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Hyperloop Could Cut Travellers’ Transportation Emissions by 90 to 95%

Drawdown lists the Hyperloop as a Coming Attraction—a climate solution in development that is not yet ready for prime time, but might be by mid-century.

The transportation concept championed by Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk calls for “pods” that shoot multiple passengers or cargo shipments through a tube, rocketing long distances in very short periods of time: Think San Francisco to Los Angeles in around 35 minutes. The pods are designed to glide nearly friction-free, suspended over pairs of wind- and solar-powered magnets which both stabilize the pods in transit and stop them when necessary. “Linear-induction motors, the same kind used in airport shuttle systems, would be used to start and accelerate the passenger pod,” Drawdown says. 

Musk envisions a hyperloop running 700 miles through California, Drawdown says. For travelers and shipping companies, the prime benefit is likely to be the speedy commute, but energy and carbon reductions may be even more of a boon: initial estimates show hyperloop travel reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90-95% per traveler.

Not long after Musk first proposed the hyperloop in a 2013 paper, engineering teams from several prominent universities took up the challenge of designing the high-speed pods. Drawdown cites Delft University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as early standouts, competing on Musk’s Hawthorne, California test track. Other companies are now developing hyperloop systems, some of which have clocked speeds of 330 miles per hour. The goal? Up to 760 mph. How fast the rest of the development process will go is yet to be determined, Drawdown notes. Before the climate benefits can be realized, safety, infrastructure, and permitting issues will need to be resolved—and the ticket price for one of the ergonomic seats will have to be set, too.