Meet the man trying to make Elon Musk's hyperloop dream a reality in Europe

Key Points
  • Hardt Hyperloop wants to unite multiple European cities with a high-speed transport system.
  • Hardt says it's building an "open ecosystem," partnering up with firms like Deutsche Bahn and Tata Steel.
  • The Dutch firm is looking to have a new high-speed testing center up and running by 2021.
Dutch firm Hardt is trying to make Elon Musk's hyperloop dream a reality in Europe.
Hardt Hyperloop

Six years ago, Elon Musk unveiled his vision for a radical new approach to transportation: the hyperloop.

The idea — to propel capsules through large tubes using magnets — gained considerable traction in the years that followed. Multiple companies have emerged that are solely focused on making Musk's vision a reality.

One of those companies wants to bring the technology to Europe. Led by Dutch engineer Tim Houter, Hardt Hyperloop spawned from a team of students that won one of Musk's hyperloop competitions back in 2017.

With the European Union being divided into several different countries, it complicates the aim of uniting multiple cities through a high-speed transport system. Hardt is hoping to fix that with its technology, which would whisk pods along tracks at super-fast speeds.

"Hyperloop can really align those countries in a way that you can basically travel across the whole continent in the same way you can now in America," Houter, Hardt's co-founder and CEO, told CNBC in an interview.

One thing Hardt says sets it apart from other hyperloop players is its lane-switching technology. The company claims its hyperloop would let pods switch from one lane to another without any additional or moving parts, like cars on a highway.

Tim Houter, co-founder and CEO of Hardt Hyperloop.
Joern Pollex | Getty Images for Greentech Festival

To supercharge its plans, Hardt says it's building what it calls an "open ecosystem," partnering up with industry giants like railway operator Deutsche Bahn and steelmaker Tata Steel. It recently showed off a test track in the Dutch city Delft.

But to build a transport solution as ambitious as Hardt's, Houter says the hyperloop will eventually require more investment as it looks to launch a new high-speed testing center capable of transporting passengers and cargo. It's looking to have that up and running by 2021.

"The next phase is to realize a high-speed test facility, acquiring the right partnerships to raise the right amount of investment required for that," Houter told CNBC. Building infrastructure for a hyperloop system is no easy task, so the company is also seeking public sector support.

Advocates of hyperloop technology say it could be more beneficial to the environment and cheaper than trains and flights.

The hyperloop could be a "real alternative" to other means of transportation that's "affordable," said Jacob Ruiter of EU organization InnoEnergy, an investor in Houter's company. According to Hardt, it would also remove the need for stops between journeys.

And Hardt's Houter doesn't mind the competition from other players in the space, which range from U.S. firm Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) to Canada's TransPod. In fact, he said, the firm signed an agreement with other initiatives in the space in an effort to boost collaboration.

"It's proof of the potential for this hyperloop market that more and more companies are getting involved," Houter said, adding that there's a push for standardizing the technology across the industry.

Longer term, Hardt is hoping commercial lines for its hyperloop will be operational in 2028. HTT however has a much more ambitious roadmap, with its hyperloop expected to be open to the public by 2022. It's also got competition from other firms looking to bring the hyperloop to Europe, including HTT and Hyperloop Poland.

New hyperloop passenger pod could reach speeds of 760 mph
New hyperloop passenger pod could reach speeds of 760 mph

Correction: This article has been amended to reflect the fact that Hardt Hyperloop is looking to have its high-speed testing center up and running by 2021.