Sir Richard Branson (photo by Flickr user Stemoc)Enlarge Photo
Tesla Motors has been having one hell of a week. First, the electric car company was green-lighted to do business in New Jersey, then it unveiled "Range Assurance", a system that claims "to end range anxiety" for good.
But Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, may want to look over his shoulder. According to an interview with Bloomberg, serial entrepreneur and multi-bajillionaire Sir Richard Branson may be sneaking up on Musk in a stealthy electric car of his own devising.
The interview took place in the pit of a Formula E race in Miami, Florida. Formula E, as you might guess, is the all-electric sibling of petrol-powered Formula One, and Branson's Virgin brand is sponsoring one of ten teams competing for trophies during Formula E's inaugural year.
Although the technology underpinning Formula E racecars is highly specialized, Branson is no dummy. He understands that, once the technology is refined, it will likely have much broader applications.
Which is why, in response to a reporter's question about potential business opportunities associated with Virgin's Formula E team, Branson said this:
"Well, we've got Virgin racing engineering on the side of the cars, and we've got teams of people trying to develop and work on electric cars. So, you never know. You may well find Virgin competing with the Tesla in the car business as we do in the space business. We'll see what happens."
Which is, if we're reading this properly, the equivalent of saying, "I'm coming for you, Musk. I'm coming for you."
There's a reason that companies like Google and Apple are lining up to take on the challenge of electric cars.
It's not just the fact that those cars are going to be largely software-driven, and both Google and Apple have loads of software expertise. It's also the fact that developing electric vehicles is a huge challenge, and success will require significant capital investment. (A lack of capital contributed to Coda's lickety-split demise -- though admittedly, its cars were hideous.) Branson and Virgin may not have the same software empire at their disposal as Google and Apple, but they have some very, very deep pockets.
It's getting interesting, y'all.