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Hyperloop One future: Is super-fast travel really coming our way anytime soon?

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:37 IST

Dubai to Abu Dhabi in just 12 minutes. That's Hyperloop One, the well-funded, futuristic transportation company's launch plan. It wants to build the first passenger-ready Hyperloop in Dubai. The plan is to take a 99-mile (159 km) journey, that usually takes about two hours by car, and reduce it to a 12 minute ride. It'll do this with a top speed of 1,220 km/h (760 mph). The company, on Tuesday, released a high-quality video on the Hyperloop.

The video gives us a glimpse into how riding the Hyperloop would be. More importantly, the designers and the team behind the Hyperloop are envisioning it to be sort of on-demand, ultra-fast transportation, just like the likes of Ola and Uber.

This is how Andrew J. Hawkins describes it on The Verge "After making a reservation on your phone, an autonomously driven, box-shaped pod would show up at your location to take you to the hyperloop station. The pods would drive through the city alongside regular car traffic, with the video showing cars jockeying for space on the road with translucent, over-sized shoe boxes full of people.

At the portal, your pod docks together in a transporter with other pods carrying more passengers or maybe cargo. Then they are fed into a vacuum-sealed tube, where you'll zip along at hundreds of miles per hour to your destination."

The company signed an agreement on Tuesday with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). Together they will explore the issues that surround the construction. This study will take place over the next 12 weeks. Designers, architects, transportation experts and others will be part of it.

Expectations are sky high ever since Elon Musk, the concept architect unveiled plans for a Hyperloop transportation system back in 2013. It's a US start-up taking forward Musk's futuristic vision further.

With the project from Hyperloop One going full steam ahead in Dubai, they will remain high until 2020 and 2021 when the companies plans are expected to start carrying freight and passengers respectively.

The original plan that was drawn up was from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. That was estimated at a cost of $6billion or $11.5 million per mile, which according to multiple reports is less than the current cost of high-speed rail.

One thing's certain. Cost varies depending on location "presumably because of the cost of land, rights of way and labor".

Leaked documents

Forbes was able to obtain some leaked investment documents from the company. According to these documents, the cost per mile has gone up from Elon Musk's - concept architects - originally proposed $11.5 million in 2013 to $52 million a mile.

Hyperloop One, which has already raised $50 million back in mid-October is looking to raise an additional $250 million in the next funding round by early next year. It's also looking for 'tens of millions in new financing'.

One more tidbit from the documents is that the company is projecting 'sky-high' profit margins for itself by 2030.

The 2030 projections project a passenger and freight business of $4.7 trillion in 2020. This number almost doubles to $9.3 trillion in 2040. The company further projected that by 2020, they'd take in $300 million. By 2040, that number would go up to $1.9 trillion for the company and its partners.

Where it lies

Hyperloop One is far from reality at the moment. It doesn't have a working prototype and has only raised $160 million. During the development stage and for proof of concept, Hyperloop One will have to bear most of the costs themselves.

The company is also doing feasibility studies about where it can try next. It has feasibility studies underway in many different places like Finland and Sweden, Switzerland, Moscow and the Netherlands. One of the reasons for 'multiple but currently unfeasible' studies is to show that Hyperloop One is committed to delivering on its promises.

The only evidence we've gotten so far is the company's Nevada desert open-air test that took place in May of this year.


Hyperloop One isn't alone in pursuing Musk's vision. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is one such company and they claim to be closer to Musk's initial cost projections. They haven't gotten anywhere yet though. They are now moving toward something that would "that more closely resemble a high-speed train".

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is yet to show any proof of concept.

While Hyperloop One has plans to show off a full-scale prototype in its building in Nevada in 2017, others are far behind. This may just prove to be the catalyst for the company to really go after it. Come 2021, and we might just be seeing pods spring up all across the world.

First published: 13 November 2016, 3:54 IST