Sir Branson Partners with Hyperloop as “Virgin Hyperloop One”

Will it be Enough to Get Hyperloop Back on Track?

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Ground announced that the company is heavily investing in Hyperloop One (HL1) and that he joined the board of directors of the company developing the super-fast pod, originally conceived by Elon Musk.

Now Hyperloop has rebranded itself as “Virgin Hyperloop One” (just in case there’s any confusion of course). This is a huge step for Hyperloop technology given that Branson is no newbie to transportations. His own West Coast Trains Limited connects over 18 million passengers via train car along the UK’s western main line. Shervin Pishevar, HL1 CEO, said this collaboration “feels like a natural fit” with plans to expand his vision from the U.S. to India. However, critics are skeptical on well…everything and believe the hyperloop fantasy is nothing more than pipe dreams. There may be validity in this presupposition as progress is curtailed and directions continue to change.

Towards the end of 2013, Elon Musk revealed his concept of a hyperloop train that could take passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30-45 minutes. Since than, the SpaceX billionaire has encouraged others to build on his original idea including college students and Pishevar. Inspired by Musk’s vision, you may remember HL1’s demonstration in the Nevada Desert during July of this year hitting speeds of up to 192 mph and a smaller demo earlier in the same month peaking at 70mph in just 5 seconds. Shortly before the second demonstration, Musk claimed that he had received verbal approval from the government to build his own hyperloop from New York City to Washington D.C. with stops in both Philadelphia and Baltimore. They plan to eventually have the trains hit a max speed of 250 mph.

The response from critics have been anything but enthusiastic. Despite HL1 backing nearly $1 billion in support, they have no viable product, revenue stream, or evidence that passengers can safely travel under such conditions. What they have is a theory that has failed the test of time. Musk’s original thesis of tubes on phylon supports has been rebuked out of engineering debates and the cost-effective tunnels are much more costly than expected. People have also voiced their uncertainty in voluntarily riding on a train that may not be safe. Moreover, Transit authorities from across the country along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said they were unaware of Musk’s plans. There’s good reasoning for that as zoning regulations and real estate for such a vague underdeveloped project isn’t something you jump into head first.

Nevertheless, Branson and Pishevar both are confident that they will have their first fully-functional hyperloop train system in place by 2021. Musk on the other hand is busy balancing the workload of Tesla and SpaceX while dedicating whatever time is left for his grand vision of a futuristic train that can zip passengers from here to there in lightning fast speeds. Do you think it’s possible and if so, will it be done by the anticipated launch date?

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