The Hyperloop project – based on Open Source ideals and a multi-party collaborative approach – is making substantial progress, bringing in plenty of investment and attracting the interest of local authorities and governments.

Hyperloop trains are yet to depart

“Hyperloop is real,” declared Hyperloop CEO Rob Lloyd on the TechCrunch stage at CES 2017 in early January, echoing the party line already voiced by Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies – a group of part-time engineers working in association with those at Hyperloop One – at the South by South West (SXSW) 2016 event last March. In fact, things really speeded up for the supersonic train-capsule from April onwards. A first test took place in the Mojave desert near Las Vegas in May and $80 million was then raised to help fund the development of this titanic venture. General Electric and France’s national state-owned railway company SNCF are among the list of investors. In October an additional $50 million was raised to complete Hyperloop One’s series B funding round.

Now 2017 also looks set to produce good news, Rob Lloyd told the CES audience: a third funding round, preliminary testing on an at-scale prototype planned for the first quarter, and an increase in staff numbers. So the pace is hotting up for the Hyperloop and its bosses want to see three systems in service by 2021.

Suitable cities wanted

Long-term partnerships between Hyperloop and several cities are already being sketched out. A feasibility study carried out last July by Hyperloop One in conjunction with KPMG found that the Hyperloop could link Helsinki with Stockholm in less than 28 minutes. The total cost of this project has been estimated at $19 billion. With an estimated 43 million journeys per year, at a unit price close to $25 dollars, Hyperloop’s annual revenue would work out at close to $1.1 billion. The study also put the value of the time saved by using  Hyperloop at €321 million a year.

And even before excavations under the Baltic Sea commence, Finland could prove to be one of the first playing fields for the capsule train. The city of Salo authorities have signed a letter of intent to test an ultra-rapid link to another Finnish town, Turku, as a first step towards rapid expansion of the project on Finnish soil. A number of other studies similar to that carried out in Finland are also underway, including in Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK, in Moscow and in Los Angeles.

The Emirates the first country to host Hyperloop?

Among the investors in the most recent Hyperloop One funding round was Dubai-based DP World Group, which operates the world’s third largest port. In addition to bringing capital to the project, DP World Group has signed an agreement with Hyperloop One to explore the potential for transportation of merchandise, especially containers, from the port of Jebel Ali to the heart of Abu Dhabi. Rob Lloyd pointed out at the CES event that this is a good opportunity for Hyperloop to demonstrate its ability to revolutionise the transportation not only of people, but goods as well, as it will encourage us to “redefine cities and real estate in general.‟

Hyperloop reaching out to people with ideas

Hyperloop One also took advantage of the CES event to announce the semi-finalists of its international competition, the ‘Hyperloop One Global Challenge’. Since Elon Musk unveiled the Hyperloop concept in 2013, this has always been a collaborative project. In addition to its innovative approach to building companies, Hyperloop One also launched in May last year a call for projects run by companies, universities and governments, with a view to attracting practical proposals for the use of Hyperloop’s disruptive transport technology. Over 2,600 proposals from entities in 17 countries were submitted to Hyperloop One and 35 were subsequently selected to go forward to the next stage. Those project owners have now been invited to go to one of the organisation’s three centres – in New Delhi, Washington D.C. and London – to work hand-in-hand with Hyperloop engineers on fine-tuning their projects.

These proposals will undoubtedly help to answer some of the still-pending questions, such as how can this new mode of transport fit in with the regulations currently in force in the various US federal states and in other countries across the world? 

By Pauline Canteneur