The Hyperloop track proposed to offer super-speed travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles has to be one of the most exciting projects slated for the coming decade. In concept, the ultra-high-speed tram seems like luxury sent straight from the future, but Elon Musk’s futuristic pipe dream could be free for commuters. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn told CNBC that he’s kicking around the idea of making it free to ride, with paid upgrades bringing in the bulk of the profits. In an age when prices seem to rise endlessly, that’s a pretty refreshing notion.
The Hyperloop, expected to be carry passengers faster than the speed of sound in a pod-like contraption by 2019, would provide a 30-minute commute between the two California cities. Ahlborn said, essentially, that the business model he is considering is akin to free-to-play video games, which make their money through in-game purchases and upgrades. “We are thinking about tickets and whether this is the right way to make money,” he told CNBC, saying that fares could be free during off-peak times and very low-cost during peak time. This is just one of the models they will consider in the decade or more between now and opening day.
In other news, the Hyperloop project continues ‘full steam ahead,’ so to speak. We reported earlier this year on the plan to break ground on a $100 million test track in California in 2016, and that timeline is still holding true. The full-scale Hyperloop track between LA and SF is expected to cost between $7 and $16 billion to build and operating costs are a mystery, so we’re willing to bet the free-to-ride model will have to be paired with some pretty pricey upgrades in order to make the project profitable.
Images via Hyperloop Tech