Futuristic travel experiment Hyperloop One to cease operations, as assets sold off and remaining staff made redundant
The futuristic transportation company, Hyperloop One (formerly Virgin Hyperloop) is preparing to shut down for good at the end of 2023.
Bloomberg reported that Hyperloop One is currently selling off assets and is laying off its remaining workforce, after failing to secure any contracts to build a working hyperloop system.
The move comes after the Los Angeles-based Virgin Hyperloop One had announced in February 2022 that it had axed half of its staff. It said at the time it had laid off 111 people, as it abandoned plans to transport passengers from city-to-city at airline-like speeds.
The firm said at the time that it was refocusing on delivering a freight version of the experimental transport system, which propels pods through low-pressure tubes at speeds of up to 670mph.
In November 2022 the company agreed to give up the Virgin branding when Sir Richard Branson exited, and the firm renamed itself Hyperloop One.
Now according to the Bloomberg report, Hyperloop One is selling off its assets, closing down its offices, and laying off employees.
It will reportedly close down at the end of the year, and all its intellectual property will transfer to its majority stakeholder, major Dubai port operator DP World.
There is no mention of what will happen to its test track in the Nevada desert.
Hyperloop One was founded in 2014, with the name Hyperloop Technologies before changing its name to Hyperloop One in 2016, and then again to Virgin Hyperloop One after being acquired by Sir Richard Branson’s company.
Since its founding nine years ago, the company raised around $450 million in venture capital funds and other investments, but it always seemed to struggle for cash. Sir Richard helped secure a new $50 million investment from two existing investors so it could pay salaries.
And in 2019 the firm raised $172 million in new funding, $90 million of which came from DP World.
The firm had hoped to get its hyperloop system certified in 2025 or 2026, with potential hyperloop projects before the decade ended.
The intention of the firm was to develop the transportation idea that originated with Elon Musk’s so-called “alpha paper” in 2013.
The idea of trains in vacuum has been touted many times in science-fiction. For example the concept of Hyperloop transportation was apparently first introduced by Robert H. Goddard in 1904.
Hyperloop One settled a lawsuit with one of its co-founders in 2017, amid claims of harassment and sabotage. A year later, another co-founder, Shervin Pishevar, was ousted amid allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.
First crewed test
There was a notable moment in November 2020, when the firm demonstrated its first crewed test-track journey, when two company staff (co-founder and then CEO Josh Giegel, as well as Sara Luchian) acted as passengers in Virgin’s Experimental-Pod-2 (XP-2).
Josh Giegel left the firm in 2021, amid media reports of internal turmoil at the firm.
That first – and only – test with human passengers saw the pod reached a disappointing top speed of 100mph, far short of the airline-like speed.