Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has made a substantial investment in Hyperloop One, one of the companies pursuing Elon Musk’s dream of high speed transportation by sending pods through tubes that have a partial vacuum to reduce aerodynamic resistance.
How much money did Sir Richard throw into the pot? No one is saying precisely, but it was enough to get the company name changed to Virgin Hyperloop One. Hyperloop One says it completed an $85 million funding round in September, bringing the total investment in the company since its founding in 2014 to $245 million.
“This is an incredibly innovative and exciting new way to move people and things at airline speeds on the ground,” Branson said in a prepared statement. “With Virgin Hyperloop One, passengers and cargo will be 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. We’re incredibly excited about the technology behind Virgin Hyperloop One and the way it could transform passengers’ lives.”
Josh Giegel, co-founder of Hyperloop One, said “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.”
The whole idea sprang full blown into Elon’s brain one day while sitting stranded in Los Angeles traffic. “There has to be a better way,” the great man reasoned. The result is sort of like the devices used at drive up bank windows to whisk your money back and forth between you and the teller inside.
Not everyone thinks the idea is realistic. Some transportation engineers question whether enough thought has been given to how to stop the pods from high speed in the event of an emergency or make them round corners without giving passengers vertigo. Then the question arises whether people will be comfortable riding inside a sealed, windowless conveyance with no windows. Certainly those with claustrophobia may balk at the idea.
Speaking in July after the completion of a Hyperloop One’s technology test, Philippa Oldham, head of transport and manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said, “As an engineer, there still seems to be some gaps in the information regarding the risks and safety of the system itself. There remains a challenge of cost both in terms of design, production and maintainability with figures initially quoted from the team already escalating.”
She went on to say, “As the distance of the trials increase there will be many engineering problems to solve including that of managing track alignment. In the UK we would not be able to use any existing transport corridors at these speeds due to their lateral curvature. In addition, travelling at those speeds means that any fault in the system would mean everyone on board would die.”
Not to worry, Phillipa. People and cites around the world are rushing to get in on the Hyperloop goodness. Just this week, a group of civic leaders has proposed to begin a feasibility study focused on building a hyperloop between St. Louis and Kansas City.
Branson was present at that test in the Nevada in July and was energized by the experience, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I was very impressed and now look forward to helping turn this cutting-edge engineering into a global passenger service,” he said. He believes a hyperloop system could become a reality in “between two and four years if governments move quickly” to approve it. Perhaps there are a few things Sir Richard does not yet fully understand about governments.
Source: The Guardian