Instead of boarding a plane to China in the near future, you may find yourself climbing into a lightweight pod which will whisk you silently across the Atlantic in a tube. Travel time from New York City to Beijing: 2 hours.
Evacuated Tube Transport is a patented technology pioneered by ET3 (Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies). The firm bills it as low cost, safe, faster than jets, and green, and since it it takes place in a vacuum, it’s like space travel, except on earth.
Pods travel within tubes, which would be built in highway-like networks across the globe, at speeds of up to 4,000 miles per hour. The technology is called maglev, a system of transportation that uses magnetic levitation to suspend, guide and propel vehicles from magnets. All of the air in the tubes would be vacuumed out, thereby reducing all friction. Linear electric motors thrust the capsules through the tubes which coast in the vacuum for the remainder of the trip using little- to no additional power. The way stations along each travel route would be airlocked, allowing the transferring of capsules and passengers without admitting air.
ET3, which is an open consortium, has sold more than a dozen licenses for evacuated tube transport in China and more than five dozen in a combination of other countries. The firm estimates that it would take about 1,000 licenses to make the technology a commercial reality.
According to ET3, evacuated tube transport can provide 50 times more transportation per KWh than electric cars or trains, because most of the energy is regenerated as the capsules slow down.
ET3′s capsules weigh only 400 lbs, but can carry up to 800 pounds of cargo, or about six people.