Tech

Hyperloop wants to bring its futuristic people-mover to the Middle East — and it wants to do it soon

Key Points
  • Hyperloop Transportation Technologies wants to build a high-speed transportation system in the Middle East that can reduce the travel time between the likes of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, a top executive told CNBC.
  • Initially, the company will build a 10 kilometer hyperloop track in Abu Dhabi, its chairman, Bibop Gresta, told CNBC.
  • The track will be developed close to the Expo 2020 site and Al Maktoum International Airport, on the border of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
VIDEO3:2003:20
Abu Dhabi's first Hyperloop to be built by 2020, says exec

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies wants to build a high-speed transportation system in the Middle East that can reduce the travel time between the likes of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, a top executive told CNBC.

HTT is one of the companies developing the hyperloop, a futuristic, super-fast transportation system. It would work by propelling pods, carrying people or cargo, through a large tube at speeds of 750 mph using magnets; it is seen as a solution to long-distance travel and also a means of alleviating congestion.

On Wednesday, HTT said it will begin building a hyperloop track in Abu Dhabi with the aim of having it operational by 2020. The company signed an agreement with real estate developer Aldar Properties PJSC, the firm behind Yas Island's Formula One circuit.

It will be like a very comfortable airplane — without all the bumps and the problems of an airplane.
Bibop Gresta
chairman, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

"We conducted a first feasibility study. It was successful with the government of Abu Dhabi," Bibop Gresta, chairman of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, told CNBC's "Capital Connection" on Thursday.

"And now, we're going into the next phase to actually build the first commercial line. It will be 10 kilometers of a longer network that we want to build to connect all the Emirates. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and eventually Saudi Arabia," Gresta said.

The track will be developed close to the Expo 2020 site and Al Maktoum International Airport, on the border of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. HTT plans to build the initial 10 kilometer track in several phases.

Gresta did not disclose how much the project would cost the company. The cost details will be published once HTT finishes its current feasibility study, he said.

"The real question is about how long does it take to recoup the investment," Gresta said. "Because every transportation system right now on the ground doesn't make money. The hyperloop has shown, in different feasibility study that we run around the world, (that it) can actually recoup the entire investment in 10 to 15 years."

750 miles per hour is not cruising speed

He pointed out that actual hyperloop systems will not travel at 750 miles per hour, though that is the technology's often-cited, theoretical maximum speed. Instead, the average speed will be much slower.

The way to maintain passenger comfort is by accelerating and decelerating slowly, he said.

"It will be like a very comfortable airplane — without all the bumps and the problems of an airplane," Gresta said.

Gresta did not reveal how much a ride will cost, but he explained that the technology uses renewable energy that "guarantees that the price of the ticket is minimal."

HTT is not the only company that's looking into this new concept of super-fast transportation. Other start-ups in this space include Virgin Hyperloop One.

When asked how his company stands out, Gresta said that HTT was the first firm that "actually took the challenge of bringing this technology to the market."

"We're the only company that actually is building the first full-scale hyperloop in history," he said, adding that competition from others was welcomed.

He added that the company is already discussing future projects in 11 countries, including Saudi Arabia.

HTT began building a prototype of the hyperloop system earlier this month in Toulouse, France. The company said it expected delivery of the first passenger pod later in the year.

— CNBC's Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.