The track will test out technology that proponents hope will provide an alternative to air travel.
Out in the California desert, one company will soon starting work on an experiment where they hope to send human guinea pigs shooting across the landscape at 760 miles per hour — faster than the average commercial airplane and much closer to the ground.
The concept is called the hyperloop, and one of two companies working to test it out announced last week that it has plans to build a test track in Kings County, a low-population area with lots of open desert space and farm land. The track, which will cover a five-mile stretch in the area of the proposed solar-powered city of Quay Valley, will consist of tubes designed to carry passenger capsules at high speeds using solar power.
A spokesperson for Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), not to be confused with the separate Hyperloop Technologies, told architecture magazine Dezeen that it wants to begin work on the track starting in November. The project should be completed in 36 months and cost $150 million.
HTT is supported through crowdfunding.
The hyperloop concept made waves in the media starting in 2013 when Elon Musk, founder of the battery-powered and now semi-autonomous car company Tesla Motors, published a white paper outlining the idea. The idea is to construct loops covered in photovoltaic panels that power accelerators to send tubes gliding along at speeds so fast that a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco would take about half an hour. The company estimates that the solar panels would produce more energy than the hyperloop itself would need — it would not only power the pods, but generate excess energy that it can then sell. A passenger would feel between one and five gs, about the same as a racecar driver.
Neither of the companies working on the idea are affiliated with Musk.
Bibop Gabriele Gresta, HTT’s chief operating officer, told Dezeen that the passenger capsules in the test track would only reach 160 miles per hour. The company only plans to test out empty capsules at the full speed of 760 miles per hour.
Gresta also said that the first fully operational hyperloop will likely be built outside of the U.S. where political willpower is greater and transportation infrastructure is lesser.
Regardless, he expects the idea to change the world by creating an alternative to air travel that transports people faster and with cleaner power. HTT estimates that a hyperloop running between Los Angeles and San Francisco could transport 24 million people each year.
The Los Angeles-San Francisco route is the second-most traveled airplane route in the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 3.65 million people fly between the two cities each year.