The First Public Hyperloop Propulsion Test Is Wednesday

Hyperloop One is doing the world's first hyperloop propulsion test Wednesday.
May 11, 2016, 12:30am
Image: Hyperloop One

The world's most serious hyperloop company has a new name and a plan to test its hyperloop propulsion system Wednesday morning in the desert outside of Las Vegas. For the first time, the world will see actual parts of an actual hyperloop in action.

Hyperloop Technologies is now "Hyperloop One," which will clear up a lot of confusion with its main competitor, Hyperloop Transportation Technology. Wednesday, it'll demonstrate the propulsion technology, accelerating a sled using hyperloop's linear motors. Hyperloop One has not said how long the test will last, how fast it'll go, or set public goals for the test.

At this point, Hyperloop One has to be considered the frontrunner to build the world's first hyperloop, Elon Musk's futuristic, tube-based transportation system. The company announced Tuesday at a swanky Las Vegas arts space that it had locked in an additional $80 million in Series B venture capital funding after its initial $26 million funding round.

Money is great, and as I wrote earlier this year, the company has more than 150 employees, a giant office in downtown Los Angeles, and is building a test track on the outskirts of Vegas. But all the funding and employees in the world don't matter at all if the technology doesn't work or if the hyperloop ends up being too expensive or cumbersome to build.

Brogan VamBrogan sands in front of a mockup of a "hyperloop port." Image: Jason Koebler

And that's why I'm here in Vegas—to see how "real" the hyperloop actually is. Wednesday morning will be the first time any hyperloop company has demonstrated, well, anything to anyone.

"Why can't we change transportation? I think we can—it's the 21st century, yo," Hyperloop One cofounder Brogan BamBrogan said at the event.

Hyperloop is 'easier than building a spaceship'

That can-do attitude permeates throughout the company. The company's presentation dek flashed all sorts of fanciful hyperloop futures—a mockup of a hyperloop that runs deep underwater around tropical shores, a hyperloop floating port that exists offshore, hyperloops for pallets of cargo and cargo containers and hyperloops for people. Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd described "systems of hyperloops" that are all over the world.

And that's why it's hard to determine just how serious the company is. "We can build a hyperloop right now," BamBrogan said. It's just a matter of bringing the cost down. But Hyperloop One has its hands in so many different pots that it's hard to say which of them are actually going to move forward first, and which, if any, will actually ever get built.

The company says it's working on feasibility studies to look into building hyperloops from Finland to Sweden, hyperloops in the Baltic, hyperloops between Stockholm and Helsinki. It's also looking into moving containers between Long Beach and Los Angeles and wants to research a "completely tunneled cargo transport and logistics system throughout Switzerland."

Obviously all of those projects are going to cost billions upon billions of dollars, are going to require serious government investment, and obviously aren't going to open up tomorrow or anytime soon.

But for now, there's tomorrow's test. Hyperloop One's presentation started with a video of the first flight test at Kitty Hawk. This is how Hyperloop One is billing tomorrow's test. I'm looking forward to seeing how it'll go.

Hyperloop is "easier than building a spaceship," BamBrogan said. As an ex-SpaceX employee, he would know. It's time to see what the company has got.