Bobadilla, a tiny village in southern Spain that’s nestled between a 130-year-old railway and the Rio Guadalhorce, isn’t really known for much. But soon, it will feature a $500 million technical complex dedicated to an ultra fast, futuristic transportation system that was first conceived by Elon Musk.
Virgin Hyperloop One announced a deal on Tuesday with the state-owned administrator of railway infrastructures to build a research and development center in the little Spanish village. It will be the Los Angeles-based company’s first foray on the European continent.
But while Bobadilla (population 480) may seem like an unlikely location for the future of supersonic travel, the Andalusian region is quickly becoming a hotbed of high-tech activity. According to Virgin Hyperloop One, the region has over 9,000 companies in transport and logistics, as well as the second largest aerospace cluster in Spain, and 20,000 employees in R&D. The company says it will be looking to hire 200–300 high-tech workers to staff the new facility.
The 19,000-square-meter (204,000-square-foot) center, which is planned to be open by 2020, would develop, test, and certify components and subsystems to continually improve safety and reliability of hyperloop systems, the company says.
It won’t be the only hyperloop facility on the continent, though. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, or Hyperloop TT, is currently at work to build a test track in Toulouse, France, and it’s working with a Spanish engineering firm to construct a full-scale passenger capsule.
In addition to Virgin Hyperloop One’s headquarters in LA, the company maintains a 500-meter test track in the desert outside of Las Vegas. There, it has conducted several high-speed tests, the most recent of which sent its carbon-fiber pod prototype through a nearly airless tube at a top speed of 240 mph. Musk’s original concept theorized speeds of up to 760 mph.
The new R&D center, however, will not include an additional test track for the company, a spokesperson said. The most likely location for a new hyperloop track appears to be Dubai, where Virgin Hyperloop One recently partnered with the city’s DP World to launch an ultra fast system for shipping goods. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson recently said he believes the hyperloop will be ready for human passengers by 2021.