has never been built and operated before, so practical experience and data is not readily available. It is hard to determine what is acceptable in terms of safety. Hyperloop Connected - Challenges for the Hyperloop, May 16, 2019

G-Force and Illness

Elon Musk's planned route is designed to limit lateral G-forces to a maximum of 0.5 Gs.

According to James Powell PhD that’s a problem: "In all our tests, we found people started to feel nauseous when you went above 0.2 lateral Gs." The closest comparison would be roller coasters, which usually top out around half a G — but the Hyperloop wouldn't just peak at 0.5; it would stay there for the duration of the curve. The result would be well short of blackout, which most studies peg around 4.7 lateral Gs, but it would make the Hyperloop challenging for the faint of stomach. A sick passenger might be less catastrophic than a crash but, given the tight passenger compartments, the results could still be fairly traumatic. - The Verge

Passenger Capacity

Using the UK’s planned High Speed 2 as a benchmark, high speed rail capacity can be nearly 20 000 passengers per hour per direction, assuming 18 trains/h over a double track alignment, each with 1 100 seats. If a Hyperloop pod had 50 seats for example, then to match HS2’s capacity 400 pods would need to depart every hour at a 9 sec headway. Assuming the same number of seconds to alight from a Hyperloop pod as a train, 23 tubes would be needed to match HS2’s throughput. Railway Gazette -  Gareth Dennis 14 March 2018

Hyperloop Technology Needed That  Does Not Exist

Hyperloop High Speed Switches  - In the hyperloop network all hubs are connected with links. The technological development of high speeds switches is in its infancy and feasibility needs to be proven.

Airlock System  There is no technology to  master the airlock system that will allow pods to move into and out of the tube without wrecking that vacuum, then spending the time and energy pumping all the air back out.

Turbomolecular Pumps - Big enough to propel a full-scale vacuum train do not exist There are no turbomolecular pumps big enough to propel a full-scale vacuum train at supersonic speeds. However, it is with good reason. Engineering a case that can withstand the force of a blade traveling at hypersonic speeds with the force of 10 full-size locomotives is preposterous according to an article from Interesting Engineering in 2017.

We will keep you updated on the hyperloop sci-fi fantasy.


  1. Its passenger compartment is also cylindrical. It operates in low air density conditions too. Plus it does not need the ultra-expensive and construction-sensitive infrastructure in between point A and point B. It is called the passenger jet. Hyperloop, short for hyped and loopy?

  2. I agree with the sentiments of the Hyperloop criticism, although there
    are a couple of trivial physics errors.

    What I don't understand is why the existing service is so extremely
    bad. The distance from Calgary to Edmonton is almost exactly 300km.
    The existing VIA Rail equipment is capable of sustained speeds of
    200km/h. Throw in a couple of stops and the trip should take 2h. But
    VIA Rail has abandoned the route, handing it over to a bus company. By
    comparison the distance from Toronto to Ottawa is 400km and VIA Rail
    completes that trip in less time than the bus from Calgary to Edmonton.
    The main reason it even takes 4 hours is that most of the rail line
    belongs to commercial freight carriers and VIA Rail must wait for
    permission to use the line. For that reason VIA Rail has proposed
    implementing its own line from Smiths Falls to Toronto along the
    abandoned route through Peterborough to add to its existing line from
    Ottawa to Smiths Falls. Now that is a lot of money but still a tiny
    fraction of the cost of Hyperloop.

    One of the big challenges facing Confederation is convincing Alberta and
    Saskatchewan to join the other 8 provinces in bringing its green-house
    gas emissions, particularly methane from cattle and oil production but
    also carbon dioxide from its almost entirely combustion-based electrical
    generation system, into line. Obviously a few juicy political bribes
    are necessary. How about the rest of the country paying to create an
    electrified 300km/h rail corridor between Calgary and Edmonton, and
    maybe even extending the 440km up to Fort McMurray so the oil sands
    workers would not have to face the 4 1/2 hour drive each way along the
    "Highway of Death" when they get their breaks?

    You have permission to publish my comments. I could not find any option
    to post a comment on the article on your web-site.


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