The race to commercialise Elon Musk’s futuristic Hyperloop vacuum-tube transport system ramped up yesterday when it was announced that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group would invest in Hyperloop One, one of the companies set up to develop it.
Enthusing about the deal, airline and rail group owner Branson called Hyperloop One "the world’s most revolutionary train service" that could whizz passengers from Edinburgh to London in 50 minutes.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed but Branson takes a seat on the Hyperloop One board and the company will change its name to Virgin Hyperloop One.
Virgin and Hyperloop One will form a "global strategic partnership focused on passenger and mixed-use cargo service", said Hyperloop One co-founders Shervin Pishevar and Josh Giegel, who previously worked at Branson’s space exploration company, Virgin Galactic.
First proposed by Tesla’s Elon Musk in 2013, the Hyperloop concept sees magnetically-levitated pods rocketing through steel tubes maintained at a partial vacuum, reaching speeds approaching 760mph. Proponents believe it could replace short-haul travel between cities.
Hyperloop One is one of the two earliest start-ups formed to commercialise the concept, the other being Hyperloop Transport Technologies.
Now Virgin Hyperloop One, the company is considered to be ahead in the race, having built a test facility in Nevada and raised approximately $245m in various funding rounds.
Branson said the company’s test site in Nevada impressed him.
"Earlier this summer I was fortunate to visit the site and see first-hand the exciting technology being tested," he said in a blog. "I was very impressed and now look forward to helping turn this cutting edge engineering into a global passenger service."
He added: "During phase two of testing, the duration of the longest test has been 10.6 seconds, with the top speed of 192mph (310kmh) – or 86 metres per second. The maximum distance travelled is 436 metres, with a peak acceleration of 1.48 Gs – equal to 0 to 60mph in 1.85 seconds."
Photograph: Impressed by the test: airline and rail group mogul Sir Richard Branson was wowed by Hyperloop One’s Nevada test site (Virgin Group)