Five years after Elon Musk imagined the Hyperloop, two companies are vying to make it a reality between the United Arab Emirates’ two most prominent cities. The proposed Hyperloop between Dubai and Abu Dhabi will ferry passengers along the Arabian coast at speeds of up to 1,200km/hour, cutting a 140km journey from 1hr 20mins to just 12mins. Around 10,000 people will be able to travel each hour.
One of the two companies to make the route a reality has opened an office in Dubai, cementing its ambition to make transport history.
Virgin Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles-headquartered firm, is competing with fellow Californian Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to link the UAE’s first and third most populous cities. There is no timeframe for the project’s completion. But between the $295 million Hyperloop One raised last December, and the unveiling of its first non-American office last week, the firm is confident it will break new ground in the mobility tech arena.
There are several reasons the UAE has been chosen at Hyperloop’s petri dish. Dubai is home to the world’s third-busiest international airport, behind Atlanta and Beijing. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are both being developed as “smart cities”, and each aims to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2023. Hyperloop is the “logical next step” towards that goal, Hyperloop One’s Marcia Christoff says.
In Spring this year DP World, Dubai’s trade facilitator and third largest port authority in the world, introduced Hyperloop One DP World Cargospeed, an international brand for hyperloop-enabled cargo systems to support the fast, sustainable and efficient delivery of palletized cargo. “All the right factors fell into place,” adds Christoff.
Hyperloop’s pods, which travel on a bed of air, travel at around six times the speed of an average modern train. Musk, who made the idea open-source to encourage others to develop it, wants each route to be fully solar-powered, using panels along the tube that carries each pod. Tesla and SpaceX chief Musk actually drew from an idea devised by British inventor George Medhurst in 1799.
Saudi Arabia has also expressed a keen interest in Hyperloop as part of its Agenda 2030 plan, which aims to drastically reduce the kingdom’s carbon footprint. Hyperloop One submitted a value proposition to the country’s ruling family last year, followed by a value proposition this February.
For now, however, the UAE is firmly in the driving seat to become the world’s first home for Hyperloop. In June a prototype pod was unveiled to Emirati commuters, who have been promised easier car parking and minimal disruption to existing transport means – in addition to supersonic travel.
“We’re going to create a seamless experience that starts the moment you think about being somewhere – not going somewhere,” said Hyperloop One co-founder and CTO Josh Giegel recently. “We don’t sell cars, boats, trains or planes. We sell time.”