Richard Branson: Virgin has a team working on electric cars

Richard Branson has hinted that his Virgin empire may eventually expand into the world of electric cars in the past, but he confirmed this week that he has a team of people working on them. 'You may find Virgin competing with the Tesla in the car business as we do in the space business,' Branson said. 

Javier Galeano/Reuters/File
Richard Branson speaks with a member of Virgin Racing Formula-E team working on the cars in the garage during the FIA Formula E Championship in Miami on March 14.

British billionaire Richard Branson has hinted that his Virgin empire may eventually expand into the world of electric cars, sparking speculation that it may not be just Apple and Google posing a threat to the standalone car brands. Speaking to Bloomberg at the recent Formula E electric car race in Miami, a competition in which Virgin competes under the Virgin Racing banner, Branson confirmed that he had people working on electric cars.

"We have teams of people working on electric cars," Branson replied when quizzed about Virgin’s participation in the Formula E Championship. "So you never know—you may find Virgin competing with the Tesla in the car business as we do in the space business."

Branson’s mention of the “space business” is a reference to the Virgin Galactic operation, which is aiming to be the first to offer commercial sub-orbital space flights. Beyond Virgin Galactic, the Virgin empire also operates in the train and aviation industries, and soon it will start offering trips on cruise ships. There’s also the Virgin Green Fund, which was established to explore alternative fuel sources, so perhaps it wouldn't be so strange to see Virgin expand into cars next.

However, Branson concedes that even surpassing a small player such as TeslaMotors [NSDQ:TSLA] won’t be easy, stating: “Tesla is as sexy as any other car on the road today."

Google has made clear its intention to develop a fully autonomous car, which may not even feature any steering wheel or pedals. The search engine giant is currently testing prototypes. Apple hasn’t announced any plans for a car but has been poaching numerous engineers from the car and battery industries.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.