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The first full-scale Hyperloop test track may launch in California next year

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A rendering of the proposed facility
A rendering of the proposed facility

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has secured land for the first full-scale Hyperloop, planned for a 2016 launch in the California model town of Quay Valley. Building off Elon Musk's freely available designs, the crowdfunded company has staked out a five-mile stretch of Quay Valley adjacent to California's Interstate 5 freeway as a place where the innovative transportation system can be deployed. If successful, it would be the first full-size implementation of Musk's ideas, published in August 2013. "This installation will allow us to demonstrate all systems on a full scale and immediately begin generating revenues for our shareholders through actual operations," CEO Dirk Ahlborn said in a statement.

"This installation will allow us to demonstrate all systems on a full scale."

Musk is already building his own Hyperloop test track in Texas, but HTT says Musk's track is a scaled-down model, allowing for easier testing of the physics involved. HTT's track will be designed for human passengers, testing the passenger systems, but will come with other limitations. With only five miles of track, the craft will top out at just 200mph rather than the 760mph predicted in Musk's initial documents. "It's not about speed," Ahlborn told The Verge. "There are a lot of other things that need to be optimized."

Hyperloop test track

The proposed route in Quay Valley.

Quay Valley is an unusual home for the project. First planned as a solar-powered "city of the future," the project only recently emerged from a six-year legal battle over water rights with a neighboring farm. The current plans project 25,000 housing units alongside hotels, restaurants, and a business park, spread across 7,500 acres in California's central valley. The proposed Hyperloop would be designed as a functioning (albeit limited) mass transit system for the town, charging residents for rides and providing a revenue stream for HTT.

The other big question is funding. HTT is looking to raise $100 million to build the test track (the full version is projected to cost between $7 and $16 billion), and the company is exploring unconventional fundraising methods to do so. Thus far, all of HTT's funding has come from equity-backed crowdfunding on JumpStartFund, enticing early backers with a share in future revenues. But $100 million is out of the reach of JumpStartFund, and the same structure rules out VC funding, so for this round, Ahlborn is planning an IPO under an open auction model — a bold move for a company with no revenue stream as yet. Still, Ahlborn seems undeterred: "For us, the most important thing is going out and putting the product into the market."