Ilon Mask often acts unpredictably even for his entourage
Several years ago the world-famous businessman Ilon Mask spoke about The idea of creating high-speed trains that could radically reduce the time of transportation of passengers from point A to point B. The idea is not new, but Mask presented a relatively objective technical calculation of the project, while saying that he does not want to create a company to develop such trains and become I am its leader. The businessman said that his time is already written in minutes, so there is not enough for another company. "I have no plans to run such a company, because I have to focus on SpaceX and Tesla," he said.
The idea proved viable, and after a while there were several companies that decided to implement the Hyperloop project. By the way, not only private companies but also governments of some countries became interested in the idea. Mask is really quite a long time (4 years) remained in the shadows, but then, it seems, he still decided to take up this project closely.
Last month, he said that he had received the first "verbal confirmation" of government support in terms of creating the infrastructure of Hyperloop trains in the US. Then Mask told about what happened on Twitter. After some time, officials reported that there was no approval, with Mask only a conversation took place, which, however, turned out to be "very productive." As for the content of the conversation, then it was about creating a branch of Hyperloop, connecting New York and Washington. If this route were built, the travel time from one city to another would be reduced from a few hours to only 29 minutes.
Message Mask was a surprise for the management of various companies (there are already many more) who are engaged in Hyperloop or are going to do this project. There were conjectures that Mask plans to start building only infrastructure for Hyperloop, not engaged in the development of the project of this kind. But no. A source close to Mask has already managed to state that it is the intention of the head of Tesla Inc. To do both the creation of an infrastructure for high-speed trains Hyperloop, and the vehicles themselves, plus the management of all this infrastructure.
Let me remind you that the main idea of developers is to achieve, if not profitability of the project, then at least break-even. The system assumes movement at speeds of 450-700 km / h (although, at the very beginning, Mask spoke about 1200 km / h). The cost of Hyperloop is quite high. For example, Musk previously voiced the cost of the route, which would connect Los Angeles with San Francisco in the $ 6-10 billion. And a system that would work throughout the state of California, can cost creators $ 60 + billion
By the way , Mask is the owner of the Hyperloop trademark. Rather, he owns the brand not personally, but indirectly, the rights belong to SpaceX. And this means that sooner or later an entrepreneur can force other companies using the same word in their name to remove it. In addition, SpaceX owns the account @ Hyperloop on Twitter and the Hyperloop.com website.
The surprise for all
Needless to say, Ilona Mask's intention to enter the market himself, leading the company, was a surprise for those same start-ups who intended to create similar routes and high-speed transport. These companies have managed to collect hundreds of millions of investments, agree with officials of several countries and even start the implementation of test sites of the Hyperloop network. Now it is not clear what to do next. The fact that Mask is able to achieve his, many were convinced. Jonathan Silver, the former head of the US Department of Energy's credit department, says that you should not underestimate Ilona Mask and his capabilities. He knows what he's saying – in 2010 Tesla Inc. Received a loan of $ 465 million, and for 9 years, managed to pay off with him, paying and all the interest. And while this period was not the most successful for the company.
"While we welcome participation in similar projects, we plan to accelerate the development of this technology, as far as possible. We welcome and support all companies that are going to build Hyperloop and we will not prevent them from trying to prohibit using the Hyperloop name, but only if these companies work honestly, "Mask said. Thus, for the time being, start-ups that are rival to the company's foundation are safe. But who knows how the situation can change in the future.
Mask previously showed his vision of the economic principle of Hyperloop. Passengers will ride for free, but for additional services have to pay. In addition, it is possible that during rush hours, everyone will be paid for the opportunity to get from point A to point B. The company will mainly use only "green" energy. Basically, we are talking about solar energy and wind energy.
What about the competitors?
At the moment, we know of three large (relatively) companies that are working on the creation of a high-speed train network, which operates on the principle announced by the Mask in 2013. Sherwin Pishevar, chief executive of Hyperloop One, said on Wednesday that his company had completed the second stage of testing a vehicle in Nevada. So, in 2017, this company tested the chassis for the transport capsule XP-1 in the tunnel DevLoop in Nevada. Engineers were able to achieve controlled movement and levitation of the vehicle in a vacuum.
The company built a test tunnel with a length of half a kilometer, and pumped air out of it, reducing the pressure to 5 Pa. Thus, the chassis moved in a technical vacuum. In principle, the tunnel characteristics allow to accelerate the capsule up to 40 km / h, but during the test the vehicle speed reached only 112 km / h. The tests were recognized as successful.
At the moment, Hyperloop One has attracted more than $ 92 million of investment, the management of the startup is negotiating the construction of transport tunnels in the UAE, Finland, Sweden , The Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and more than ten regions of the United States.
In addition to Hyperloop One, there are two other companies that have also achieved successes, although considerably smaller. This is Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (plans to build tunnels in Slovakia and South Korea), as well as Arrivo, it was founded by former chief engineer Hyperloop One Brogan Bam Brogan. BamBrogan, by the way, founded his own company after unloading with Pishevar, which resulted in several lawsuits in a row.
Pishevar already commented on Mask's decision to enter the Hyperloop market: "It will attract a lot of clear minds and attention from many people, which will allow the project to develop."
What is the Mask about to do?
So far, it is not completely clear how exactly Mask sees his participation in the creation of a new type of vehicle. Perhaps he will join forces with Pishevar. After all, it is with him that he is in friendly relations. For example, in 2013, Pishevar and Mask rested in Cuba.
But Mask did say that he wants to build his own Hyperloop, and not to take advantage of someone's developments.
The real state of affairs
Whatever it was, the construction of a real Hyperloop route, no matter whoever it starts building it, is a matter of the future. Now this project is only in its infancy. Yes, there are test runs, but the implementation of a full-scale project did not even begin. The possible rivalry of all companies that are going to realize the idea underlying Hyperloop is an attempt to divide the skin of an unfortunate bear.
Mask, however, posted an interesting statement on the Hyperloop.com website: "We are interested in the further development of the functional prototype Hyperloop." True, this statement runs counter to the other made by Mask earlier this year: "We are not developing a commercial prototype of Hyperloop on our own."
In general, in order to understand what is really happening, you probably will have to wait. But in any case, Mask with its actions can spur companies that are developing Hyperloop to work more actively.