How much weight can you place on a few words spoken in an unguarded moment during an informal press interview? If the speaker is billionaire Richard Branson, the answer is, “Quite a lot.”
Branson was in Miami last week to watch his Virgin Racing team compete in the 5th round of the Formula E championship. He happened to be speaking with a reporter from Bloomberg News who asked him what racing in Formula E might lead to. Branson replied with this unscripted, off hand remark (via Bloomberg):
“We have teams of people working on electric cars. So you never know. You may find Virgin competing with the Tesla in the car business as we do in the space business. We will see what happens.”
It’s true that Branson’s Virgin Galactic company is working hard on commercial space flight, as is Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation. He’s also big into renewable energy these days. It’s not unusual for billionaires to compete fiercely with each other as a way of measuring their power, influence and manhood. Perhaps the irrepressible Branson is miffed that Musk is enjoying so much success in the car business with Tesla and just wants to divert the media attention his way a little bit.
Anything is possible, but one thing is for sure. If Richard Branson wants to jump into the car business, he has the means to do so. He is no stranger to challenges such as being the first man to travel around the world in a helium balloon. If he says “Do it!”, it will be done.
For the present season, Formula E rules do not allow any variations in motors, batteries, inverters. gearboxes or cooling systems. But starting next year, development of motors, inverters and gearboxes will be allowed and the following year, improved batteries will be permitted. So Branson and Virgin Racing will need to have some very talented engineers to remain competitive with the rest of the field. Could those same engineers be put to work on building a passenger car or two?
What do you think?