Richard Branson has taken time off from the space race and rebuilding storm lashed private islands to invest in Hyperloop One.
Branson’s company Virgin will join forces with the LA based technical engineering business in a strategic partnership. The target being to develop the world’s first commercial pod-based transport system.
Known as Virgin Hyperloop One the intention is to carry both passengers and cargo.
What is Hyperloop One?
Richard Branson describes it as “the world’s most revolutionary train service.” It’s a ground level system which can travel at airline speeds.
A statement from the company explains how the technology works. “Passengers and cargo are loaded into a pod, and accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube.
“The pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.”
Exciting stuff. And Virgin Hyperloop One has already being successfully tested.
During testing the top speed achieved is 192mph. The test run lasted a shade over ten seconds. The goal is to achieve over 600 mph. So work to be done. But the technology works.
Why are Virgin getting on board with Hyperloop One?
It does seem a natural fit. Richard Branson said: “We’re incredibly excited about the technology behind Virgin Hyperloop One and the way it could transform passengers’ lives.
“Ever since our creation, Virgin has been known for disruption and investing in innovative companies.
“From our airlines to our trains to our spaceline, we have long been passionate about innovation in transport too, especially the development of technology that could transform people’s lives.”
The guys at Hyperloop One are equally excited. “We’ve focused on developing the technology required to make Hyperloop a reality and demonstrated that it works,” said Josh Giegel, co-founder and President of Engineering of Hyperloop One.
“The combination of our proven technology and Virgin’s expertise in transportation, operations, safety and passenger experience will accelerate the commercialization phase of our company’s development.
“Together with Virgin, we will not only transform how we live, we will rethink how it feels to travel by creating a passenger experience that people will enjoy and look forward to riding. Our goal is to make travel fun again.”
What are the benefits of Virgin Hyperloop One?
The first is speed. The incredible speeds the pods can achieve will see journey times tumble. They are estimating London to Edinburgh will take 50 minutes. The current journey time on a train is 4 hours 20 minutes.
The other benefit is that it should become an energy-efficient mode of transport. The system is all-electric and should be more eco-friendly than trains.
What are the drawbacks?
The technology is still in its infancy. First developed by Elon Musk the hyperloop technology is a giant open-source project. Apart from Virgin Hyperloop One, Musk is developing his own system and other companies are also developing the technology.
The biggest problem is paying for it. Not in developing the system, Branson and Musk have pretty deep pockets. But in deploying the system and building the infrastructure.
If we look at the UK is a hyperloop system really practical? The first question is where would you put it? In the mid-west of America or the deserts of the Gulf space wouldn’t be an issue.
But the densely populated and built up areas of the UK is another question altogether. Utilising the existing rail network would also be extremely difficult. The hyperloop tube diameter is 3.3 metres. Twice as wide as a single railway track. But no doubt Mr Branson has a cunning plan.
What happens next?
Well you won’t be catching the early morning pod to work just yet. The technology is still in its relative infancy. But a pod-based transport system of some description certainly seems inevitable within the next decade.