In the latest display of the U.A.E.’s interest in hyperloop technology, Dubai-based port operator DP World has once again invested into U.S.-based startup Virgin Hyperloop One, this time as part of a $50 million round alongside Cyprus-based Caspian Venture Capital. Virgin Hyperloop One to date has raised $295 million since its founding in 2014, with DP World also taking part in previous rounds.
Although still under development, hyperloop technology is earmarked for extensive use in the U.A.E.
The hyperloop is a potentially groundbreaking mass transit system first popularized by business magnate Elon Musk, and which is now being developed by several different companies. Using depressurized tubes, the technology would allow levitating pods to travel at super high speeds (potentially up to 1,200 km/h).
“We continue to see extremely strong interest from world leaders globally looking to embrace hyperloop to address critical infrastructure challenges. Our focus in 2018 will be on accelerating commercial agreements for both passenger and cargo projects,” said Virgin Hyperloop One’s CEO Rob Lloyd, in an announcement regarding the investment.
Last year, Virgin Hyperloop One signed an agreement with DP World to pursue a cargo-based hyperloop system at Jebel Ali port. “Hyperloop One is developing a new mode of transportation that will allow the world to transport people and goods inexpensively, safely, and with energy efficiency at speeds never thought possible,” said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World, at the time.
DP Worlds’ plans are potentially only the tip of the iceberg—the U.A.E. is also in the running to get the world’s first completed hyperloop system.
In early 2017, Virgin Hyperloop One signed an agreement with Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) to explore the possibility of connecting Dubai and Abu Dhabi via hyperloop, which would allow for travel between the two Emirates in only 12 minutes—a distance of more than 100 kilometers.
“As the central global transport hub, pursuing the implementation of a hyperloop in the U.A.E. makes sense. The leaders of the U.A.E. understand that transportation is the new broadband, with the power to transform life throughout the GCC,” said Lloyd at the time.
He added that from a technological point of view a hyperloop system could be built in the U.A.E within the next five years. Prior to the agreement with the RTA, the startup was invited to take part in the Dubai Future Foundation.
In addition to revealing its latest investment by DP World, Virgin Hyperloop One also announced it had named British billionaire Richard Branson as its chairman. Branson had initially joined the Virgin Hyperloop One board in October 2017 after Virgin Group invested in the company and formed a strategic partnership. The company is in the process of rebranding itself as Virgin Hyperloop One (it was previously known as Hyperloop One).
“I am excited by the latest developments at Virgin Hyperloop One and delighted to be its new chairman,” said Branson. “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.”
Currently, the company is testing the technology in the U.S., with its hyperloop reaching a speed of 240 miles per hour in a recent trial.