Richard is a mechanical engineer, now retired from his CAD/CAM manufacturing business. He loves the challenge of starting with an original concept, identifying and solving the problems, and developing a commercially worthwhile product.
The world is in need of high-speed, energy-efficient travel and he hopes to contribute to Hyperloop's success.
Having decided quite early on to use wheels for levitation, I had time for thinking about all the other aspects of Hyperloop. Cooling is important, and steam is a good solution with its increased speed of sound. Airlocks and passenger flow are very interesting. And the greatest challenge of all is how to manufacture the tube and pods economically.
Hyperloop's challenges are very real, I have highlighted the problems, and proposed some solutions. Hopefully you will develop better ideas. But do not simply disregard the problems, they all need a solution one way or another.
This website is intended to benefit the future of Hyperloop, and to encourage development and ideas beyond the basic concepts of Alpha.
My original plan was to include ideas from a group of contributors, but it has worked out to be a solo effort. We all have very different ideas, we can help each other, but ultimately go our own directions.
I was excited when I first saw Hyperloop Alpha in August 2013, but I (and other engineers) spotted several technical flaws. Most were easily solved, but my serious concern was the air skis. It seemed to me that they would never work in a near-vacuum, and that Hyperloop could eventually fail after years of fruitless R&D. The other choices were wheels and maglev. I chose wheels, because they are already proved at Hyperloop speeds, and show the greatest potential with the benefits of high-speed research.
I am a great believer in the principles of open-source, patent-free technical development. Publication makes ideas free for the world, here is a brief list of the dates of my publications on Hyperloop.
August 2013. Elon Musk proposed Hyperloop Alpha.
September 2013. Published "Hyperloop solutions" proposing wheels, roll-out seating modules, and the use of a 'natural steam vacuum' for cooling and increased speed of sound.
January 2014 Hyperloop Cheetah first published.
November 2013 Rolling Road proposed.
January 2015 HyperLoopDesign.net published.
November 2015 design entry for the SpaceX Pod Competition.
Comments by Richard Macfarlane about the SpaceX Pod Competitions.
I was lucky to join a non-student display in Texas in January 2016, with George Burdell’s Vacuuduct team. It was an amazing event and I was glad to meet many users of this site.
The Texas round was for teams to present preliminary designs concepts, being judged for their solutions for Hyperloop technical challenges. 30 teams were selected to progress to the next round.
Competition Weekend I was held in California in January 2017. The teams had spent the previous year designing and constructing their pods, for testing in the 1-mile long tube built by SpaceX. Once again the judging focus was on subsystems, not overall performance. In fact, only 3 teams were able to run in the vacuum tube, and none ran any faster than the SpaceX electric car that was pushing them.
Competition Weekend II was held in August 2017, and the sole focus was maximum speed. Most of the team designs were still focussed on technology, with high-drag maglev and no propulsion of their own. Congratulations to WARR Hyperloop with their speed of 324 km/h, their entry had a high power to weight ratio, using small wheels gripping the central rail. Maybe a more conventional rubber-tired wheel design could have been as fast.
Elon Musk was asked in Texas in 2016 about his preference for air skis or maglev. He said wheels, video here.
The 2017 competitions showed that he may be right.