Virgin Hyperloop One sets a speed record and lands $50m in financing.
Virgin Hyperloop One has inched closer to its vision of a tube-based transport system that can move people at 700mph.
The transport company’s latest test run at its DevLoop test site in Nevada achieved a top speed of 240mph (387kph). That’s 50mph faster than its previous 190mph record set in August during Hyperloop One’s first test using the XP-1 passenger pod.
The new speed record is still nowhere near the 700mph system Elon Musk described in his 2013 whitepaper, but faster than 220mph Musk’s own ‘pod push’ achieved over the summer.
The company today also announced a new $50m round in funding to keep its futuristic transport ambitions afloat and the appointment of Richard Branson as non-executive chairman.
Hyperloop One rebranded as Virgin Hyperloop One in October after Virgin Group invested in the firm and Branson joined its board of directors. The new funding comes from existing investors Caspian Venture Capital and DP World.
Hyperloop One’s XP-1 pod entering the DevLoop test track.
The new test run was completed on December 15 alongside tests of a range of new components, including a new airlock system that helps it achieve air pressure equivalent to 200,000 feet above sea level.
The combination of a near-vacuum tube combined with magnetic levitation is designed to minimize friction.
Virgin Hyperloop One says that with the new funding and latest test it is ready to move on to commercialization.
“We continue to see extremely strong interest from world leaders globally looking to embrace hyperloop to address critical infrastructure challenges. Our focus in 2018 will be on accelerating commercial agreements for both passenger and cargo projects,” said Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd.
The company has received interest in the concept from Europe and India but it remains to be seen whether it’s a commercially viable technology.
The startup will be rebranded as Virgin Hyperloop One and Virgin founder Richard Branson will be joining the board.
Virgin Hyperloop One raises $50 million and makes Richard Branson chairman
A prototype of a Hyperloop One pod is seen in July. (AFP Photo / Weber Shandwick PR)
Virgin Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles company developing a super-fast transportation system, announced it has raised $50 million from foreign venture capital investors and made Richard Branson the chairman of its board of directors.
The new round of funding, announced Monday, came from Dubai’s DP World and Russia’s Caspian Venture Capital. Axios, which first reported the story, called the money a lifeline for a company so low on cash that the jobs of some 300 employees were at stake.
Virgin Hyperloop One did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The funding round will help the company focus “on accelerating commercial agreements for both passenger and cargo projects,” Chief Executive Rob Lloyd said in a statement.
In October, Virgin Hyperloop One received $85 million from several investors, including Branson’s Virgin Group (resulting in the company’s name change from Hyperloop One). With the addition of this week’s $50-million investment, the company has in total raised $295 million since its 2014 founding.
The funding caps a tumultuous 18 months for the company. In summer 2016, co-founder Brogan BamBrogan sued fellow co-founder and investor Shervin Pishevar, alleging wrongful termination. Among the allegations laid out in the suit were nepotism, assault and threats made with a noose. They settled the suit that November, but BamBrogan launched a competing hyperloop company.
Pishevar was further embroiled in controversy this month when multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. He denied the allegations but resigned from the venture capital firm he co-founded, Sherpa Ventures, and took a leave of absence from Virgin Hyperloop One.
Virgin Hyperloop One is one of a handful of firms developing technologies in which passengers and cargo can be loaded into pods that travel at high speeds through low-friction tubes above or below ground. For example, the firm envisions 30-minute trips between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The others include Boring Co., led by Elon Musk — who also founded Tesla Inc. and SpaceX — and Arrivo Corp., led by BamBrogan and other former Hyperloop One employees. Musk popularized the idea of such technology, unveiling a design in 2013.
Also on Monday, Virgin Hyperloop One said it had set a new speed record of 240 mph at its test site in Las Vegas.