Hyperloop for freight could be faster and cheaper than air

  (Photo: Virgin One Hyperloop)

(Photo: Virgin One Hyperloop)

This past Friday marked the two-year anniversary since the first major Hyperloop test was conducted by Virgin Hyperloop One in the desert north of Las Vegas in 2016. The test involved a sled traveling down a track at a top speed of 116 MPH, demonstrating the propulsion system that would later carry the company’s full-scale prototypes of Hyperloop pods. Virgin Hyperloop One currently holds the test speed record of 240 MPH, which the company set in December.

International port operator DP World and Virgin Hyperloop One recently announced that they are collaborating to launch a hyperloop for cargo, in what could revolutionize both the speed and cost of commerce. 

The project, DP World Cargospeed, will be powered with Virgin Hyperloop One's technology to "enable ultra-fast, on-demand deliveries of high-priority goods and can revolutionize logistics, support economic zones, and create thriving economic megaregions," according to the two companies.

Sitting beside DP World Group Chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem in Dubai, Virgin Hyperloop One Chairman Richard Branson told CNBC's Hadley Gamble in an exclusive interview last week, "I think that Virgin Hyperloop can play a big role...From a freight point of view, it's fantastically exciting."

DP World Cargospeed will aim to deliver goods at speeds of up to 620 miles per hour and link to existing roads, rail and air infrastructure. The Hyperloop One might also be zooming into the surprisingly near future. The company says it "is working aggressively to have three Hyperloop systems running by 2021."

Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been invested in designing the systems, and Virgin Hyperloop One is one of just a few companies racing to do so.

Chaired by Virgin Group CEO and billionaire entrepreneur Branson, the U.S.-based company will be providing the technology behind the project. DP World is its largest investor.

Dubai-based DP World is the Middle East's largest port operator and has a portfolio of over 65 marine terminals across six continents.

If you're new to the concept, hyperloop is a high-speed transit system first proposed by Elon Musk in a 2013 white paper. The original concept was that the system would send passengers in pressurized electric pods through vacuum-sealed tubes at over 600 mph.

To keep up with the competition, in April, Musk said he will attempt to break the record with a Tesla and SpaceX-branded Hyperloop pod traveling at half the speed of sound "soon." Like any timeline with the Tesla reality-show at this point, we'll believe it when we see it. 

While Musk is using his Boring Company to dig underground tunnels that could be used for Hyperloop systems, Virgin Hyperloop One is a leading contender to complete the first commercial Hyperloop system. Virgin Hyperloop One is the leading Hyperloop system for developing approaches to how businesses can ship goods from port to port.

Here's a look at Virgin Hyperloop One's history and its plans for the future.

Stay up-to-date with the latest commentary and insights on FreightTech and the impact to the markets by subscribing.