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Hyperloop startup seeks $9.5M from Calgary economic development fund

The Ontario-based company that wants to build hyperloop technology in Alberta says it has applied for a share of the city’s $100 million innovation fund.

Sebastien Gendron, the CEO of TransPod Inc., said his company has asked for $9.5 million from the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) – a $100 million fund created by the city and administered by Calgary Economic Development.

Gendron said if TransPod receives the grant, the money would be matched by private investors.

“We have private investors ready to jump in,” he said. “But they’re looking at this and asking, is the province or the city interested to do it?”

TransPod is developing technology for a proposed new form of transportation dubbed hyperloop by Elon Musk, the American billionaire who heads Tesla electric cars and SpaceX.

An artist’s rendering of a Hyperloop tube on the outskirts of Calgary’s downtown.

Hyperloop technology would allow passengers to travel at speeds upwards of 1,000 km/h between cities through vacuum pipelines. The passenger and cargo pods would be able to travel at high speeds because there would by almost no air resistance.

TransPod hopes to build a 10 kilometre test track near Calgary. In the long term, it would hope to extend that track into a permanent link between Alberta’s two largest cities.

So far, the city has handed out $1.5 million from the OCIF. Last week, Calgary Economic Development announced tech start-up MobSquad would create 150 jobs with its funding.

TransPod’s application would seem to tick all of the boxes the OCIF is asking for. In addition to creating jobs and economic development for the city, the new technology could spur innovation, align with oil pipeline expertise already present in the city, and align with the province’s interest in connecting Edmonton and Calgary with some form of high speed rail.

The city has expressed its support in principal for TransPod’s goals, but a report that went before the Transportation and Transit Committee last week noted that construction and operation of a hyperloop test track falls outside the city’s jurisdiction.

LiveWire reached out to the province’s department of transportation, which confirmed it continues to meet and exchange information with TransPod.

In a written statement, the department said it supports the project in principal but requires more information from the company.

“No financial commitment has been made to TransPod, or is currently being considered, outside of the potential use of provincially-owned land for the development of a test track, which would require a lease of the land to TransPod,” read the statement.”

Gendron said TransPod has also been in contact with Alberta’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.

He said his company and the province has been exchanging information nearly every week since June. In mid-September, TransPod provided a detailed proposal to the province indicating its shot, medium and long-term goals in Alberta.

In June, Gendron told LiveWire that without a serious commitment from the province, they would take their test track to other markets in Europe, which have expressed interest in hosting them.

For now he remains committed to Alberta.

“So far it sounds like they’re interested, so we’ll continue,” he said.