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Is Richard Branson's Virgin Empire Gearing Up to Take on Tesla?

20 Mars 2015 - Automotive News

Is Richard Branson's Virgin Empire Gearing Up to Take on Tesla?

Richard Branson has slapped his Virgin brand on trains, planes, spacecraft, and (soon) cruise ships. Are cars next?

Branson is a publicity-loving billionaire who loves fast things. This week he was in Miami, where his Virgin Racing team competed in the all-electric Formula E race. It's a Formula 1 spin-off that features battery-powered race cars capable of going from zero to 60 miles per hour in three seconds.

Bloomberg TV tracked Branson down at the Virgin garage in Miami and popped the question: Where is Virgin going with this?

"We have teams of people working on electric cars," Branson said. "So you never know—you may find Virgin competing with the Tesla in the car business as we do in the space business. We will see what happens."

Formula E is the world’s first international, all-electric racing event. It's purpose is to push the edges of electric-cars technology in races from Beijing to Monte Carlo. The cars are virtually silent, at least when compared to the roar of Formula 1. But while they're fast off the start, right now they max out at 160 miles per hour.

Branson isn't the only one flirting with electric cars. Apple has been working secretly on an electric vehicle, which may be ready for production as early as 2020. Google is building one that drives itself. And nearly every major carmaker either has an electric vehicle in production or is working on one.

But just as Elon Musk has led the private space race, it's his Tesla that's setting the standard for electric-vehicle innovation. Even Branson admits it: "Tesla is as sexy as any other car on the road today."

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