A recent shortage in truck drivers in the transportation industry has experts unsure of what the future may bring, but a new concept may provide a sustainable and low-cost alternative to traditional conveyance.
Although it’s more of a theory than an actual reality, CNBC recently reported that an emerging technology more commonly known as “vactrains” is making its way toward mainstream reality. ET3, a Longmont, Colorado-based company claims to have investors for its Evacuated Tube Transport Technology, or what it refers to as space travel on Earth.
Watch out Neil Armstrong, ET3 is trying to steal your thunder.
Transportation of the future?
According to its company website, the technology concept is a clean, green and fast mode of transportation that’s financially sustainable for a modern-day global population. The goal is to create an interconnected system of electronically powered, frictionless tubes that case five-foot diameter traveling capsules. The term vactrains is derived from the fact that air is permanently absent from the planned travel routes, and airtight locks at various stations allow transfers to take place without allowing air in.
The capsules are initially powered by electric motors but rely solely on inertia after the fact due to the absence of outside airflow. ET3 added that speeds for in-state trips would reach 370 miles per hour while international journeys could reach as fast as 4,000 miles per hour. Engineered similarly to the domestic interstate system, ET3 plans to network its tubes and automatically routing capsules to their final destination.
Since the technology is designed to operate within a vacuum, less energy is required to generate these speeds. The weight and density of materials used also decreases, thus reducing production and operational costs. More specifically, ET3’s website said the transportation system can be built for 10 percent of the cost of a high speed rail and one-quarter of the cost of an interstate. ET3 would require one twentieth of the raw materials needed to construct a high-speed rail as well.
Vactrains gaining traction
According to the company’s founder Daryl Oster, ET3 already has investors on board from around the world and plans to take this technology global. A trip from New York City to Beijing, China would take about two hours, he told CNBC. Eight thousand miles in 120 minutes sounds ludicrous, especially when simple arithmetic is applied: 4,000 miles per hour does in fact seem like space travel on Earth.
But Oster said the technology is gaining steam, especially with the recent announcement that billionaire and Tesla Chief Officer Elon Musk’s concept of a similar idea. Musk’s “hyperloop” applies the same ideology, just on a smaller scale: a sustainably powered high-speed transit system that would take passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour, Businessweek recently reported. The capsules inside would house more than 20 passengers at a time, which is far more than the five to six that ET3 had initially proposed.
While the hyperloop is on the back burner at Tesla and SpaceX, Musk told reporters that he is toying around with the idea of building a prototype to get the industry going. Although there are doubters, Musk’s prior track record is one of the main reasons the proposed technology isn’t being dismissed.
Transportation would change forever
In what sounds almost too good to be true, vactrains would not only speed up passenger transportation, but they could also drastically improve supply chain efficiencies. Companies could fill a capsule with products and have it delivered across the country in the same day. With more major retailers promising enhanced and even same-day delivery, the concept technology could find a niche in both passenger transportation and consumer goods delivery.