Donald Trump has big plans for America’s infrastructure, and while we still don’t know what they are, we know one thing: the President is definitely interested in the hyperloop. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Trump “asked for more information” on the technology during a meeting with industry leaders including Elon Musk, the mastermind behind the concept of the hyperloop.
“America has always been a nation of great promise because we dream big,” Trump said at the meeting, according to the Journal. “We’re going to really dream big now.”
It’s interesting that Trump is curious about the hyperloop, as Elon Musk ate lunch at the White House on Wednesday, mostly as a pretense to discuss Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Trump’s plan has been up in the air since the election, but a trillion dollar push over ten years to renovate aging transportation systems has a lot of potential — if the President manages to find funding from the right sources.
Without details, it’s unclear whether or not Trump’s goals are an empty promise — although a trillion dollars sounds like a lot, experts say we need $3.6 trillion to actually update the infrastructure in the country. Right now, there aren’t any details of what Trump plans to do with a trillion dollars (or how he plans to get a trillion dollars in the federal budget), but asking about hyperloop suggests that he might be leaning towards privatizing American infrastructure.
Hyperloop has been in the headlines recently, after a set of pictures Hyperloop One released of its test track in Nevada spread across the internet. Hyperloop One’s track is the first full-scale hyperloop test track, but it’s only a third of a mile long and has yet to go through a public trial with actual pods. The company did complete a public trial of its propulsion system last year, but the test only lasted five seconds and the pod-less rail attachment only hit 300 mph, which is less than half of the 750 mph Elon Musk suggested the hyperloop could go.
The other major player in the hyperloop race is Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. The company has yet to have a public test of its system, making people wonder if its solution is still just vaporware.
When Musk first suggested the hyperloop alpha in his 2013 white paper, he projected that it would cost $6 billion to create a line that ran from Los Angeles to San Francisco. With a perfectly working hyperloop that’s a cost of $11.5 million per mile, less than a high-speed rail. Experts have questioned whether the elements can be built that inexpensively, and Musk’s plan to put the hyperloop in tunnels raises more financial questions (tunnels aren’t cheap). Either way, hyperloop technology isn’t yet at the point where any company can sit down and actually build a totally operable tube and pod, let alone do it and make a profit.
According to the Journal , Trump also said that he is looking for projects that are ready to start immediately and won’t be tied up in bureaucratic processes. That’s not exactly the hyperloop right now, no matter how excited Musk is about digging.