Hyper­loop gets a new in­vestor and a new name

Richard Bran­son will join the board of high-speed trans­port firm Hyper­loop One.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By James F. Peltz

Richard Bran­son’s Virgin Group has part­nered with an L.A. com­pany de­vel­op­ing a su­per-fast trans­port sys­tem, which will be called Virgin Hyper­loop One.

Richard Bran­son’s Virgin Group has in­vested in Hyper­loop One, a Los An­ge­les com­pany that is de­vel­op­ing a su­per-fast trans­port sys­tem, and soon will change its name to Virgin Hyper­loop One, the com­pa­nies said Thurs­day.

Bran­son, the bil­lion­aire whose other hold­ings in­clude Virgin At­lantic Air­ways and the Virgin Galac­tic space­craft ven­ture, also joined the board of Hyper­loop One.

“This is an in­cred­i­bly in­no­va­tive and ex­cit­ing new way to move peo­ple and things at air­line speeds on the ground,” Bran­son said on Virgin Group’s web­site.

The size of Virgin Group’s in­vest­ment was not dis­closed but it was part of an $85-mil­lion fund­ing round from sev­eral in­vestors last month, bring­ing Hyper­loop One’s to­tal fi­nanc­ing raised since its found­ing in 2014 to $245 mil­lion.

Hyper­loop One is one of a hand­ful of firms de­vel­op­ing tech­nolo­gies whereby pas­sen­gers and cargo would be loaded into pods that travel at high speeds through lowfric­tion 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 sev­eral for­mer Hyper­loop One em­ploy­ees. Musk pop­u­lar­ized the idea of such tech­nol­ogy, un­veil­ing a de­sign in 2013.

Hyper­loop One held its lat­est test run of a trans­port pod in a tube in late July in the Ne­vada desert. Bran­son at­tended and said he saw “first­hand the ex­cit­ing tech­nol­ogy be­ing tested.”

“I was very im­pressed and now look for­ward to help­ing turn this cut­tingedge en­gi­neer­ing into a global pas­sen­ger ser­vice,” Bran­son said.

Bran­son said on CNBC that a hyper­loop sys­tem could be­come re­al­ity in “between two and four years if gov­ern­ments move quickly” to ap­prove it.

“Virgin is an iconic brand, and hav­ing Richard as an

ally will help strengthen our mis­sion to spread Hyper­loop One through­out the world,” Hyper­loop One co­founder Shervin Pi­she­var said in a state­ment.

Pi­she­var founded Hyper­loop One with Bro­gan BamBro­gan, a for­mer rocket de­signer at Space Ex­plo­ration Tech­nolo­gies Corp., or SpaceX.

But the pair had a bit­ter fall­ing out amid an in­ter­nal fight over cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, fi­nan­cial con­trol and the di­rec­tion of the start-up. BamBro­gan and other Hyper­loop One em­ploy­ees left and filed a wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion suit against the com­pany, and Hyper­loop One coun­ter­sued.

The two sides even­tu­ally set­tled and the for­mer Hyper­loop One em­ploy­ees then helped start Ar­rivo, based on the Ital­ian word for ar­rival, in Los An­ge­les.

The sys­tem be­ing de­vel­oped by Hyper­loop One calls for the ves­sels fer­ry­ing peo­ple or cargo to shoot through low-pres­sure tubes via elec­tric propul­sion. The pods would lift above the track us­ing mag­netic lev­i­ta­tion and glide “at air­line speeds for long dis­tances due to ul­tralow aero­dy­namic drag,” the com­pany said.

“It’s a lot cheaper than build­ing con­ven­tional rail net­works and it’s a lot faster and I think it will be a lot more re­li­able,” Bran­son said.

David Becker Getty Im­ages

HYPER­LOOP ONE will soon be called Virgin Hyper­loop One. Above, peo­ple look at a de­mostra­tion test sled af­ter a 2016 test of the propul­sion sys­tem in Ne­vada.

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