Elon Musk says the Hyperloop is coming. But what's a Hyperloop?

What we know about Elon Musk's Hyperloop – and what we don't. 

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    Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk talks about Tesla's new battery swapping program in Hawthorne, Calif., on June 20, 2013. Musk has promised details on a new venture called Hyperloop.
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Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, will soon unveil plans for a new transportation venture he calls the Hyperloop. 

In a tweet posted earlier today, Musk said the "alpha design" of Hyperloop would be released in approximately a month, on August 12. In the same post, he added that "critical feedback for improvements would be much appreciated." The post has since been retweeted thousands of times. 

So what is the Hyperloop, exactly? Well, no one knows for sure – Musk has been pretty circumspect about the details. In a much-discussed BusinessWeek article last year, he said only that the Hyperloop would run through some sort of tube, and suggested that it would eventually become the "fifth mode of transportation," alongside trains, planes, cars, and boats. 

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"What you want is something that never crashes, that’s at least twice as fast as a plane, that’s solar powered and that leaves right when you arrive, so there is no waiting for a specific departure time," Musk told BusinessWeek. 

He also said that the Hyperloop would ferry passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco – a distance of almost 400 miles – in 30 minutes. Pretty fast, in other words. 

In a separate "fireside chat" with the editor of PandoDaily, Musk claimed that the Hyperloop would be immune to inclement weather. 

"It would cost you much less than an air ticket than any other mode of transport," Musk said. "I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There's a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries. Yes, this is possible, absolutely."

We're tempted to make some sort of snarky remark. Then again, this is a guy who's successfully pushed the bounds of both space flight and electric cars, so maybe we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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