Hyperloop's test track will be "closest thing to teletransportation"


A test track for the Hyperloop high-speed transportation network – first conceived by entrepreneur Elon Musk – will begin work in California next month (+ slideshow).

Elon Musk's Hyperloop

A full-sized prototype of the system, which would see passengers propelled in capsules at speeds of up to 760 miles per hour through a network of tunnels, is due to be built in California.

"It is the closest thing to teletransportation," Hyperloop's chief operating officer Bibop Gabriele Gresta told Dezeen during an event titled Transport to the Future in London last night.

Visual of proposed test site in Kings County

"It will change completely humanity," he added.

According to Gresta, work will begin on the $150 million (£98 million) test track in the next two to three weeks. Covering a five-mile stretch in Quay Valley – a proposed solar-powered city in Kings County, California – the prototype will take 32 months to complete and will transport 10 million passengers over the duration of its testing process.

Hyperloop test site and track in Kings County

Passengers will travel in computer-automated capsules, drawn by powerful vacuums and magnets, through an elevated tube at speeds of up to 160 miles per hour.

Empty capsules will be tested at its full potential of 760 miles per hour – close to the speed of sound. "We will crush every record on the ground," said Gresta.

Proposed Hyperloop test circuit in Kings County

Elon Musk, the founder of electric car company Tesla Motors, Paypal and the space exploration company SpaceX, first unveiled the concept for Hyperloop in 2013. The initial scheme proposed covering a 400-mile route between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes, providing a quicker and cheaper alternative to road, rail and air travel in the future.

"You can substitute the entire flight industry from Los Angeles to San Francisco with one tube, four times," added Gresta. "Now if this will not disrupt the air industry I don't know what will."

Hyperloop passenger capsule version cutaway with passengers onboard

While the prototype will be located along part of the proposed Los Angeles and San Francisco route, Gresta believes that the first full Hyperloop system will not be built in America.

Hyperloop passenger capsule with doors open at a station

"There are other countries that are in a more advanced discussion phase and they have the political will, the lack of infrastructure, a high density of population and less regulatory problems to make it happen," he said.

The system is designed to be earthquake and weather resistant, with each pylon capable of supporting seven passenger Hyperloop tubes and one for security purposes – transporting an estimated 3,400 passengers per hour, and 24 million people each year.


Gresta suggested that future hyper stations might be reached by self-driving cars, like the model proposed by Google, to make the journey fully autonomous.

The use of straight tubes to host the pods is intended to help minimise the g-force experienced by passengers – expected to range between 1-5g, similar to that experienced by a Formula One race driver. "It's a lot but it doesn't kill you," said Gresta.

Passenger capsules - 4.43 ft (1.35 m) wide and 6.11 ft (1.10 m) high

The service will be powered by renewable energy, with a surplus of solar, wind and kinetic power sold back to the grid to make the service profitable.

"It will consume less electricity than we produce. We can resell electricity," said Gresta. "In this model it will allow us to recoup the entire investment in six to eight years depending on where you build it."

Cutaway showing Hyperloop capsule in tube and attached solar panels

"We're able to do something that is not subsidised by the state. This is super important because 100 per cent of high-speed rail in the planet is subsidised by the state."

The world's longest billboard will be erected alongside the test track, helping to finance the project and making travel free for passengers. The final version will have no windows – instead a series of screens could surround the capsule, providing in-journey entertainment for passengers.

How the Hyperloop train between LA and San Francisco might work

Gresta envisages that pods could be dedicated to patient and organ transport or sold to private companies such as Disney at a cost of $2 million (£1.3 million).

While Gresta says Elon Musk is supportive of the company, the entrepreneur is not directly involved in its day-to-day operation because he "is too busy with Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity and he has his own problems".

Proposed Hyperloop route

Hyperloop has plans to roll the transport system out globally, and says a route from London to Glasgow could cost between $6 billion (£3.9 billion) and $8 billion (£5.2 billion) to construct. At just 30 minutes, the journey time could help passengers "regain their lives" through time saved in traffic jams or waiting at airports.

The Transport to the Future event took place in London's King's Cross and was organised by workflow app BaseStone as part of its Construct//Disrupt series on disruptive technologies in engineering and construction.

This article has been updated. The original amount quoted by Hyperloop for the test track has been amended from $6 billion (£3.9 billion) to $150 million (£98 million).

  • H-J

    Weird that the clouds and windmills don’t move in that gif. But besides that, kudos!

    • Mark Carter

      It’s probably because the train is moving so fast you wouldn’t see anything else move!

  • Kobi

    I really, really hope this works (and doesn’t kill people).

    • Someone will die on or as a result of it eventually, of course.

      Overall though, this type of controlled travel would be extremely safe. I’ve heard that “roller coasters are the safest method of travel.” This would be working on similar principles.

  • knownquantity

    So a five-mile test track costs $6 billion, but they’re claiming that a 400+ mile track between London and Glasgow could be built for the same price? That doesn’t really make any sense.

    • That number is wrong @knownquantity:disqus. Someone must have had a bad-hearing day.

      • John Brown

        Or it costs a lot more per mile to build a prototype than to replicate it. Isn’t that fairly typical?

        • Hyperloop technologies does not have six billion USD in capital to spend… they are trying to raise $100 million. So it stands to reason that the value has to be wrong.

          • skellener

            The title is incorrect about the 6 billion. It’s $150 million for the test track if you read the article.

          • Yes, they corrected it after I pointed it out that it was an insane value. Unfortunately other publications have picked that value up and have not corrected it. Wired are still claiming that value for example. What I do not understand is how little critical thinking has been spent in writing these articles!

          • James

            Wow! Full marks for ambition and optimism!
            £3.9 billion between London and Glasgow?! Edinburgh managed to spend £1 billion on a tram to the airport!

          • I have no idea if they will meet their expected costs or not, but the Hyperloop is fundamentally different from tram or trains and the cost of a Hyperloop track has much less problems and costs associated with it (in theory) than a train does.

          • Ralph Martin

            What theory might that be? The theory of the hare-brained that postulates that costs and problems are inversely proportional to technological, sophistication, development time, and the knowledge of armchair idiots?

          • Price of land, for example. The hyperloop runs on a elevated tube so the land can still be productive.

            About 40 % of the costs associated with rail tracks are subgrade & culvert, two things not required by Hyperloop.

          • Ralph Martin

            Yeah, and a fully enclosed tube (8e6 m^3) under vacuum filled with rare-earth magnets is basically the same as a steel rail and concrete tie on top of a pile of rocks.

          • First, it is not a vacuum but 1 millibar of pressure. Yes, still very low pressure but a big enough difference to make the costs much lower.

            Second, why would it be filled with rare-earth magnets? The levitation is provided by a layer of air provided under pressure to air-bearing “skis” on the bottom of each POD. This air would be collected at the nose of the POD by an electrically driven inlet fan and air compressor in order to “actively transfer high-pressure air from the front to the rear of the vessel,” and a portion of it directed to the air-bearing skis.

            This would bypass most of the low resistance in the low-pressure tube allowing the linear motors that provide acceleration to be placed few and far between.

            Again, I do not know if they will succeed or fail but coming here to comment without even bothering to read about the basis of how the system would work just shows laziness.

          • Ralph Martin

            Obviously I did not mean complete vacuum. I mean substantially depressurised WRT ambien and 1/1000 atm. Running AFAIK, the operating pressure, as the effect of an non maglev-assisted air bearing system is just pre-engineering speculation, since nothing has been built, tested, or likely even legitimately simulated.

            500 mile of tube at 1/1000 atm, profitable, non subsidised, and net power exporter. You should put your money where your mouth is and write them a cheque, since that is precisely the goal of issuing such optimistic parameters.

          • I might but for now I have more pressing issues to spend my money on. However, you seem to be putting words in my mouth.

            I never said they would be able to make a track running between two cities for $6 billion. I said that the Hyperloop company making the test track does not have $6 billion, so it was completely impossible that the five-mile test track would be estimated to cost that much… and I was right. I still fail to understand your rare-earth magnets comment.

          • Ralph Martin

            That isn’t dollars. That is the volume in cubic meters that they propose depressurising to 1 mb… It is a hilariously large number.

  • pipo

    Well cool, this is something I would like to try out!
    Traveling at the speed of sound would be pretty exhausting though; thinking of fighter jet pilots.

  • This article is clearly wrong. The test track will be nowhere near $6 billion. That number is the estimate of what it would cost to do a commercial track connecting two cities – LA to San Francisco.

    • Hi Duarte, this figure was given by Bibop Gresta. I have contacted him to confirm the number. Jessica/Dezeen

      • @Dezeen:disqus, no one has raised anywhere near that kind of capital so that will already provide ample evidence that this number is wrong. If you tell me $6 million that might be closer to the value of a five-mile track. $6 billion is just insane and I do not need to contact anyone to know this cannot be the figure. It is at least three orders of magnitude wrong.

        “By February 2015, the company had grown to nearly 200 people, and had announced that it would hold an initial public offering that year to raise US$100 million.[7] HTT also entered a formal agreement with GROW Holdings, the developer of Quay Valley, California, to construct a 5-mile (8 km) demonstration track beginning in 2016.”


        Clearly if they are going to have a public offering that will raise 100 milion USD they cannot be building a six billion USD track.

        • Durgen Jensen

          Bro, give it up. You are wrong.

      • @Dezeen:disqus, I do not know what is happening here in Disqus but my previous reply to this seems to be missing, or maybe not approved by you?

        In short, Hyperloop technologies are (or is in the process of) raising 100 million USD. So it is financially impossible for them to be building a six-billion USD test track.

        Someone has clearly misspoke or you have heard it wrong from Bibop Gresta. This value is at the very least three or four orders of magnitude wrong!

      • Someone in your team that has been writing this article must have their Ms and Bs mixed up. Here is an example on the article where this happens again:

        “Gresta envisages that pods could be dedicated to patient and organ transport or sold to private companies such as Disney at a cost of $2 million (£1.3 billion).”

        Two million USD is about 1.3 million GPB, NOT BILLION!

        • Hi Duarte, thanks for pointing this out. I have been in contact with Hyperloop and the story has now been updated to reflect an amended figure of $150 million. Best Jessica/Dezeen

    • Durgen Jensen

      You fail bro.

  • djkiranappiah

    Are you kidding me? No windows? How else are people going to enjoy the blistering speeds? No display can replace the beauty of real life.

  • radii

    I love the whole concept, but we live in an age of vandals, hackers and terrorists, when you can use a slingshot and a rock to pierce the tube and ruin its integrity, and destroy the air-pressure necessary for it to work, and the aforementioned have much more sophisticated tools at their disposal. It is simply too vulnerable as currently envisioned.

    • James

      Infrastructure such as this will obviously come with a host of security measures. Unfortunately you’re right though, there will always be a few seeking to harm the majority but we shouldn’t let them subdue our optimism for progress.

  • The_Pinchhitter

    Nice, expensive gimmick to get attention, but not for me. I love cycling and taking long bus/train journeys where I can doze off while enjoying the beautiful scenery.

    Besides, these long journeys avail me the opportunity to turn off my mobile phone/laptop and read books or sketch ideas for my art and design projects.

    • Why don’t you walk instead of taking such expensive gimmicks like bicycles, buses, and trains?

      • The_Pinchhitter

        Walking is the best. I only use other means of transport when I’m bored. Fortunately, I don’t live in undesirable places like California, where using any mode of transportation other than private cars is a crime!