It’s A Plane… It’s A Train… Um… It’s Both?

What kind of electric vehicle travels at 620 miles per hour (998 km/h)? According to Canadian and French company TransPot, their FluxJet will do it and they want to use it to virtually shrink the Great White North. An electric jet? Not exactly. The FluxJet is a magnetic levitation (maglev) train riding in a vacuum tube with contactless power delivery.

The company claims it can carry 54 passengers or 10 tons of cargo. You can see two videos about the concept below. Judging by the second video, the device might be controlled by a serial port — well, probably not, but we were still amused to see the directory of tty devices on the screen.

Pipe dream (no pun intended)? Maybe. But they did get $550 million in funding and a plan to build a line between Calgary and Edmonton that will take 45 minutes to traverse. Reports are that they did demonstrate a 1-ton 18-foot-long prototype, although we couldn’t find any actual video footage of that — just hints of it in the marketing videos.

Of course, this isn’t the first such system proposed as a “hyperloop” but they do seem to be building momentum financially. We aren’t clear what they are talking about with the “veillance flux,” but we also know that since they are a French-speaking organization, it may just be another way to say “sensors” because — we think —  veillance is a French word that means watching. We also aren’t sure how a train in a vacuum has much in common with an airplane. Maglev isn’t new, either.

So what do you think? Do you want to go hundreds of miles an hour in a vacuum tube? Is this just another CGI boondoggle or will you really be able to traverse the Canadian tundra in a few hours? Elon Musk often gets credit for inventing the hyperloop, but we always remember Donald Fagan’s song, IGY which contains the line:

On that train, all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris

That would be just under 2,500 miles per hour on the surface, although we imagine Fagan was thinking about cutting through the Earth.

100 thoughts on “It’s A Plane… It’s A Train… Um… It’s Both?

      1. This is not even a grain of sand on the whole of the earth compared to our military budget. If we spent HALF of the money we do on public works and heath and infrastructure of what we do on the military, we would be living in a much better world. Nobody would want for anything and underground rail such as this would be all over the world and free yo use. Airplanes would become a thing of novelty or specific use cases. The budget is lopsided toward blowing things up and destruction.

        1. Thank you for bringing some perspective to the conversation.

          There’s really nothing stopping vac trains from being a reality anymore except public will power.

          $550 Million is a joke compared to the military budget. We buy hundreds of tanks every year, then park them in a desert to fall into disrepair so that we can buy hundreds more of the “next model” the following year.

          Also, there are literally fascists burning children’s school books in the US and advocating for history lessons that tech “both sides” of the HOLOCAUST.

          I can’t think of a worse waste of money than buring children’s books.

          Give some money to some engineers to build some vac train prototypes. Sounds like a bargain by comparison.

          1. The reason for the military budget is because modern warfare is war of economic attrition. If you can’t keep up building tanks and planes and missiles, you lose. Putin is now burning a billion dollars a day waging a pointless war in Europe, hoping that the opposition would run out of money first and become a pushover. China is eyeing the US with similar minds: run down the military budget, and whoops now you can romp all over Asia and the Pacific Ocean without the pesky Americans.

            In peace time, running that capacity on idle takes money, but on the flip side it provides jobs and makes money go around in the economy which supports commerce, so it’s not like the expense goes away if you stop funding the military. You’d simply trade the military budget for a massive increases in the social welfare expenditure, and the people in the military industrial complex would find jobs in the service sector instead.

            One may ask, what is the difference in the modern services economy? One guy makes pointless weapons, another guy makes pointless youtube videos – both consume resources without contributing anything back into renewing them. At least one has an important role in protecting the nation, while the other is more likely a demagogue who simply undermines the whole thing to rouse rabble and earn a dollar by making people angry.

          2. [There’s really nothing stopping vac trains from being a reality anymore except public will power.]

            Well, the solution is simple then: you do it. Get some investors on board with this no-brainer, easy-money idea – and become super rich in the process. Like Musk.

          3. “The reason for the military budget is because modern warfare is war of economic attrition”

            Thanks to globalisation. Which has basically destroyed the western world so fortune 500 board members can be billionaires. Is mainly the reason why.
            We have all have essentially armed China through buying their plastic crap rather than making it at home.

            If the EU didn’t buy gas from their enemy because it was cheap, they wouldn’t be in the situation we have now.

          4. You forget that your ‘peace loving’ dictatorship in all but name neighbor could decide you are all subhuman and need purging for whatever justification floats their boat. Even a true democracy of entirely rational people could get roused enough to find conflict seemingly a better solution to their grievances than talking if they are suffering badly and the grass seems greener on your side – A military budget that funds the upkeep and construction of sufficiently good hardware is one of the few things that discourages such behavior directly aimed at you!

            Until some mystic fairy dust is sprinkled around so everyone can just get along and trust in the good will and co-operation of their fellow man military spending has to remain.

            Now once you have spent enough on the military to be comfortable the shape of the world is stable enough you can afford to spend money on some projects then you probably need to consider social care and existing infrastructure maintenance as the next highest priorities. Once all of those are taken care of perhaps you can find some change behind the sofa for a new infrastructure project that hasn’t got any great military or short term social welfare return for the investment…

            So I’d say lets keep it simple and just put in decent conventional railways and fix the wearing out old infrastructure – much cheaper and will help society far more than this sort of concept will.

          5. “There’s really nothing stopping vac trains from being a reality anymore except public will power.”

            That, and the struggle against physics.

            Perhaps one of the most compelling arguments against the Moon Landing hoax is that creating a vacuum chamber large enough to hold a lunar rover and a couple of astronauts, so that it could kick up dust without it producing billowing clouds, is pretty close to impossible. And that’s just for a “movie studio”.

            There are two MAJOR problems that have to be overcome. The first is leaks: in order to make sure you have a vacuum, you have to make sure that there is no way, along miles of routes, that air can get into the vacuum tube.

            Which brings us to the SECOND major problem with vacuum tubes: air pressure. We may be used to it, but it’s far stronger than we realize. Indeed, one parlor trick is to put a ruler on the edge of a table and flatten a few sheets of newspaper over one end: the air pressure alone is sufficient to hold the ruler in place so it could be broken.

            Air pressure is powerful enough that it can EASILY crush a gasoline tanker like a soda can if the air is pumped out of it.

            Sure, it may be possible to overcome these challenges. but (1) it’s not as if there’s been a lack of trying — people have been working on this for more than 100 years, and (2) even if it’s technically possible, it might not be ECONOMICALLY feasable.

        2. @dudenamedben said: “If we spent HALF of the money we do on public works and heath and infrastructure of what we do on the military, we would be living in a much better world.”

          Yeah as slave laborers toiling under our CCCP overlords. Or perhaps that’s what you really want in the first place?

          1. There was a time when I believed that, but when I consider the advances societies made over the centuries — particularly in metallurgy, but certainly in computers, encryption, aviation, radio, and a whole lot of other fields — are the results of arms races, trying to prepare for and/or prevent war.

            It’s now to the point where I wonder if we’d still be hunter-gatherers if we were a more peaceful society, perhaps even to the point where a “Great Filter” that explains the Fermi Paradox may be that an intelligent race may have to find a perfect balance between war-mongering and peace-loving.

        3. Hmmm really? What you would be “living in” is a dystopian dictatorship where the government has total control over your freedoms and your life. But then in Canada, that’s already happened hasn’t it? You’re now a leftist third-world dictatorship that is slowly destroying itself as a country aren’t you? What a hellish place leftists have made Canada into!

    1. Resources that should be spent on conventional high-speed or maglev trains.

      Adding the vacuum tube pushes things away from practicality. Complexity increases, costs skyrocket, and consequences for failure get significantly more severe.

      1. I bet we don’t even know the tip of the ice berg of collisions of trains and e.g. cattle. And the braking distance of (let’s call them:) medium speed trains already is insanely huge. So for a while I liked the idea of a dedicated space that only is used by trains.

        But first let’s get all small villages connected by good old boring trains, busses, on demand services, …! Connect them safe, cheap and carbon neutral! Those pipe dreams of insanely fast connections won’t increase life quality of ~98.2793% of the population while burning insane amounts of energy being needed in other places for more important things.

        1. The braking distance of “normal” trains is huge because it is a high mass on an extremely low-friction material.
          A train that has magnetic linear propulsion can brake as fast as the strength of the rail fasteners and bolts of the linear motors on the side can allow – a lot faster than is comfortable for the passengers, which is 5.5m/s² ( At 2500mph you still need 202 seconds to brake that way, which is over 100km. A simple front scanner won’t notice a bolt having fallen off the previous pod by simple virtue of the “straight” tube being curved over the earth’s surface (or the humps of the tortoises, if you will).

 lists a dry road decelleration of 8.9m/s, which means you need “only” 69 km stopping distance.

      2. “Conventional” Mag lev has never been deployed on any meaningful scale.

        Vacuum tubes aren’t that complex. Neither are the consequences of failure.

        So many people drink the coolaid of shitty YouTubers these days…

        1. Vacuum tubes aren’t that complex, but airlocks to allow exiting trains, thermal expansion joints etc etc are pure crack smoke.

          The point is the steal tube is a financial deal breaker. Makes the whole thing a laughing stock to actual engineers.

          1. True, it’s not the pod, it’s the tube that kills the project.
            Just imagine evacuating a 400 KM train-size-tube. That’ll in itself will take a couple of years.
            A tube is just not practical.
            Also in Europe EuroStart/Thalys is able to comfortably compete with airplanes by “just” doing 300KM/H. More is not required IMHO.

        2. The consequence of failure on the tube may be a particle-loaded airburst rushing towards the capsule … ever made a belly flop from a high diving board?
          The other consequence may be an evacuated capsule (some dirt on the door sealing…). The contents will arrive freeze-dried, and what are you gonna do about it, when you notice the pressure drop? You are at a high speed in an evacuated tube, which you cannot easily flood with air on short notice, see above.

    2. Not to echo old what’s his name (thunderfoot)…but the quality of an idea is inversely proportional to the quality of the CGI used to sell it.

      This is clearly BS ‘invented’* by someone bad a math.

      * read invented as ‘read about in a 100 year old SciAm, but didn’t finish reading the parts where it counted the insurmountable problems’.

      1. Thunderf00t is an absolute moron. You shouldn’t echo him. He doesn’t even understand the cubed-square law and he acts like a petulant child when people point out his many many mistakes.

        He’s only good at debunking the very lowest hanging fruit and even then he does a crap job. Even when he’s not pretending he knows about engineering and is actually talking about stuff in his field he sometimes manages to get things embarrassingly wrong.

        In his video about the Thorium car, he claims that “cold fusion” is impossible because fusion releases so much energy. The term “cold fusion” is well defined in particle physics and it specifically refers to the input energy. It is a very real phenomenon that was demonstrated by muon-catylized cold fusion in the 1960s!

        I get that the Thorium car is dumb as hell, but he puts his ignorance on full display and his followers gobble it all up like he’s a genius.

        1. Check yourself before you complain.

          While muon catalyzed fusion could theoretically start at room temperature, it is only “cold” fusion because it isn’t millions of degrees hot. In reality, if you managed to run the reaction it would quickly become very hot because the particles that come off of the reaction have energies in the mega-electronvolt range.

        2. > It is a very real phenomenon that was demonstrated by muon-catylized cold fusion in the 1960s!

          It’s been predicted and observed in bubble chambers, but never actually attempted because muons are very difficult to produce and vanish in just 2.2 microseconds. Furthermore, it has other practical issues:

          >”Even if muons were absolutely stable, each muon could catalyze, on average, only about 100 d-t fusions before sticking to an alpha particle, which is only about one-fifth the number of muon catalyzed d-t fusions needed for break-even”

          So cold fusion woo woo is still just that.

        3. He’s a PhD physicist, they’re _expected_ to be arrogant as philosophers. Committee wouldn’t ever pass their dissertation if they weren’t. Further he’s an experimentalist (Physicists stop reading here), every experiment is an exercise in engineering.

          But he’s not wrong. Fusion is _easy_, getting net power out is hard and won’t be cold. Cite where you think he’s weak on cubed/squared?

          I’m going with ‘Abe Dillon is an absolute moron’. How you come off. Gullible AF. Look at the CGI! Are your eyes not dazzled?

    1. I live in Edmonton, the northern of the 2 cities they’re talking about running a line between. I have to drive for an hour (about 100km) to reach the southern edge of the northern boreal forest where I hunt. The boreal forest belt then stretches hundreds (maybe even thousands) of kilometers north before it peters out into tundra.

      TL;DR: they’d have to go >1000 km in the wrong direction to reach tundra.

      1. I’ve been there.

        Flying away from Edmonton I remember looking down and seeing a single road, a straight line from the horizon behind us to the horizon in front. Everything else was trees. There was no other break in the forest to be seen. I imagined what it would be like to have car troubles on that road and was very glad to be flying. I’ve never seen anything like that before or since.

    2. People who pitch crack pipe futurism like this are usually also the types who believe we ought to crank up immigration until every inch of wilderness in the continent is covered with apartment blocks thirty stories high—e.g. Matt Yglesias. They’d want to turn the tundra into Coruscant.

  1. Indeed; I’m surprised that there was no Hyperloop comparison in the article as well. (Which is also a pipe dream, if you’ll forgive the pun.)

    So many problems with this, I’m not sure where to begin, although Thunderf00t on YouTube did a pretty good job pointing out the numerous flaws with it.

  2. Let us put Alberta and Edmonton into Germany, Europe. Distance is about 300 km.

    ICE4 runs 250 km/h on existing (but might need to be upgraded) railroads. 1:12 from A to E.

    Driving the track would cost about 12,44 €/1 km ([1] page 8), so 3732 € from A to E. This gives you a rough idea about the cost of an existing railroad track. (All 2021 number, so with current energy price turmoils it might look different.)

    ICE4 is about 40 Mio. € per unit. I think there is lots of room to haggle. Buy ten and get one free.

    Track upgrade might be expensive, but I did not find hard facts. Lotsanumbers float around, some tracks are made totally new (where no tracks have been before), some tracks are upgraded…. For example the Wedeler Schleife [2] is a currently upgraded track, so numbers are present time. Existing track is build from single to double track for about 7.5 Mio € / 1 km. I assume lotsa money goes into the high speed capable switches.

    “Stuttgart 21” [3] is a project of rebuilding a train station in the middle of a living city with a population of about 630 000. Train station including all the connections for about 10 Mrd (10*10^9 !) €.

    So, sorry. No way to create a new track system with new technologie and integrate it into existing infrastructure and make it favorable for the public. For no money on earth.




    1. High speed rails (and pipes) need to be extremely stable. The costs of the “upper structure” (ties, rails, catenary and catenary poles) is more or less fixed by the speed you want to run.
      The “lower structure” can vary wildly in costs.
      If you’re running through deep marshland, you basically have to build a concrete viaduct the entire length.
      If you’re running through mountainous terrain, you need to build tunnels, high viaducts.
      Hilly terrain demands huge earth movements.
      Everything that is even remotely urban requires expropriations.
      Basically, the golden would be to build trough a flat, rocky desert plain. But those tend to not be population centers (sorry Las Vegas and Salt Lake City).
      The cost of the “lower structure” can be anywhere from negligible to a hundredfold or more of the upper structure, depending on what mile you look at. For that reason (and many others), it’s hard to compare rail line prices.

      1. Depends so very much on how you look at it – you could argue its massively more efficient, as the tube becomes vastly simpler, the train becomes vastly simpler, its just the odd pumping house down the tubes length where all the costs and engineering are really needed, everything else is pretty much static and trivial as engineering and costs go (still a substantial project of course, but one tube that holds pressure vs a tube that holds pressure, transfers large amounts of energy down its length to all the coils, has to cool the coils etc).

        Also on just how you do it – in the same way a hovercraft has very little pressure under it in the skirt a train in a pneumatic tube doesn’t need a huge pressure differential across it – its got a reasonably large surface area for the small differential to act across – which adds up to a lot of force! You only need a huge pressure difference if you are starting and stopping the train every few miles so must be able to accelerate and decelerate quickly – using it as a transcontinental or intercity high speed line it doesn’t matter much to journey times if it takes an hour to hit the rated max speed or 10 mins, as the distances it is covering at max speed is just so high they still likely make up the bulk of the journey time. Also what is the point of a high speed train that accelerates and stops like an F1 car, so uncivilized, you may spill the tea! The whole point of high speed train travel across longer distances is that it should be reasonably cheap, quick, quiet and comfortable..

  3. Lol all the comments seem on point. Sealing and evacuating hundreds of miles of tube big enough for a train is not energy efficient AT ALL, not even practically possible, and is a safety nightmare. This will NEVER happen. Just buy bullet trains from Japan ffs, what a grift. What a scam. Stop it already.

  4. My neighbour is a structural engineer on the tube side of things. I think the final price is estimated at 50 billion dollars. The funding is to get a test track up. They have a pretty agressive time-line on the test track part.

    1. What is their solution for thermal expansion/contraction of the tube due to day/night or summer/autumn/winter/spring fluctuations ?

      Thick layers of thermal insulation surrounding and internally heating/cooling the entire length of steel tube to be one uniform temperature of constant volume ? Or something else ? Maybe the entire tube has zero thermal expansion (ZTE), using a material made of scandium, aluminium, tungsten and oxygen (orthorhombic Sc1.5Al0.5W3O12) that does not change in volume at temperatures ranging from 4 to 1400 Kelvin (-269 to 1126 °C, -452 to 2059 °F).

      1. A paper (doi:10.1021/acs.chemmater.1c01007 ) about ZTE can be found behind a paywall, but with scandium (atomic number 21) prices fluctuating between $4,000 and $20,000 per kilogram over the last 10 years, I somehow suspect that ZTE will never see use in rail infrastructure.

      2. Huge thermal expansion. Current design is for 100m mile steel sections. Expansion of 80mm expected. Flexible seals every 100m.
        Another big consideration is the tube, which could collapse under vacume, because of steels poor compression strength. So they’re currently thinking a 4m dia. 35mm wall thickness tube.
        That’s a lot of iron. Go buy your Canadian steel stock.

  5. Seriously. Not another waste of effort, money and time… How is it that this is still capturing peoples imaginations… Surely there are newer more innovative and practical ideas that could benefit humankind that deserve more consideration than regurgitating old failures…

  6. With all the disasters we curretnly live through, news like these almost creep me out more.
    How broken must our financial system be, if some investors can just throw away $500 million on an obvious failure as this?

    1. Generational wealth…they don’t work hard at school and marry models. In 2 generations they are blithering. e.g. the Hiltons, DuPonts etc etc etc. To say nothing of the English royal family, who went the inbreeding route, morons every one.

      Bill Gates was smart not to curse his grandkids that way.

      It remains an immoral and unethical act to let a sucker keep his money.

  7. Stuff a train load of people into a vacuum tube and sending them along at nearly the speed of sound. What could possibly go wrong?
    Count me out, that’s for sure.

    It’s telling that only one manned land vehicle in history has ever gone anywhere near that fast (Thrust SSC), and in that case the conditions and preparations had to be nothing short of perfect. Now distill that down into a daily service maintained by the lowest bidder…

    1. Not saying you are wrong but the speed of sound depends on the pressure I believe. So that wouldn’t actually be the speed of sound where it travels. Although speed of sound in a vacuum feels like a divide by zero situation

  8. As a BC resident I can confirm Albertins just love to build pipelines. Now they can build one for people (and oil?). Also Quebec companies love to build weird and expensive transportation. It’s part of the Canadian heritage.

  9. Maglevs in tunnels: not a terrible idea.

    Trying to sell maglevs in tunnels with new buzzwords but no hardware: terrible idea. For all their time and funding, all they have to show are some CG and a single scale model that doesn’t do anything of merit.

    The most annoying aspect of these sorts of flashy business-first projects is they suck up funding and burn goodwill both of which would be better spent on well engineered alternatives.

  10. It needs to go in a tube, a vacuum tube to be exact, gaming mouse aesthetic, promises of ludicrous speeds, and most importantly it uses the word “Pod” on its name. My scam and sham response is absolutely *activated* right now.

    Here hoping ThunderF00t or maybe AdamSomething make a vid on it. The whole “trains but worse” thing really ticks me off.

    1. “trains but worse” is rather exaggerating – its trains made harder for the design engineers, more costly to build, probably far more spectacular in failure (which is true every time technology takes a step change – the first accidents are usually WOW moments) but at least in theory far far better at doing the job trains do – Move stuff from A to B along a fixed route some combination of cheap, efficient, and fast, this one fails the cheap (at least construction wise) but…

      That theory from a pure mathematical perspective is sound – the engineering challenges in such a system are substantial but the core concepts absolutely can work to create very very fast and efficient trains.

  11. The one additional selling point for me on this (hidden among the very long list of usual negatives for tubed rail) is that it would avoid the need to deal with snow and ice covered tracks. So at least in this instance the tube has more than one function.

  12. When they start raising money using ‘stuff’ that you cannot find in any legitimate research (i.e viellance flux and physics journals) you know you are into another Elizabeth Holmes/Bankman Fried fantasyland.

    A train in an evacuate tube, ok. Long before Elon Musk came along, the idea was out there, usually driven by air rushing in behind (limited to speed of sound). About 1870’s and even demonstrated in the Crystal Palace (Great Exhibition 1851). Maglev made it possible to eliminate the vacuum restoration (energy wasting) but the idea has problems in terms of making long transparent tubes strong enough to withstand atmospheric pressure and precise enough for maglev (the current version with mm size magnetic gaps.

    One old (2004 or so) variation of maglev used passive magnets in a Hallbach Array and it has a much higher gap thus much less need for high precision alignment. Still being developed by General Atomics. And with recent development of Iron Nitride magnets to eliminate the need for rare earths, it is an idea that might work here. A passive maglev greatly reduces the power requirements and the large gap greatly reduces track cost. I cannot believe in a transparent tube though.

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