California is getting a Hyperloop, but not where you think

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Concept rendering of a Hyperloop station at Quay Valley (Image: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies)

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Elon Musk's Hyperloop is going to become a reality, but not quite on the grand scale it was originally conceived for just yet. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has reached an agreement to build a 5-mile (8-km) passenger track for Quay Valley, a proposed "sustainable model town for the 21st century" in California's central valley.

The Hyperloop has been described as a cross between a Concorde, rail gun and an air hockey table. For a full analysis of the design check out Gizmag's earlier coverage, but for now just picture an elevated tube that passenger capsules are able to travel through at velocities approaching the speed of sound.

While the original design was conceived with dreams of whisking passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in only 30 minutes, the planned 5-mile Quay Valley track running alongside Interstate 5 isn't likely to be traveling at the top speeds imagined for the technology. Rather, HTT sees it as a way to create a demonstration Hyperloop that works in the real world, carrying real passengers.

"This installation will allow us to demonstrate all systems on a full scale and immediately begin generating revenues for our shareholders through actual operations," said HTT CEO Dirk Ahlborn.

HTT is an odd sort of decentralized startup with nearly 200 team members that grew out of JumpStartFund, a crowdfunding and online collaboration incubator co-founded by Ahlborn, who is also CEO of the platform. It emerged in late 2013 to spearhead the creation of an actual Hyperloop after Musk made it clear he did not intend to build it on his own.

HTT's plans for a Hyperloop track aren't the only such schemes in the works. Recently, Elon Musk offered to build an "open source" test track in Texas, a move that seemed as much about earning good will to sell Tesla cars direct to consumers in the state as much as anything else (he floated the idea at a transportation conference while on a trip to lobby state legislators to change laws requiring cars be sold through dealers). Another startup called Hyperloop Technologies, with the involvement of big names like Obama campaign strategist Jim Messina and XPrize Foundation chair Peter Diamandis, is looking into building a Hyperloop that could also move cargo around.

But HTT's plans seem to be moving forward at mach speed. Earlier this month the company announced it would be holding an initial public offering later in 2015 to raise US $100 million. Now it says the formal agreement reached with GROW Holdings, the developer of Quay Valley, will allow construction of the track to begin next year.

Quay Valley has been in the works for several years, but the proposal was put on hold when the recession hit in the last decade. Sitting on 7,500 acres (3,035 hectares) halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it's imagined as a green, self-sustaining, solar-powered hub for logistics, retail and tourism with room for 25,000 homes.

Concept rendering of a Hyperloop track for Quay Valley (Image: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies)

"With Quay Valley, we’re creating a community built on economical, environmental and social sustainability, and part of this is seeking to reduce car dependency," said Quay Hays, CEO of GROW Holdings, Inc. "For these reasons, the Hyperloop is the ideal clean community transit system for Quay."

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