You know those clear vacuum tubes at bank drive-thrus — the ones that suck up deposit canisters at lightning speed? Sure you do, they're mesmerizing. Admit it, if there was a mode of transportation that allowed you to travel back and forth like those canisters do, you would be the first to hop aboard.
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Well, if Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT or ET3) can ever turn their patent into a reality, your totally tubular pipe dreams just might be plumb for picking.
How does zooming from New York to Beijing in just two hours sound, or a round-the-world trip in six hours? Did I mention you'll be traveling at the better-than-Botox speed of 4,000 miles per hour?
Ok, technically, the tubes work differently from the drive-up bank tubes, which are based on pneumatic tube transport. This is evacuated tube transport. It works by creating a tube where all of the air is removed. The passenger vehicle is, which is pressurized and has plenty of air and other amenities, moves through the airless environment levitating on a magnetic track. Its movement is controlled by manipulating the magnetic forces that are at play between the track and the capsule. (Think of how opposite ends of a magnetic attract each other and same ends repel.)
So-called Maglev trains are already in use in Europe and China for high-speed transportation. But this one, moving through the airless, frictionless environment of the tube, would glide way faster using far less energy those subjected to gravity. Airlocks at stations would allow people to get on and off the capsule without letting air into the sealed tube.
I know what you're thinking. This sounds like a lost exhibit from Disney's Epcot Center. Not such a stretch of the imagination, seeing this company is based in Florida.
However, ETT says they aren't out to take you for a ride. They claim this method of travel provides 50 times more transportation per kilowatt-hour than electric cars or trains. They also make this claim on their website:
ET3 capsules weigh only 183 kg (400 lbs), yet like an automobile, can carry up to six people or 367 kg (800 lbs) of cargo. Compared to high speed rail, ET3 needs only 1/20th the material to build because the vehicles are so light. With automated passive switching, a pair of ET3 tubes can exceed the capacity of a 32 lane freeway. ET3 can be built for 1/10th the cost of High Speed Rail, or 1/4th the cost of a freeway.
ETT's patent was issued in 1999, which gives them seven more years to get this off the ground according to terms of the patent. The company says they've been working with interested parties in China, but still need more investors. A 3D virtual tour of the system was slated for release last year, yet it still hasn't materialized.