Could High-Speed Transportation Tubes Replace Airline Travel?

Joe Goldman  |

Jeremy, an investment banker from Los Angeles, wants to travel to Shanghai to close a business deal, return to LA to enjoy some quality beach time with his kids, and catch the Yankees take on the Mets with a client at Yankee Stadium – all in one day.

Sounds expensive and physically impossible, right? With today’s transportation options, yes, but Jeremy’s action-packed day could soon become an affordable reality sometime in the next decade.

ET3, or Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies, is a company that is in the process of developing a high-speed magnetic levitation transportation system. Their prototype transportation system is silent, low cost, faster than jets, and fully electric. So how exactly does this crazy device work?

According to the prototype, up to six passengers sit in a 1.5-meter capsule, which travels through frictionless, airless tubes. Electric motors initially accelerate the capsules, which are able to maintain momentum for the remainder of the trip without the use of additional power. Most of the capsule’s energy is then recovered at the end of the trip, which means that ET3 leaves virtually no carbon footprint.

Capsules would reach speeds up to 4,000 miles per hour, enabling passengers to travel from LA to New York in 45 minutes or LA to China in only two hours. A ticket would only cost around $100, according to preliminary estimates.

The idea is both ambitious and bewildering, so here are some pros and cons surrounding the ET3 system.

While the Hyperloop may sound like pie in the sky or an idea out of Tron:Legacy, its arrival could actually be in the works, as the company will test a three-mile tube run later this year.

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