Love him or hate him, 44-year-old Elon Musk has an almost cult-like following for all his endeavors and the many years he has left to innovate. Of the two Musk ventures that are publicly traded, both have shown superior returns when compared to a market benchmark. Since Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) began trading just 6 years ago, the stock has returned over +1200%. His other publicly traded company, SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY), has returned over +140% in the past 4 years.
We’ve talked before about one of Musk’s privately held transportation companies, SpaceX. What we didn’t know was that while Musk unveiled a 57-page paper on the Hyperloop concept in 2013, he’s not actually building it. With Musk talking about applying Hyperloop technology on Mars, investors could be forgiven for thinking that this technology is just a pipe dream and merely a hobby for the 47th richest man in the U.S. The fact is, the idea has lots of potential and could be so potentially disruptive that at least 3 companies are now pursuing it.
The Hyperloop concept is pretty straightforward. Capsules containing humans or cargo are propelled through Hyperloop tubes to transport humans and cargo across great distances at average speeds of up to the speed of sound (768 mph).
To put this speed into context, a Boeing 747 has a cruise speed of up to 570 mph. So if you can travel in a Hyperloop at more than the speed of a typical jetliner, then the majority of the cost savings would be the fuel spent which is typically about 34% of a typical airline flight. While the fixed costs of deploying a Hyperloop from say L.A to New York would be incredibly high, the idea is that over time, the variable costs would by far less than those incurred by a traditional jet liner flying the same route. At least three companies believe the concept of a Hyperloop is commercially viable, and are taking Musk’s designs and trying to make the hyperloop concept a reality.
Founded in 2013 shortly after Musk unveiled the Hyperloop concept, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is an incredibly original startup that actually uses crowdfunding and crowdsourcing for funds and labor respectively. The Company has over 500 engineers working on the project in exchange for stock options. They aren’t paid because they all have full-time employment already at places like Airbus, NASA, and of course SpaceX. HTT has put together a proposal for a variety of different routes that could be built in the U.S. as seen below:
If you want to get involved in the project, you can at this link, but it’s not just free labor the Company is looking for. On the “Careers” page, you will be asked how much capital you can bring to the table with the below statement:
We will consider your application anyway, but we prefer our co-founders have some “skin in the game.”
In early 2015 they announced an agreement to build the first Hyperloop™ Transportation System in Quay Valley, CA which is a 5 mile track with construction expected to begin this year. HTT also signed a deal with the Slovakian government last month through which they expect to build the first stage of their Slovakia Hyperloop in Bratislava by 2020.
Founded in 2015, Canadian startup Transpod is developing a Hyperloop concept that will travel at a maximum speed of 758 miles per hour, about 50% faster than air travel and just short of the speed of sound. The Company intends to present a full-scale concept at the InnoTrans Rail show in September of this year. Working closely with the University of Toronto, they expect to have a commercial prototype by 2020. The Transpod Board of Directors has representation from Bombardier Transport and REC Architecture. The Company’s website shows profiles for 21 employees so they must already be getting funding from somewhere.
Founded in 2014, Hyperloop Technologies has taken in just over $37 million in financing so far to develop their Hyperloop transportation system which is focused more on cargo applications than human transportation. The Company has strong ties to Elon Musk, and the Board of Directors is full of heavy hitters like the co-founder of Palantir, the Chairman and CEO of the X-Prize Foundation, and a former deputy chief of staff to President Obama. With a large staff working on all aspects if their Hyperloop solution, the Company is expecting their “Kitty Hawk” moment before the end of this year described as follows:
Our “Kitty Hawk” moment refers to our first full system, full scale, full speed test. This will be over 2 miles of tube with a controlled environment and inside that tube we will levitate a pod and accelerate it to over 700mph. We aim to achieve this in Q4 2016.
Out of the three companies we’ve written about in this article, this is the one you should be watching the closest given the heavy hitters they have on board, the deep pockets they can reach into for funding, and their strong connections with the man who came up with the idea.
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