Richard Branson is throwing his weight behind “the world’s most revolutionary train service.” The entrepreneur announced on Thursday that his Virgin Group has invested in Hyperloop One, a firm seeking to bring Elon Musk’s vacuum-sealed transport system to life, with a deal that sees the company renamed to Virgin Hyperloop One as part of a new strategic partnership.
“Ever since our creation, Virgin has been known for disruption and investing in innovative companies,” Branson said. “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. This is just the latest example. Importantly, Virgin Hyperloop One will be all-electric and the team is working on ensuing it is a responsible and sustainable form of transport too.”
It’s an exciting time for Virgin Hyperloop One. The company reports “a growing demand from governments and the private sector,” with projects underway in the United States, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, and India. The strategic partnership as a whole will focus on both passenger and mixed-use cargo services.
Branson has joined the board of directors of the newly-renamed company. He will work with the co-founders: Executive Chairman Shervin Pishevar and President of Engineering Josh Giegel, to advance the project onto its next steps. Giegel already had ties to Branson, as he was previously propulsion stage systems lead for Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Hyperloop One even has a new logo:
Since its founding in 2014, Hyperloop One keeps getting stronger. It was formed just a year after Musk first released his white paper for Hyperloop, where he detailed a vacuum-sealed tube that could enable pods to move at speeds of up to 700 miles per hour.
In March, it announced the completion of the “DevLoop,” a 1,640-feet tube in the Nevada desert.
“Earlier this summer I was fortunate to visit the site and see first-hand the exciting technology being tested,” Branson said. “I was very impressed and now look forward to helping turn this cutting edge engineering into a global passenger service.”
The tube, which is around 10 feet in diameter, has played host to a number of impressive records. In August, the company announced it had successfully run a Hyperloop pod at a speed of 192 mph. CEO Rob Lloyd said soon after the feat that it wasn’t even pushing the system to its limits.
“We can put more juice into the system, and we can hit 700 miles an hour,” Lloyd said. “The question is, do we want to do that now?”
The longest test lasted for 10.6 seconds. Peak acceleration reached 1.48Gs, the equivalent of 0 to 60 mph in 1.85 seconds. The longest distance traveled, 1,430 feet, pushed the “DevLoop” near its limits.
Following on from these feats, the company announced the 10 winners of its public route design competition in September, promising the teams that it would “commit meaningful business and engineering resources and work closely with each of the winning teams/routes to determine their commercial viability.” Of the winning routes, four were in the United States, two in the United Kingdom, one in Mexico, two in India, and one in Canada.
“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,” Giegel said. “Our goal is to make travel fun again.”