Making Hyperloop Public

Colorado Hyperloop and the Colorado State Capital in Denver

Below are some current questions and ideas that the citizens of Colorado have and we hope this elevates the civic discourse around Hyperloop in Colorado.

Will Hyperloop add to (car) congestion?

Hyperloop is being built as an on-demand and direct service as stated by both Arrivo, Hyperloop One and other Hyperloop groups. Colorado has a lot of auto congestion along its major highway arteries that serve the cities along the Front Range. Adaption of Hyperloop in Colorado will probably increase travel between these cities. But would a sustainable, rapid transportation option be bad?

However, as stated in the original Hyperloop Alpha white paper,  Hyperloop has benefits that current modes of transport do not have:

The corridor between San Francisco, California and Los Angeles, California is one of the most often traveled corridors in the American West. The current practical modes of transport for passengers between these two major population centers include:
1. Road (inexpensive, slow, usually not environmentally sound)
2. Air (expensive, fast, not environmentally sound)
3. Rail (expensive, slow, often environmentally sound)
A new mode of transport is needed that has benefits of the current modes without the negative aspects of each. This new high speed transportation system has the following requirements:
1. Ready when the passenger is ready to travel (road)
2. Inexpensive (road)
3. Fast (air)
4. Environmentally friendly (rail/road via electric cars)

What about passenger rail in Colorado?

ColoradoHyperloop.com is interested in passenger rail in Colorado! We view passenger rail as one transportation layer, among other layers like pedestrian infrastructure and a future Hyperloop infrastructure layer. Rail has been an important solution to making a more green and efficient transportation solution for the Front Range and it services as a lifeline to smaller cities on the Eastern Plains. We are interested in the current legislation (Senate Bill 17-153) in the Colorado State Capital. However, Hyperloop has major differences than rail. Specifically, it is on-demand and direct, environmentally friendly, less expensive and a totally different technology.

Is Hyperloop a waste of a State’s Department of Transportation’s time and money?

Colorado’s rapidly growing population and booming economy make for the ideal location for the development of Hyperloop systems.  The opportunity and potential of Hyperloop companies coming to Colorado with test facilities, employees, and direct investment, is a testament to the culture of Colorado innovation that drives the regional economic engine.

Learn more about the Colorado Department of Transportation and their work on the Hyperloop: https://www.codot.gov/programs/roadx/projects-in-motion

People often believe that CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) maintains local and residential roads, including neighborhood streets. However, cities and counties are responsible for local and residential roads—not CDOT.

Why not focus on bike, pedestrian, and public transportation before new transportation systems? What about other transportation and social problems?

The great thing about Hyperloop technology right now is that it is currently being developed! Anyone can help shape how it is developed! If you have an idea of how Hyperloop could have publicly owned bus, bike and pedestrian pods, then there should be more promotion of those ideas! There should be more focus on the engineering and economic impact of those public centered features of the Hyperloop system.

What if RTD (Regional Transportation District for Denver) or CDOT operated Hyperloop pods like they do with the Bustang® interregional express bus service?  Bustang® connects major populations, employment centers and local transit entities along the I-25 and I-70 corridors. “Connectivity, convenience and comfort are the hallmarks of Bustang’s success in helping further CDOT’s multi-modal mission” and should also be the hallmarks and goals of a Colorado Hyperloop system.

Want to play a part and shape Hyperloop development? There are various companies hiring right now! New Hyperloop focused nonprofits and global groups want you to help them too! You can even assist with public policy outreach for ColoradoHyperloop.com!

What is the projected timeline for connecting Pueblo and Denver with Hyperloop or other regions?

That is a good question. The Hyperloop concept is disruptive as it forces citizens to have a discussion on how do they want to get around the state in 2, 5, 10, 50 years from now. It’s not easy thinking about cities in 10 to 50-year timelines but hopefully, it will change the political discourse and help solve the problem of funding infrastructure in Colorado.

Dis-information about the Hyperloop concept.

Yes, cynical disinformation seeks to inflame existing tensions by putting out viral web stories that would then be republished by local news outlets and on social media to distort political debates about wedge issues (like pedestrian or biking infrastructure, auto and bus infrastructure, or use of high-speed rail). The use of trolls, cynicism, and false information often amplifies and distorts the very real problem of lack of investment in infrastructure in Colorado and they seek to degrade confidence in existing institutions and new technologies.

ColoradoHyperloop.com has reached out to these groups to start a dialogue and will continue to do so in the future.  No matter what other groups say, whether you’re getting information out of them, out of others, even out of your crazy uncle… the best way to respond to them is with a positive story.

The citizens of Colorado are well-educated and because of that, we are very resilient to such attempts. But Hyperloop technology does have one thing that fuels the detractors; the game-changing speed of Hyperloop (classic) pods velocity of 670 miles per hour and Hyperloop-ish levitating sleds traveling 200 miles per hour.

ColoradoHyperloop.com has in the past has had meetups and will soon start an online hangout (details to be forthcoming soon, but let us know if you want to assist in this) to make Hyperloop information more public. We are excited to have a positive discussion based on non-hyped facts and real engineering. We agree with the ethos that building good transportation systems today doesn’t exclude researching good transportations systems of tomorrow.

Be sure to sign up for the Colorado Hyperloop newsletter or contact us directly.

Finally, take a look at just a sampling of local reporting about Hyperloop technology in Colorado:

  • http://gazette.com/gallery/articleid/1615235/pictures?display=flexFullscreen&galleryTheme=lightTheme
  • http://gazette.com/colorado-hyperloop-challenges-3-major-hurdles-among-big-possibilities/article/1612230
  • http://www.denverpost.com/2017/09/22/colorado-hyperloop-one-cost-24-billion/
  • http://www.chieftain.com/business/local/hyperloop-test/article_0e97161c-c9a2-11e7-a87a-f771ab41cbd4.html
  • http://www.chieftain.com/news/pueblo/front-range-rail-rolls-forward/article_23df5fe8-aff4-5141-b3dd-3e96515aecc9.html
  • http://www.westword.com/news/hyperloop-plans-in-colorado-9524478
  • http://www.westword.com/news/hyperloop-one-and-importance-of-tunnels-9555475
  • http://www.westword.com/news/colorado-wins-hyperloop-like-arrivo-test-track-9693161
  • http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/denver-to-colorado-springs-in-9-mins-colorado-could-build-one-of-first-hyperloop-routes-in-world
  • http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/where-would-colorados-hyperloop-stop-how-much-would-it-cost
  • http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/cdot-partnering-with-calif-company-to-build-hyperloop-style-test-track-in-colorado
  • https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2017/11/14/colorado-lands-multimillion-dollar-investment-from.html
  • https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/video/B1ZHBvYzE6MvcNHk3TCQdl9776KCqfir
  • https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2017/09/14/how-colorado-landed-on-hyperloop-one-s-top-10-list.html
  • http://www.9news.com/travel/heres-the-next-step-for-colorados-hyperloop/475703822
  • http://www.9news.com/news/travel/company-plans-to-build-hyperloop-test-track-east-of-denver/491665682
  • http://www.foxnews.com/auto/2017/11/15/denver-to-test-200-mph-hyperloop-inspired-track-with-tech-startup-arrivo.html
  • http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_31301612/cdot-distance-from-interstates-was-boulder-countys-hyperloop
  • http://www.dailycamera.com/guest-opinions/ci_31479183/alec-wyand-an-alternative-route-through-mountains-hyperloop
  • Letter to the editor: http://www.dailycamera.com/letters/ci_31463175/craig-jones-how-about-direct-east-west-hyperloop and http://www.dailycamera.com/editorials/ci_31462507/from-editorial-advisory-board-tube-travel
  • Not local but interesting read: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/nation-now/2017/10/30/colorado-hyperloop-plan/813214001/

Hyperloop route times in Colorado and how you will get there

Colorado Springs to Denver in 12 minutes with point to point transportation. Wow!

Hyperloop One has an amazing interactive website that will show you the various times it takes to travel in the Hyperloop vs conventional transportation. Check it out here: http://hyperloop-one.com/routes/

Colorado Springs to Denver
Colorado Springs to Denver
Boulder to Denver
Boulder to Denver
Denver to Fort Collins
Denver to Fort Collins
Fort Collins to Pueblo
Fort Collins to Pueblo

So how might you arrive and leave the cities? Arrivo Loop also has amazing renderings of their vehicles or ‘pods.’

Arrivo Loop Pod
Arrivo Loop Pod
Arrivo Loop Pods in tubes
Arrivo Loop pods in tube in a city
Arrivo Loop Pods
Arrivo Loop Pods

Technology and these companies are moving fast! Keep following for more analysis on what these updates will mean for Colorado.

Teams to follow in the SpaceX Pod Competition

These teams have been actively developing community and prototypes for the SpaceX Pod Competition. The SpaceX is helping with a design weekend January 15-16th in Texas, and the final hyperloop competition June of 2016. More posts to come on the teams, as well as updates in how they hyperloop will look like in Colorado, along the front range.

Team HyperLynx

Mechanical Engineering seniors design team at the University of Colorado, Denver will be building a Hyperloop pod and testing it at the Hyperloop competition

EuroLoop

Connecting Europe with the speed of vacuum, A Hyperloop forecast, designed by 10x Labs

rLoop

rLoop is a the non profit, open source, online think tank. Now designing a Hyperloop pod for SpaceX competition

 

Help Hyperloop Design Team of Mechanical Engineeringat University of Colorado

Great news in that a Colorado student engineering group called Team HyperLynx has team for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition! Best of luck! They have received press and you can check out their facebook page.

Our Mechanical Engineering senior design team at the University of Colorado, Denver will be building a Hyperloop pod and testing it at the Hyperloop competition, sponsored by SpaceX, in June 2016, held in Hawthorne, California. The pod will be designed and built at the University of Colorado, Denver by using advanced engineering techniques, supplemented with computer design and analysis.  Our project aims to raise enough money through Kickstarter, private companies, and competition funding to build a prototype Hyperloop pod.

Will be sure to follow their progress, and hopefully provide input from all of Colorado.

They are competing against dozens of other schools and even private companies to make a prototype for SpaceX.

“We use basically magnetic force to launch the pod inside the low pressure tube,” Cooper said…
The challenge for the students is to make their pod the fastest and the safest.

“We are going to design something that does not rely on external power sources or pressure to be safe,” Cooper added.

Aptly called Team Hyperlinx, the group is made up of mechanical engineering seniors

“We are trying to represent Denver, and make our school proud,” Cooper said.

 

Hyperloop Stations will Benefit from Google Investments

image

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Newly created, and Google funded, Sidewalk Labs has an interesting mission.

The New York Times has a great article about them:

Sidewalk Labs, Mr. Doctoroff said, planned to work in “the huge space between civic hackers and traditional big technology companies.”

While big technology companies take a “top-down approach and seek to embed themselves in a city’s infrastructure,” he said Sidewalk Labs would instead seek to develop “technology platforms that people can plug into” for things like managing energy use or altering commuting habits. He pointed to New York’s bike-sharing program as an early example of a technology-assisted innovation in transportation.

Big infrastructure projects like the hyperloop are going to need to be as agile as possibe, or else the communities, and politicians won’t want to spend money on them.

It seems like the US is needing to catch up to other innovative cities around the world. Hopefully Google will help make hyperloop projects in their own backyard.

Below is the original press release post from Larry Page:

Many of you are reading this post while living in a city. And you can probably think of a ton of ways you’d like your city to be better—more affordable housing, better public transport, less pollution, more parks and green spaces, safer biking paths, a shorter commute… the list goes on!

Many cities around the world have already made a lot of progress in some of these areas—for instance, developing dashboards to measure and visualize traffic patterns, and building tools that let residents instantly evaluate and provide feedback on city services. But a lot of urban challenges are interrelated—for example, availability of transportation affects where people choose to live, which affects housing prices, which affects quality of life. So it helps to start from first principles and get a big-picture view of the many factors that affect city life. Then, you can develop the technologies and partnerships you need to make a difference.

So I’m very excited about +Sidewalk Labs​, a new company we’ve announced today. (The press release is at www.sidewalkinc.com if you want to read more).  Sidewalk will focus on improving city life for everyone by developing and incubating urban technologies to address issues like cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage. The company will be led by Dan Doctoroff, former CEO of Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Rebuilding for the City of New York. Every time I talk with Dan I feel an amazing sense of opportunity because of all the ways technology can help transform cities to be more livable, flexible and vibrant.  I want to thank +Adrian who helped to bring Dan on board.

While this is a relatively modest investment and very different from Google’s core business, it’s an area where I hope we can really improve people’s lives, similar to Google[x] and Calico. Making long-term, 10X bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Sergey and I have always believed that it’s important. And as more and more people around the world live, work and settle in cities, the opportunities for improving our urban environments are endless. Now it’s time to hit the streets and get to work!

Major Financing Funneling Into Hyperloop Development Companies

Hyperloop Tech

Seems like California and Texas are beating Colorado in development of Hyperloop technologies and routes. Below is the earth shaking news as reported by Bruce Upbin of Forbes:

Hyperloop Is Real: Meet The Startups Selling Supersonic Travel

From startup to the speed of sound: Hyperloop Technologies CTO Brogan BamBrogan and Co-Chairman Shervin Pishevar
The majestic Senate majority leader suite in the U.S. Capitol was still Harry Reid’s in September when he eagerly scooched his leather chair across the Oriental rug to gaze at something that, he was told, would change transportation forever.

Former SpaceX engineer Brogan BamBrogan (yes, that’s his legal name) pulled out his iPad for a preview. Two business partners, the half-billionaire venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar and former White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, carefully studied the powerful senator’s reaction. Even Mark Twain, a onetime riverboat pilot whose portrait hung over Reid’s desk, eyed the proceedings warily.

“What’s that?” asked Reid, sitting up, animatedly pointing at the iPad. BamBrogan’s home screen showed a photo of a desert plain with dazed and dusty half-dressed people wandering around at sunrise.

“Er, that’s Burning Man,” the engineer responded, then clued in the 75-year-old politician to the techno-hippie carnival that takes place pre-Labor Day in the Black Rock Desert of Reid’s home state of Nevada.

BamBrogan’s formal presentation was even wilder, a vision for efficiently moving people or cargo all over the Southwest, to start, and the world, eventually, at rates approaching the speed of sound.

At the end of the 60-minute pitch Reid sat back and smiled. That’s when Pishevar leaned in, asking the senator to introduce him to a Nevada businessman who owned a 150-mile right of way from Vegas to California for a high-speed train. Reid said he would, and they shook on it. And thus fell another obstacle in the group’s fast-moving efforts to actualize what until recently had seemed not much more than geek fantasy: the hyperloop.

You remember the hyperloop, don’t you? It’s that far-out idea billionaire industrialist Elon Musk proposed in a 58-page white paper in August 2013 for a vacuum-tube transport network that could hurtle passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles at 760 miles an hour. Laughed off as science fiction, it is as of today an actual industry with three legitimate groups pushing it forward, including Hyperloop Technologies, the team in Harry Reid’s office. They emerge from “stealth” mode with this article, armed with an $8.5 million war chest and plans for a $80 million round later this year. “We have the team, the tools and the technology,” says BamBrogan. “We can do this.” The 21st-century space race is on.

It’s hard to overstate how early this all is. There are dozens of engineering and logistical challenges that need solving, from earthquake-proofing to rights-of-way to alleviating the barf factor that comes with flying through a tube at transonic speeds.

Yet it’s equally hard to overstate how dramatically the hyperloop could change the world. The first four modes of modern transportation–boats, trains, motor vehicles and airplanes–brought progress and prosperity. They also brought pollution, congestion, delay and death. The hyperloop, which Musk dubs “the fifth mode,” would be as fast as a plane, cheaper than a train and continuously available in any weather while emitting no carbon from the tailpipe. If people could get from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 20 minutes, or New York to Philly in 10, cities become metro stops and borders evaporate, along with housing price imbalances and overcrowding. (Click image to enlarge graphic.)

0210_hyperloop-diagram_1200

The only thing this geek fantasy is missing: Musk. With his hands full simultaneously running Tesla Motors and SpaceX, he’s left it to others to make his theory a reality. He declined to comment for this story. But his fingerprints are on each of the groups vying to build the hyperloop, even though they couldn’t be more different.

Hyperloop Technologies is the Dream Team, enlisting a formidable lineup of Silicon Valley and Washington superstars, most with a strong connection to Musk. Pishevar, the 40-year-old poised to break into the billionaire ranks thanks to his investment in Uber, is a Musk intimate and the one who forced his friend to reveal publicly his hyperloop vision in the first place. His new Sherpa Ventures fund led Hyperloop Technologies’ seed round, along with Formation 8, overseen by Joe Lonsdale, another young (FORBES 30 Under 30) centimillionaire hyperloop enthusiast and cofounder of big-data colossus Palantir. Now add Messina, who oversaw President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign; cochairman David Sacks, who worked under Musk at PayPal before scoring big at Yammer; Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation, on whose board Musk sits; and BamBrogan, who until recently was one of Musk’s key SpaceX engineers. Musk has received regular updates from this group. President Obama has been briefed as well.

Even more surprising than the platinum-plated roster: Hyperloop Tech’s initial mission. They intend to go way beyond Musk’s original vision and focus first on freight rather than human transportation. This high-speed “cargoloop” could go over land or under water. Imagine submerged skeins of steel tubes crisscrossing the ocean or up and down the coasts hurtling shipping containers at near supersonic speeds. Need iPhones? Press a button and a container-load is on its way from Shenzhen overnight.

Against this establishment lineup of all-stars, Dirk Ahlborn’s scrappy crew feels like the Bad News Bears. Also based in L.A. and boasting a similar name, his Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has the numbers: 200 engineers, designers and others who for the past year have essentially crowdsourced the hyperloop. Launched with a call to arms on Ahlborn’s site JumpStartFund, HTT now has permanent moonlighters from Cisco, Boeing and Harvard who work strictly for equity. They’re organized into a federation of teams tackling different aspects of the hyperloop: financial models, route optimization, cabin and station design, capsule engineering. “At a certain point we’ll need a full-time team and to raise money,” says Ahlborn, “but right now it’s working well.” HTT plans to present its latest work at big railroad trade shows in Dubai and Johannesburg later this year.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn

Meanwhile, a group of Musk’s own SpaceX engineers have been agitating to get in on the action. So in January Musk announced cryptic plans to fund the construction of a hyperloop test track in Texas, with no date specified. Just as Musk “open-sourced” his initial hyperloop concept in 2013, he says he plans to make the track, which will be designed for scaled-down capsules, available to any group that wants to test a design.

The vision for the Texas test track is something out of Star Wars–pod racers flying through the air, would-be rebel forces facing off against the Empire. Which isn’t a bad analogy for this whole nascent business. “We’re peering into a process that hasn’t happened before,” says Pishevar. “It has risk, but this is an idea that can change the world.”

Sci-fi writers and other dreamers have long envisioned fast, tubular travel. Rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard in 1909 wrote a paper that wasn’t too far off from Musk’s proposal. In 1972 Robert Salter of the RAND Corp. conceived a supersonic transcontinental underground railway called the Vactrain. Shervin Pishevar was one of those dreamers. Back in the dot-com era he floated an idea called Pipex, a network of pneumatic tubes that would shuttle important documents around San Francisco. It didn’t go anywhere.

But Pishevar has. Mention his name around Silicon Valley and you might well get an eye roll. A big-hearted oversharer quick with hugs, tears and humble-brags, he drops the names of celebrity friends (Jay Z, Edward Norton, Sean Penn) likes dimes in a jukebox.

“He’s unquestionably a promoter,” says one Valley investor who’s done deals with him. “But there are many good things that come from being a promoter.” Ask anyone at Menlo Ventures, where Pishevar engineered one of the $4 billion venture firm’s greatest investments ever, in a then-small-but-growing taxi app called Uber.

Pishevar was initially turned down by Uber and its backers when it closed its second round of funding at the end of 2011. Pishevar was giving a talk in Algeria when he got a call from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, saying he was back in if he could come meet Kalanick in Dublin. Pishevar grabbed the next flight to Ireland. “I didn’t really know Shervin, [but] I was getting e-mails from him and intros from everybody he knows,” Kalanick told FORBES in 2012. “I met with him because I had to.” The two hit it off, walking the streets of Dublin for hours. They signed a term sheet in the wee hours of the morning. Menlo left with an estimated 8% of Uber, at a valuation of $290 million. The company is now worth $42 billion. “I always tell people: Lesson number one: Get on that plane,’” says Pishevar, whose Uber and other holdings are worth about $500 million.

That score is the capstone of this immigrant’s rags-to-riches American dream. Pishevar was six when his mother fled post-revolution Iran in 1980, toting him and his two siblings. His father, who had run a big part of Iran’s TV network under the Shah, had barely escaped a year earlier and was driving a cab in Washington, D.C. His mother, a teacher, got a job as a maid at a Ramada Inn. Pishevar’s English was so bad that his second-grade teacher threatened to hold him back until his father pressed her to let him move up. By the time he was 10, though, he was calling local radio stations and debating Middle Eastern politics. “I think he was born 40 years old,” says his brother Afshin, who sold his law firm to move to L.A. as Hyperloop’s general counsel.

After graduating from Berkeley in 1998, Pishevar returned to Maryland and started a series of companies, including an early operating system, WebOS, as well as the Social Gaming Network and Webs.com, which eventually sold to Vistaprint for $117.5 million. In 2007 he moved to San Francisco and began writing small checks to startups on the side. Menlo Ventures hired him as an investing partner in June 2011, and he got the San Francisco firm into Tumblr, Warby Parker and Uber.

Two years ago Pishevar raised $153 million to start his own fund, Sherpa Ventures, with former Goldman Sachs venture investor Scott Stanford. Rather than only backing existing startups, their idea was to build new companies from scratch around talented people. One of the first ideas he put in motion: Hyperloop Tech.

The hyperloop startup has a typically Pishevar provenance. Over the past few years he’s inserted himself in Hollywood’s self-important diplomat set, traveling with Sean Penn to Benghazi to meet Libyan rebels who fought Qaddafi and to Tahrir Square to rally with Egyptian protesters. In January 2012 he and Penn were riding on Elon Musk’s private jet to Cuba to pressure the Castro government to release some American prisoners. En route, Pishevar pushed Musk about when he was going to tackle the hyperloop, a project the billionaire had been privately dropping hints about for almost a year.

“He said he didn’t have time to do it himself. So I said, I’ll do it. I’d love to do it.’” Over the next six months Pishevar kept on Musk to publish his hyperloop research, but Musk kept begging off, saying he was too busy. Pishevar being Pishevar, he forced the issue: In May 2013 at the AllThingsD conference, Musk had again avoided the subject of the hyperloop onstage. So Pishevar got to the microphone first for the audience Q&A [at 50:07]: “Elon, there is one idea you have that we’ve discussed before, which is hyperloop. I would love for you to tell this audience what this is and how it could change our world.” Suddenly on the spot, Musk stumbled through a description and reluctantly promised to release the report by August. The idea was now public.

A rendering of an undersea hyperloop tube. Hyperloop Tech is mulling the idea of a Pacific up the California coast (or even all the way to China).
A rendering of an undersea hyperloop tube. Hyperloop Tech is mulling the idea of a Pacific up the California coast (or even all the way to China).

And when he did release his report, the Internet exploded with commentary, praise and snark. No matter, as Pishevar began putting the hype in hyperloop. A major Democratic Party donor, he turned a meeting with President Obama at the White House into a 30-minute hyperloop pitch. The President vowed to read Musk’s report that night, according to Pishevar, and the next week asked the Office of Science & Technology Policy to review the idea. He pulled a similar stunt on Larry Page while on the Google founder’s yacht as they watched the America’s Cup race in San Francisco Bay.

Pishevar’s persistence began paying off. Lonsdale committed to invest money and time. Then came Messina, who was already an outside partner at Sherpa Ventures. “Shervin understood very early on it was a political challenge,” says Messina. “But this is not a typical sell. It’s one of those things that if we do it, it could change everything. If we think on our feet and start moving fast, this is doable. It’s not like flying to Mars.” And when Musk came to Pishevar’s 40th birthday party on a private 850-acre island in the British Virgin Islands, the VC got his blessing to pursue David Sacks, who had been Musk’s COO at PayPal and had just sold Yammer to Microsoft for $1.2 billion.

“I thought I was being asked to join a charitable board,” says Sacks, who eventually joined Pishevar as Hyperloop Tech cochair, “but I realized they were serious about turning this into a business.” While Musk was still officially keeping his distance from all hyperloop projects, he secretly met with Pishevar and Sacks for an update over dinner at the Sunset Tower Hotel in L.A. in April. “Elon felt that if we could prove it could work, even a two- or five-mile prototype, that would overcome any political challenges or regulatory issues,” says Sacks. “But we all agreed we had to prove it first with private money.”

That’s what Pishevar’s money is going toward. The $8.5 million will cover initial engineering and design, with the $80 million to build and operate the test track. But who will build it? Musk’s SpaceX engineers kept telling Pishevar the same name: Brogan.

As with his boss, it’s easy to poke fun of Brogan BamBrogan. The singular name came when the former Kevin Brogan decided last year to merge more than just lives with his new wife, Bambi Liu, now Bambi BamBrogan. He’s got a Sgt. Pepper’s-era handlebar mustache and wears deep v-neck T-shirts and a skeleton key around his neck. But get behind the pretension and you find a world-class engineer, who did all of the design work on the second-stage engine of the Falcon 1 and was the lead architect for the heat shield of the Dragon capsule. “He came up with a design no one had seen before,” says a former SpaceX colleague.

BamBrogan was initially uninterested in Musk’s idea. “I have no interest in helping rich people get from San Francisco to L.A. 20 minutes faster,” sniffs the well-paid engineer. But redrawing cities and the dirty container shipping industry, as Pishevar pitched it? BamBrogan was sold.

Dirk Ahlborn, a tall, easygoing German who bears more than a passing resemblance to Liam Neeson, comes to the world of transformative transportation theory through…pellet stoves. He had run an Italian company in that field, and helped launch an assortment of startups, including a gas-fueled turbine play, after coming to Los Angeles in 2009. When the JOBS Act passed in 2012, he hatched a plan to make the startup process completely open source. His two-year-old JumpStartFund encourages inventors to post their ideas and seek funding or partnerships from the public.

Musk’s white paper was pretty much a public pitch, and Ahlborn jumped on it. A partner introduced him to SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, and she gave the green light for HTT to call for proposals in October 2013. They quickly had a couple hundred volunteers to sort through.

Anyone who works at least ten hours a week gets equity in the company. Ahlborn, based out of Hermosa Beach, Calif., keeps the teams connected through weekly conference calls and shared Google Docs. “Some of them are reluctant to admit to their boss what they’re doing because they have full-time jobs,” he says. HTT has been refining aspects of the project for a year now, releasing its updates on its website. A group of math students at Harvard and other schools built a fairly advanced route-optimization model that plans the cheapest and least nauseating path to link any city-pair. An electric motor company in Portland is working on the capsule’s propulsion system. A team of UCLA architecture students have created scale models of passenger interiors out of wood–but it’s not clear what they’re going to be doing once they’re done with school.

A cost analysis team estimates conservatively that a two-way passenger tube will run $45.3 million per mile. “I believe we’ll find innovations with steel or other materials to bring the price down closer to $20 million per mile,” says Jamen Koos, a Cisco employee who is running HTT’s product management team.

Ahlborn says he has interest from the Mexican government for a 120-mile loop connecting Mexico City to Queretaro, but he’s a long way from firm commitments. Even so, he’s convinced that his crowdsourcing model will not turn off potential customers. “Our 200 people, who know what they’re doing, are performing better than 30 people full-time,” says Ahlborn.

The pros, meanwhile, are already trash-talking. BamBrogan predicts that HTT’s efforts “will be a great source of summer interns for us.” Since August, work at Hyperloop Tech has moved from BamBrogan’s garage, located (naturally) in L.A.’s hipster neighborhood, Los Feliz, to a 6,500-square foot former ice factory in L.A.’s gentrifying arts district, just down the block from a topless bar.

A big breakthrough came following the Harry Reid meeting. The senator introduced the group to Anthony Marnell, who has built all of Steve Wynn’s Las Vegas megaproperties and also served as CEO of the Rio Hotel & Casino. His real passion? Returning passenger rail from the West Coast to Vegas. “I’ve been chasing fast trains around the world for almost 30 years,” he says. Over the past 10 years Marnell and his investors have sunk $50 million of their own money into XpressWest, a proposed 190-mile high-speed link from Sin City to L.A.’s eastern exurbs, mostly to acquire the right-of-way. A hyperloop experiment would be far more interesting. Negotiations are ongoing. “There’s got to be a way for us to work together,” says Marnell.

A deal there would be important given that Musk’s original proposal–the S.F. to L.A. route–isn’t happening. Even discounting the political nuttiness that required 20 years just to get ground broken on California’s high-speed rail project, Musk couldn’t figure out a way to get tubes any closer than an hour from each city. Ramming rights-of-way through already congested cities remains a huge long-term issue with the project. HTT’s artist renderings show Hunger Games-style tubes on pylons crossing New York City’s East River in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. Good luck with that. “I’m convinced hyperloop is doable from a technical standpoint, rights-of-way notwithstanding,” says Justin Gray, an aerospace engineer at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. That’s part of why Hyperloop Tech is focusing on cargo: Since much of the eastbound cargo that goes into the port of Los Angeles travels via rail or road through Las Vegas, that route offers a natural test.

Those are just the beginning of the issues. On the technical side the ride could be a barf rocket at Musk’s upper limit of 4.9 meters per second squared (or 0.5g) of lateral acceleration. Japan’s Tokaido train tops out at 0.67 meters per second squared and goes only 180 miles an hour. You can also forget an entirely carbon-free loop. Musk envisioned lining the tube length with solar panels. According to BamBrogan, the drain from the hyperloop electric propulsion system exceeds what even that many panels could provide. There will need to be grid power, and that means coal.

The technical challenges are also pretty steep. Hyperloop Tech’s capsule is designed to ride on a cushion of air pushed out through the sleds below the capsule. The hard-drive industry offers some models, but no one has used air bearings that move at near transonic speeds outside of a lab. (BamBrogan’s team plans to build a test rig this summer in that area.) And they will have to build the equipment that will make the tubes themselves, since no such machine exists. “I need to hire people who are really good at figuring out what they don’t know,” says BamBrogan.

Such is life in a space race. Things that once seemed impossible have a way of getting done. Musk spent $100 million of his own money to build the Falcon 1 rocket, which failed on its first three times to reach orbit successfully. “It’s time to stop doing photo apps and start doing something for the planet,” says Hyperloop Tech board member Peter Diamandis.

Money won’t be an issue. Pishevar says that once he gets liquid on his Uber stake (IPO, anyone?), he will personally fund half of Hyperloop Tech’s $80 million round. If they or any others then show results, billions will flood in. “We’re looking at the end of one civilization and the beginning of another, and this transportation infrastructure we’re building is the beginning of that new lattice,” says Pishevar, as understated as ever. “There’s no turning back.”

Hyperloop

CO Hyperloop Reality

HyperLoop Transportation Technology Map

 

Yes, they Colorado Hyperloop will happen*! A flurry of news articles have been published today on the press release of Dirk Ahlborn’s Hyperloop Transportation Technologies on the JumpStart Funds website. Key points from the Wired article:

*Maybe!

Elon Musk Discusses Hyperloop at MIT

 MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's 2014 Centennial Celebration
MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department’s 2014 Centennial Celebration

The MIT AeroAstro Centennial Symposium was where Elon Musk answered a question on the Hyperloop. The question was prompted by Elliot Owen, who built a working model of the hyperloop tube and pods (that can be seen below). The question can be seen in the link below, at the 01:02:00 mark:

http://webcast.amps.ms.mit.edu/fall2014/AeroAstro/index-Fri-PM.html

Here are some key points answered by Elon;

  • He was asked by on whether temperature of the Hyperloop tube would be too high. Elon responded that the diameter of the hyperloop tube would be twice the diameter of the hyperloop pod, to allow air to flow around the pod. You dont want a tight fit.
  • Inner part of the hyperloop tube must be smooth. So you might even have to run a grinder in the inside of the tube to smooth it out.
  • The air-ski’s are spring when the pod is moving through the tube.
  • Expansion of the tube, due to thermal differences, must happen at the terminals. Each pylon must also be allowed to stretch, and you can’t hard constrain it at the pylons.

So much more in the interview and questions, so just watch the whole interview. Below are Elliot Owen’s working model of the hyperloop & presentation.

Cleaner Hyperloop Innovations

Because its easy to make critiques at every new technological advancement, see the LED debate below, the Colorado Hyperloop would like to congratulate Gary Truesdale’s latest Hyperloop Efficiency Concept. The video below shows how he made a device that could reduce overall energy use of each hyperloop pod and tube sections by forcing air circulation in the Hyperloop system.

Hyperloop Test Fixture V2 information, Credit: Gary Truesdale
Hyperloop Test Fixture V2, Credit: Gary Truesdale

Good job Gary, keep up the innovations!

With innovations like the one above, the Colorado Hyperloop will be using the most energy efficient and lowest carbon renewable energy technology currently available. So it was interesting to read this Op-Ed in the New York Times about the recent Nobel Prize for the blue/white LED.

The winners, Shuji Nakamura, an American, and Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, both from Japan, justly deserve their Nobel, and should be commended for creating a technology that produces the same amount of light with less energy.

But it would be a mistake to assume that LEDs will significantly reduce overall energy consumption.

The I.E.A. and I.P.C.C. estimate that the rebound could be over 50 percent globally. Recent estimates and case studies have suggested that in many energy-intensive sectors of developing economies, energy-saving technologies may backfire, meaning that increased energy consumption associated with lower energy costs because of higher efficiency may in fact result in higher energy consumption than there would have been withoutthose technologies.

That’s not a bad thing. Most people in the world, still struggling to achieve modern living standards, need to consume more energy, not less. Cheap LED and other more efficient energy technologies will be overwhelmingly positive for people and economies all over the world.

But LED and other ultraefficient lighting technologies are unlikely to reduce global energy consumption or reduce carbon emissions. If we are to make a serious dent in carbon emissions, there is no escaping the need to shift to cleaner sources of energy.

New York Times

I agree. Determining whether new energy efficient technology increases overall energy demand is a mute point. The more people there are on the planet the more energy will be used. So we must use cleaner energy.

But this is having it both ways. They really need to make it clear that the formula is: efficiency gain vs cost (monetary and environmental).

For example, just as the individual LED is wonderful, more breakthroughs in lighting are just around the corner with OLEDS.

The next big thing in lighting could be glowing sheets that use half as much energy as an equivalent fluorescent fixture and can be laminated to walls or ceilings. The sheets will contain organic LEDs, or OLEDs—the same kind of technology used in some ultrathin TVs and smartphones.

OLEDs could be used in large sheets, because organic light-emitting molecules can be deposited over large surfaces. They also run cooler than LEDs, so they don’t require elaborate heat sinks, making a lighting structure simpler. OLED lighting is 10 to 100 times more expensive than conventional lighting, but as costs come down, it could eventually replace conventional fluorescent fixtures. MIT Technology Review 

The LED Op-Ed writers are from The Breakthrough Institute, which produces a journal that focuses on many things but also on Renewables, Innovation Policy and something called EcoModernism. From their website:

RENEWABLES

Renewable energy technologies – including solar, wind, hydroelectric, and bioenergy – are essential tools in the path towards modern, low-carbon energy systems. But like all energy technologies, they have significant costs and impacts. Understanding their scalability and effects on the landscape will prove essential in crafting renewable energy innovation policy.

INNOVATION POLICY

Economists have long recognized innovation’s central importance to economic growth, but have still not come to terms with the reality that “general-purpose” technologies like electricity, microchips, and the Internet often emerge from long-term public-private partnerships. And since no two technologies are exactly alike, case studies of successful innovation policy must be carefully analyzed to spur similar successes in the future.

ECOMODERNISM

Ecomodernism is a pragmatic philosophy motivated by the belief that we can protect beautiful, wild places at the same time as  we ensure that the seven-going-on-ten billion people in the world can lead secure, free, and prosperous lives. Ecomodernists are optimistic about humanity’s ability to shape a better future – a “good Anthropocene.”
TheBreakThrough.org

Anyway, they have a lot of smart people in that institute but they have yet to publish any findings on a future Hyperloop. Hopefully, the Colorado Hyperloop will be of interest to them.

Modular Colorado Hyperloop

The future is modular?

Perhaps it is, but the key takeaway from Project Ara, a modular function mobile device, is that they are trying out the idea rapidly. It is based out of something called Phonebloks:

Phonebloks began as a college project. It was an idea more than it ever was a business. It was an idea Phonebloks hoped would spread across the internet and someone would grab it and run with it. In the last year or so, the idea has spread, and now multiple companies are using this idea to drive their business. One of those companies is Google.

Project Ara took shape with the acquisition of Motorola. Motorola and Google took the idea of Phonebloks, a modular phone with swappable parts, from idea to concept. And even though Google is in the process of selling Motorola to Lenovo, they are keeping Project Ara in house.

Watch a couple of minutes of this presentation to see how the project has come about:

Modularness is the main point, but the whole project is driven by the developer/maker community.

There are plenty of themes that the Colorado Hyperloop can use for its development. But in reality, in order for the Hyperloop to be built along the front range, it will truly have to be developed in conjunction with community input. The tube and loop system should be as modular and customizable as possible.

The wider community facilities development and that is why the hyperloop should demonstrate different modular designs.