When thinking of locations for high-tech innovations, West Virginia isn’t very high on the list. However, Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop is about to change that. The company has just selected West Virginia as the location for a $500 million certification center that will allow it to continue testing the future of high-speed transportation.
Despite the efforts of Elon Musk and his Boring Company, there is still no functional hyperloop system anywhere in the world.
Although an operational hyperloop is still years away, Virgin’s move to build a massive test facility in West Virginia is a good starting place.
Richard Branson is a man of many pursuits. As the founder of Virgin Group, he has been associated with everything from publishing to aerospace and healthcare to hyperloops. In reality, it’s hard to find a sector that Virgin hasn’t touched since its inception in 1970.
The group purchased Hyperloop One in 2017 with hopes of getting ahead of the high-speed transportation industry.
In recent days, seventeen states have been competing to host the company’s massive test facility. In a statement, Branson says, “The Hyperloop Certification Center is the start of the hyperloop journey for West Virginia, for the United States, and for the world. We’re one step closer to making hyperloop travel a reality for people everywhere.”
For those who aren’t familiar, the concept of a hyperloop involves a closed system of tubes that allow hovering transport pods to travel at incredibly high speeds thanks to limited air resistance and friction. Proposed systems typically use magnets to levitate pods in the air while propelling them through the tube.
Currently, Virgin operates a Hyperloop test facility just north of Las Vegas. Ironically, that is where Musk’s Boring Company is attempting to create a fully operational transport system of its own. Rather than testing in the desert, Musk’s firm is tunneling under the city to create a working loop between high-traffic attractions.
Virgin has reportedly achieved speeds of 240 mph with its levitating pod at the Las Vegas test facility. It says that a much longer system is needed to reach the theoretical 700 mph benchmark that many people believe hyperloops will be capable of.
West Virginia will be home to Virgin Hyperloop’s operations in the coming years. However, it isn’t the only location going all-in on hyperloop technology. The company received $172 million in new funding last year. Notably, $90 million came from DP World, a port operator in Dubai.
Meanwhile, Virgin is currently planning its first functional hyperloop project. It won’t be located in the U.S.
Rather, the system will be constructed in the western district of Maharashtra, India. Virgin plans to have the system’s safety certified so that passengers will be able to ride. The project is reportedly worth several billion dollars.
Of course, the first steps will occur closer to home. As Virgin plans to break ground on its new test facility in West Virginia, it will be interesting to keep an eye on its advancements.