The futuristic Richard Branson-backed venture wants to sling you around at jet plane speeds inside magnetic pods.

By Eric Mack

Hyperloop, the futuristic bullet-train-in-a-tube concept originally conceived by Elon Musk, has had a makeover courtesy of Virgin Hyperloop. The company released the below concept video on Monday laying out its updated vision of electromagnetically propelled passenger pods whipping riders between cities at jet plane speeds. 

Think of hyperloop as a maglev train that runs inside a tube with a near-vacuum environment, thus eliminating almost all friction and air resistance, allowing for comfortable travel at speeds up to 670 miles per hour (1,070 kilometers per hour). Other conceptions for the technology, which is based on ideas for low-pressure travel dating back several decades and updated for the 21st century in an open-source white paper by Musk, have looked like a maglev train in a tube. 

Virgin’s take instead uses smaller pods that travel in caravans but can split off to deliver riders to different destinations. 

Virgin claims its battery-powered system is more efficient than today’s maglev trains and also creates no direct emissions contributing to climate change. The company is aiming for “carrying tens of thousands of passengers per hour, per direction, at airplane speeds.” CNET SCIENCE 

Of course, that reality is at least several years away. The company has said it would like to begin commercial operations in 2027, but there’s much to be done in terms of development, navigating government regulation and construction before any paying customers step into a hyperloop pod. 

The company did make history when two of its executives rode in a hyperloop on the company’s quarter-mile test track last November. 

Hyperloop could get another boost after being included in the trillion-dollar-plus infrastructure bill approved by the US Senate that’s set to be taken up by the House. For now, though, it remains a promising pipe, er… tube dream.