The next region in the United States to see a feasibility study for a hyperloop is Missouri, the “Show-Me State,” a principality that’s proud of its skepticism, a territory where big, dumb promises are supremely roasted.
“I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri, and you have got to show me.”
—Missouri Congressman Willard Vandiver in 1899
Ideas like the hyperloop — and all the “frothy eloquence” offered by its evangelists like Elon Musk — have historically been met with a little side-eye in places like Missouri, and rightfully so.
But on Tuesday, leaders of Virgin Hyperloop One, the Los Angeles-based startup that intends to build low-pressure tubes through which passenger and cargo pods will travel at jetplane speeds, announced it had agreed to study if the hyperloop is feasible for Missouri.
The study will “analyze the technical alignment as well as the potential economic impact and benefits of integrating hyperloop into the I-70 corridor connecting Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Louis. It will also outline the next steps required for an eventual hyperloop project in the state, including development of a high-level cost estimate and funding model recommendations to enable the project to move forward.”
Missouri is the second U.S. region that will see a proper feasibility study by Virgin Hyperloop One. The other study is in Colorado, which began last fall. Virgin Hyperloop One had been reviewing a possible route from the Port of Los Angeles inland, but there’s no study going on there right now, officials tell Inverse. There is also a study happening in the United Arab Emirates, and the Netherlands conducted its own indepedent study.
For Show-Me state skeptics — or anyone who questioning the technology proposed in Musk’s 2013 whitepaper — there’s some reassurance in the fact that the company has the backing of serial entrepreneur Richard Branson, and that in December, the XP-1 test pod XP-1 hit 240 mph. It was the fastest the magnetically levitated pod had gone yet.
There’s also this quote from Rob Lloyd, the former Cisco executive who’s now CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One, which illustrates the company’s intentions: “It is a beautiful thing when somebody’s knuckles are bleeding because somebody did the wrong design — and it’s fixed that day,” Lloyd told me last spring in Washington, D.C., when eleven hyperloop routes were proposed, including the Missouri route.
The company has raised $276.2 million, with the most recent injection of cash — $50 million — coming from Caspian Venture Capital and DP World, which had invested in the company during prior funding rounds. Dubai-based DP World operates marine and inland shipping terminals; one day hyperloop pods could transport cargo containers from ships, bypassing congested freeways.
So when does this all begin in Missouri? Ryan Kelly, Virgin Hyperloop One’s director of marketing, tells Inverse that the work should be kicking off in the next couple of weeks.
Musk, whose Boring Company is unaffiliated with Virgin Hyperloop One, and should probably be considered a competitor, is also working transport tube that would travel underground, as a futuristic video revealed last April shows.
Lloyd has said he wants to have five hyperloops under construction by 2021; Musk hasn’t made any predictions involving a year, involving a year, but said there are projects his Boring Company bidding on in Chicago and Maryland.