Virgin Hyperloop is scrapping plans to carry passengers with its Hyperloop transportation system and will instead focus on cargo hauling, the Financial Times reported.
Last week, the Richard Branson-backed company also laid off 111 employees, according to the report. In a statement to the Financial Times, Virgin Hyperloop said the layoffs will help the company operate more efficiently and respond to global supply chain issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Founded as Hyperloop One before an investment from Branson, Virgin Hyperloop has already conducted tests with passengers at a test track near Las Vegas. It previously said a full-scale Hyperloop would use pods capable of carrying 28 passengers, as well as cargo pods.
Virgin Hyperloop One test track in Nevada
Virgin Hyperloop is one of several companies aiming to build a Hyperloop transportation system. First proposed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a 2013 white paper, the Hyperloop consists of a sealed low-pressure tube and pod-like vehicles propelled by magnetic levitation.
The low pressure inside the tube theoretically allows extremely high speeds. In his 2013 white paper, Elon Musk mentioned speeds of up to 800 mph. Virgin Hyperloop has also said its technology is 10 times more energy efficient than air travel, and four times more efficient than rail.
However, the Hyperloop concept still comes with many unanswered questions, including how to evacuate passengers quickly in an emergency, and how to address the extreme g-forces from accelerating up to 800 mph and back to a stop. The cost of building a commercial-scale Hyperloop would likely be significant as well, and securing the necessary land could prove challenging. Those issues have stymied high-speed rail projects in the U.S. for decades.