Say goodbye to Hyperloop Technologies Inc., one of two LA-based startups working to realize Elon Musk's dream of super-fast, tube-based transportation. The company announced today that it is rebranding as Hyperloop One. The name change is partly to avoid any mixups with the similarly named Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, but it's also to highlight the flurry of announcements it's making ahead of the first open-air test of its propulsion system in North Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, the day before the test, Hyperloop One announced it had raised $80 million in venture capital financing, formed a number of key partnerships with established transportation, engineering, and infrastructure firms, and said that it will create a new global challenge "in order to harness the most creative minds in making Hyperloop a reality." It also says it will study the feasibility of building hyperloop systems in Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Port of Los Angeles.
"in order to harness the most creative minds in making Hyperloop a reality"
It was a breathtaking bit of bravado from a company that is less than two years old and has yet to even demonstrate the viability of its central idea: that a pod five and a half feet in diameter, carrying human passengers, can travel through a nearly airless aluminum tube at speeds exceeding 700 mph. If it works, the Hyperloop could vastly simplify intercity travel and freight, reduce congestion and pollution, and potentially revolutionize transportation worldwide.
It could also be a total boondoggle. The Hyperloop has a number of hurdles to overcome before it can even carry its first passenger, such as how to obtain the land rights and right-of-way necessary to achieve its promised speeds. But that hasn't stopped companies like Hyperloop One from trying to sell its fantastical concept to investors, the press, and the world at large.
At a Frank Gehry-designed event hall called Keep Memory Alive in Las Vegas Tuesday afternoon, Hyperloop One gathered reporters and investors to celebrate its new milestones. The company's trio of top executives — co-founder Shervin Pishevar, co-founder and chief technology officer Brogan BamBrogan, and CEO Rob Lloyd — were there to unveil the next stage in their company's future.
"The ethos of Hyperloop is really about connecting," said BamBrogan. "Why can't we reimagine transportation? I think we can. It's the 21st Century, yo!"
So far, Hyperloop One has been pretty successful in getting buy-in from traditional transportation and infrastructure companies. On Tuesday, the company said that among its Series B investors were French high-speed rail company, SNCF, and GE Ventures, General Electric's venture capital subsidiary.
Hyperloop One is teaming up with FS Links Ab, a company based in the Åland Islands in the heart of the Baltic region, to study the feasibility of building a track connecting Helsinki and Stockholm. It will also participate in another study with LA's Arcturan Sustainable Cargo "to determine how Hyperloop One can streamline the movement of containers from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to reduce congestion and pollution."
Hyperloop One is also partnering with Aecom, one of the world's largest construction and design firms, to help build a two-mile track in North Las Vegas. Aecom is also assisting Musk's SpaceX in the design of its Hyperloop track in Hawthorne, California. Previously, the LA-based construction firm was in talks with Hyperloop One's rival startup, Hyperloop Transportation, but those talks appear to have fallen apart.
Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation are locked in a fierce competition to be the first to realize Musk's vision. Notably, less than 48 hours before Hyperloop One was set to demonstrate its propulsion system, Hyperloop Transportation announced that it had exclusively licensed a type of magnetic levitation called passive maglev to power its prototype. The CEO, Dirk Ahlborn, said the timing of the announcement was not intended to undercut his rivals.
Unlike Hyperloop One, which is a traditional tech startup with investors and a board that includes former Obama strategist Jim Messina, Hyperloop Transportation boasts that it is a solely volunteer and crowdsourced venture. The company says it has talent from NASA, Boeing, Tesla, and SpaceX working among its 480-plus volunteers.