HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - How does a cross country trip in 45 minutes sound? Or even Washington DC to China in just two hours? A Colorado company is working on a vacuum tube that promises to change travel as we know it and it has plans for connecting Hawaii.
It was less than a century ago airplanes changed transportation. Magnetic levitation could change travel again. Simply put when you have two magnets on opposite ends they levitate. Put them in a vacuum tube and they can go very fast.
"This is much more than just a pipe dream," said Daryl Oster, CEO of ET3 which stands for Evacuated Tube Transport Technologies.
ET3 is described as space travel on Earth because the five foot tubes are completely air free so there is no friction or resistance. Even at high speeds there isn't supposed to be any discomfort to the passenger. It travels by magnetic levitation and the cars are not part of a train.
"Trains were wonderful when the only alternatives were walking or riding a horse," said Oster. "The reason that ET3 can be built cheaper than trains is because the vehicle weighs only 400 pounds and can carry the same 400 pound payload as a typical car. So we only have 1,200 pounds of load to support on a bridge span. That means we can build the infrastructure of ET3 using 1/35 the amount of concrete and steel and ET3 can be built with automated production equipment that exists all over the world. Compare that with all the labor it takes to set up the forms to put that massive elevated high speed rail into place."
The cars can go 4,000 miles per hour and the hope is to have tubes all around the world. The company claims to be able to build them at a tenth of the cost of rail and charge about $100 roundtrip.
"Tubes across the Bering Strait that would allow a person to travel from say New York area, across Canada, Alaska, Siberia and you would arrive in Beijing China in about two hours and for roughly a tenth of the cost of flying," said Oster. "It could recover its investment cost in less than a year if a couple million people were to take a ride on it at even $20 a person."
Crossing the ocean would be about 10 times tougher than going over land so a tube from California to Hawaii is not on the radar. But underwater interisland routes could be.
"We think Hawaii is a good market for ET3 locally. Maybe not to connect to the global grid but certainly it would be useful to connect the islands and to travel around on the islands," said Oster. "You can visualize this being a replacement for four lane freeways."
"That scares me I don't know man," said Kerry Hurley, of Roanoke, Virginia.
We showed people at the Honolulu International Airport the videos of the ET3.
"I'm scared enough getting on an airplane, much less in a bubble that goes 4,000 miles per hour! I don't think so," said Hurley. "I'm definitely not going to be their guinea pig that's for sure."
"I don't think it's going to come to pass. I think it's too out there," said James Mok, of San Jose, California.
"My sister lives out on the East coast, if she could come on the weekend to say hi I'd be all for it," said Alfredo Lopez, of San Jose, California.
ET3 says it will start building a three mile prototype this year and within about two years should have it up and running for testing.
For more information about ET3 click here.