Elon Musk’s superfast Hyperloop could come to Asia in a few years

Hyperloop, the high speed transportation system envisioned by Elon Musk, could come to an Asian country in the next few years, according to the chief executive of a company working to bring Musk’s vision to life.

Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), sees a working hyperloop in the next three to four years. Musk originally thought up the hyperloop system in 2013. It works by propelling a pod through a vacuum tube at speeds of up to 750 miles per hour (mph) using magnets.

Ahlborn says his company is currently doing a feasibility study in Indonesia and has signed a licensing agreement with South Korea which wants a 200-mile hyperloop system between Seoul and Busan. HTT is also in discussions with the Indian government to build pods to run on the hyperloop.

“The biggest hurdle is to get government approval, so we have been working with governments around the world to advance the legislative framework,” he told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Thursday.

The CEO said the Hyperloop makes economic sense because it has low operational costs, unlike some other transport systems.

“If you look at public transportation itself, it’s not really working the way it should. It’s not making money. It depends heavily on government subsidies. Taxpayers are paying for it. It doesn’t make business sense,” he said.

For developing countries without much money, public-private partnerships may be the answer to developing better transport systems such as the hyperloop, he added, saying it is a great investment opportunity.

“You have to compare that to a traditional rail system or metro system (investment) that never gets recovered.”

The Hyperloop One test track in the North Las Vegas desert.

Hyperloop One
The Hyperloop One test track in the North Las Vegas desert.

A full-scale test of a hyperloop system was completed in May in the Nevada desert by Hyperloop One, a second company working on the transport system. A test sled reached a speed of 70 miles per hour while travelling for 5.3 seconds through a tube.

The most recent test of the system at the end of July saw a pod travel as fast as 190 miles per hour and reach a maximum distance of 437 meters.

“Farther and faster was our mantra for this phase, and our XP-1 test pod went 4.5 times farther and three times faster than our initial runs in May,” said Josh Giegel and Shervin Pishevar, co-founders of Hyperloop One, in a blog post.

“With each test, you go a little farther, a little faster, and bring the Hyperloop a lot closer to reality.”