Virgin Hyperloop One sets new 240mph speed record

Sir Richard Branson takes up chairman’s role and brings in an extra $50m in funding

Virgin Hyperloop One
The record-breaking development carriage
(Image credit: Virgin Hyperloop One)

The futuristic transport firm Virgin Hyperloop One has completed a record-breaking 240mph run at the company’s test facility in the Nevada desert.

A development vehicle for the hi-tech transport system, which is magnetically propelled in near-vacuum tubes, is said to have reached a top speed of 240mph over a distance of just 1,600ft (500 metres), according to Wired.

This beats the official hyperloop speed record of 220mph, the tech site says. The record was set by the South African-born investor Elon Musk in the summer.

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Musk is the mastermind behind hyperloop technology in its current guise, but the SpaceX and Tesla founder is not associated with the Virgin Hyperloop One company.

Meanwhile, the California-based firm has named Sir Richard Branson as its non-executive chairman, reports Alphr, just two months after the British billionaire’s group invested £65m into Hyperloop One and added the Virgin moniker to the company’s name.

The appointment also comes with an additional $50m (£37m) investment, the website says. This brings the hi-tech transport firm’s total funding up to $295m (£220m) since its inception in 2014.

The lifeline has come at a critical time for Virgin Hyperloop One, says Engadget, as the company was running out of capital. Around 300 employees risked losing their jobs if more funding wasn’t found.

Virgin Hyperloop One hopes that by demonstrating how the technology can work – and transform passengers’ lives – it will attract more commercial deals over the next 12 months, the website says.

London to Edinburgh in 50 minutes: Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One

13 October

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has invested in the futuristic transport start-up Hyperloop One, whose high-speed technology could slash journey times between London and Edinburgh to just 50 minutes.

The investment, which is believed to be worth $85m (£65m), will see the Los Angeles-based transport firm rebranded as Virgin Hyperloop One, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Hyperloop technology is the “brainchild” of Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, the newspaper says, but the South African-born billionaire is not directly linked to the Hyperloop One firm.

Musk’s initial design for hyperloop technology appeared in a 2013 research paper that outlined his vision for a “rapid mass transport system with top speeds of 760mph”, says ZDNet.

Instead of running along tracks like a conventional passenger train, reports the website, the hyperloop system levitates above magnetic rails and travels through underground tubes in a “near-vacuum environment”.

However, Professor David Bailey of Aston Business School told BBC News that this was “unproven technology”. He said there was a “long way to go” before it could be used in the real world.

“But this deal will certainly help in terms of marketing and potentially attract further investors to come into the operation”, Bailey added.

Testing is well under way for Hyperloop One’s development system, says BBC News. It has so far reached a top speed of 192mph along a 500m low-pressure tube at the start-up’s test centre in the Nevada desert.

The firm’s “eventual goal” is to reach speeds of up to 650mph, the news site says. This is around 110mph shy of the target that Musk set for the technology four years ago.

Virgin says hyperloop techology is already seeing interest from the Middle East and Europe, as well as the US, Canada and India.

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