Forget Hyperloop Technologies: Now the company is called Hyperloop One, and it’s backed by $80 million in new investment from heavy hitters including Khosla Ventures, GE Ventures and the French high-speed rail company SNCF.
Today’s unveiling of the new name and new financing, as well as an international array of partners and a tuned-up business plan, is all part of a fast-track plan for building high-speed tube transit systems – not only in California, but potentially in Scandinavia and Switzerland as well.
L.A.-based Hyperloop One is due to demonstrate its propulsion system on an open-air test track in North Las Vegas on Wednesday. It’s gearing up for full-scale trials in a 2-mile-long tube by the end of the year. It’s also planning a “Hyperloop One Global Challenge” for folks who want to propose transportation applications for the Hyperloop concept. (Deadline for entries is Sept. 15.)
This week’s revelations pick up the pace in a crowded commercial race, aimed at capitalizing on a rapid-transit concept laid out almost three years ago by Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur behind SpaceX and Tesla Motors.
In addition to Hyperloop One, there’s Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a crowdsourced venture that’s also laying the groundwork for a full-scale demonstration track. On Monday, Hyperloop Trans said it was licensing an unconventional magnetic levitation technology with the goal of getting its system off the ground within three years.
A Spanish venture called Hyperloop UPV is also vying for attention.
Then there’s Musk himself: He came up with the idea of sending passenger pods through tubes at near-supersonic speeds out of frustration wtih California’s not-so-high-powered $68 billion plan for high-speed rail. The Hyperloop system, which Musk said was a “cross between a Concorde, a rail gun and an air hockey table,” would get passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in about a half-hour and potentially cost less.
Musk stepped back from commercializing the concept himself. Instead, SpaceX and Tesla are sponsoring a college-focused competition for Hyperloop pods – a competition that’s expected to reach its climax this summer. Musk hasn’t closed the door on getting more deeply involved at a later time, however. Any hint of a connection to one of the commercial ventures would provide a big boost.
For what it’s worth, veterans of SpaceX are playing roles at Hyperloop One as well as Hyperloop Transportation. But Hyperloop One claimed yet another connection in today’s announcements. The Los Angeles infrastructure company that’s building SpaceX’s 5-mile test track, AECOM, will be working with Hyperloop One as well.
During today’s unveiling in Las Vegas, Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd made clear that he intended to win the race.
“We believe this is the one company that can deliver Hyperloop first. … That’s why we’re changing our name to Hyperloop One,” he said.
The $80 million in Series B financing is just earnest money for what’s expected to be a multibillion-dollar undertaking, and the names listed in today’s announcements signaled that Hyperloop One’s backers appear to be in it for the long haul. In addition to Khosla Ventures, GE Ventures and SNCF, the new investors include 137 Ventures, Fast Digital and Western Technology Investment. They join Series A investors Sherpa Ventures, EightVC, ZhenFund and Caspian Venture Partners.
Hyperloop One says it will be working with Finland’s FS Links to study the options for building a Hyperloop link between Stockholm and Helsinki. It’s also talking with Arcturan Sustainable Cargo about streamlining container cargo transport from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and with the founders of Cargo Sous Terrain about developing a Hyperloop-based cargo transport system for Switzerland.
Other partners include Amberg Group in Zurich, Bjarke Ingels Group in New York, Systra in Paris and Deutsche Bahn Engineering and Consulting in Berlin, plus Arup and KPMG.
Today Hyperloop One skillfully employed shock and awe to raise its profile in the commercial race. But the next steps will be trickier: transcending the Hyperloop hype, perfecting the technology, winning all the regulatory approvals that will be needed, and then creating a completely new mode of regional transit.