Hyperloop One bags $50m funding, Richard Branson named as chair

19 Dec 2017

Hyperloop test pod at the Hyperloop One DevLoop track. Image: Hyperloop One

Virgin Hyperloop One has revealed that, along with achieving $50m in new funding, it has appointed Richard Branson as its chair.

Hyperloop – the technology that could allow trains to fly down near-vacuum tubes at blistering speeds – has just taken another step towards becoming a reality, with the announcement of $50m in new funding.

In a statement, Virgin Hyperloop One (as it is now called) said that the Series C funding was achieved through Caspian Venture Capital and DP World, and brings its total investment since its founding in 2014 to just under $300m.

One of the most notable changes has been the announcement of Virgin founder Richard Branson as its new chair, not long after co-founder Shervin Pishevar took a leave of absence in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment earlier this month.

Branson joined the Virgin Hyperloop One board of directors in October after Virgin made an investment and formed a “global strategic partnership”, according to the company.

“I am excited by the latest developments at Virgin Hyperloop One and delighted to be its new [chair],” Branson said.

“The recent investment by our partners, Caspian Venture Capital and DP World, sets up the company to pursue opportunities in key markets in the Middle East, Europe and Russia, as it develops game-changing and innovative passenger and cargo ground transport systems.”

New record speed achieved

Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd said the funding will effectively cover its plans for 2018. Until this latest investment, the company was reportedly facing a difficult future financially.

“We continue to see extremely strong interest from world leaders globally looking to embrace Hyperloop to address critical infrastructure challenges,” he said.

“Our focus in 2018 will be on accelerating commercial agreements for both passenger and cargo projects.”

The other bit of news from the company was that it has set a test speed record on a Hyperloop track at 387kph, achieved on its full-scale test site, DevLoop.

This was made possible using a new airlock, which helps to transition test pods between atmospheric and vacuum conditions.

Last September, the company revealed 10 locations across the globe that could one day feature a Hyperloop system based on plans sent in by various engineering teams.

It is now working with each of these teams to see if a Hyperloop system is actually viable there.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic