Exclusive: Virgin Hyperloop eyes doubling capital, in talks with Dubai, Saudi Arabia, EU
The company is looking to double $300 million it has raised from investors that include DP World
Virgin Hyperloop One, the futuristic transportation concept inspired by Elon Musk, expects to double money it has raised from investors that may include pension and sovereign wealth funds who will help anchor agreements in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Europe, its chief executive said.
“We are continuing to talk to investors around the world, we continue to see those investors as having strategic alignment to the company’s next three-year phase of commercialising the technology and actually building the version that will be deployed,” Rob Lloyd told The National.
The company which welcomed billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson as its chairman last December has already topped the $245 million it had raised from investors, with DP World and Russia’s Caspian Venture Capital pledging together an additional $50m in the same month. Other investors include Summa Group, France’s SNCF, and GE Ventures
“Over the next coming years, we would probably think of doubling that. That’s very realistic. We are in discussions as to how to continue that momentum,” Mr Lloyd said when asked about raising additional financing. “The Saudi government could be a potential investor."
"We have had discussions with the minister of transport in Saudi Arabia. We are investigating the potential economic impact, the potential to create a manufacturing opportunity in alignment with Vision 2030,” he added.
In October, when Saudi Arabia announced plans to build a $500 billion futuristic investment zone on the Red Sea coast called Neom, Mr Lloyd said the kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the technology of hyperloop increased the potential for collaboration. Four months on, the prospect of working together appears to be gathering pace.
Discussions include potential projects within the Arab world’s largest economy as it vies to cultivate a manufacturing and logistics industry as well as potentially linking the kingdom with major cities in the UAE.
“A hyperloop network that runs from Jeddah to Riyadh, to Abu Dhabi to Dubai as a backbone from the Red Sea to the Arabian sea is an amazing opportunity and would transform the potential movement of goods and the mobility of people and have a dramatic impact on the economic development and continued growth in the region,” Mr Lloyd said.
“We are in the process of examining those corridors that would make sense. ”
DP World chairman Sultan bin Sulayem who sits on the board of Virgin Hyperloop, and Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Authority, both are in talks with the company. They are assessing the feasibility of a project that would deploy train-like capsules that float on air and travel at high speeds of up to 1,127km/hr through a low-pressure tube.
On Thursday, the company debuted a prototype pod capable of shuttling 14 passengers from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes.
“This is the culmination of the first phase of our collaboration and partnership with the RTA,” Mr Lloyd said. “Now we’re looking at the second stage of that collaboration. You’ll hear more about that in the next weeks.”
This month marked a milestone for the firm as it inked a landmark agreement to potentially connect the Indian city of Pune with Mumbai, in a multi-billion-dollar 140km hyperloop route. The area is populated by 26 million people and 100 million cars a year drive across.
The proposed hyperloop in India will reduce travel time between the two cities to 25 minutes from three hours. The initial stage which entails a feasibility study is three years while the time to complete the project is seven – half the amount of time to complete a rail project.
India is on track to be the first place where hyperloop is likely to be commercialised. The framework agreement lays out the entire process to move from a feasibility study to the production phase, looking at financing and operation of a hyperloop in the next six to seven years. The first part of that route would be constructed by 2021.
“India is one of the largest opportunities because of its congested transportation systems and our ability to leapfrog,” Mr Lloyd said.
The European Union is in talks with the company about potentially deploying a hyperloop framework on thecontinent, where the rail network can be fragmented without a single regulatory standard.
“We are looking at where could we create that system that would become the test and regulatory approval area,” Mr Lloyd said. In addition to discussions with the EU headquarters in Brussels, he added, the company is “in talks with several countries.”
Updated: February 22, 2018 09:42 PM