It has been announced that Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has invested in Hyperloop One. The LA-based company is currently working on Hyperloop technology, but what is it?
Popularised by Elon Musk in 2013, the concept of Hyperloop transportation is a pod-based travel system. According to Virgin’s official statement, the all-electric pods work by electric propulsion in a low-pressure tube which then allows the pods to magnetically levitate above the tracks at ‘airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.’
Branson’s investment in Hyperloop One is in line with Virgin’s mission to provide innovative transport that will ‘transform passengers’ lives’ while also remaining ‘responsible and sustainable’ too. Marketed as a ‘global strategic partnership’ in Hyperloop One’s official statement, Branson’s investment has resulted in the rebranding of the transport system as Virgin Hyperloop One and Branson becoming a member of Hyperloop One’s board of directors. Virgin Hyperloop One promises to deliver ‘the world’s most revolutionary train service’ by 2021 with their focus on the US, UAE, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands and India. But the investment from Branson suggests a desire to expand to the UK with promises of 50 minutes’ travel time from London to Edinburgh.
Hyperloop One has recently begun its commercialisation phase by testing their prototype. The prototype managed to reach speeds of 192mph at the DevLoop Nevada site. By the time the transportation system is fully functional it is expected to travel up to 760mph. The acquisition of Branson as an investor is an attempt to add credibility to a relatively new project. As Professor David Bailey from Aston Business School stated, ‘this deal will certainly help in terms of marketing and potentially attract further investors to come into the operation.’ However, Bailey remains sceptical of the real-world applications of the ‘unproven technology’.