In 2013, Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, publicly announced his idea of a transport system similar to an underground train, but using airless tunnels and moving by electromagnetic levitation. This would avoid friction and resistence to the air, which in theory should produce higher speed and great energy efficiency. He baptised it with the name Hyperloop and instead of guarding the patent like a treasure, he put out a worldwide call for companies, researchers and institutions to become involved in developing it. In fact, he divulged technical details of the Hyperloop with a concept similar to free software (which anyone can adapt and use).
Among those who accepted the challenge was another charismatic entrepreneur: Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, who loved the idea of building a train based on vacuum tubes so much that he spent millions of dollars on Hyperloop One, which as a consequence he renamed with 'Virgin' in the front. Branson has now become the principal rival for Musk and his company Space X in the race to operate the first Hyperloop.
The Virgin Hyperloop One project has now assembled the capsule and developed the levitation and guidance system, the propulsion system, the tube, the creation of a vacuum and, last year, the capsule reached a speed of 387 kilometres an hour during testing in Nevada, although this is far lower than the 1,200 kilometres per hour which had been the objective. The company is working on several projects with a view to its commercial exploitation in the Middle East as well as European, India and the USA.
Branson and Musk are not the only ones competing in this race, either: other companies are doing the same, including the Chinese aerospace company, Casic.