Richard Branson hints at Virgin electric car

Virgin Racing

 (Virgin Racing)

Richard Branson could be racing toward a showdown with Elon Musk.

At this past weekend’s Formula E electric car grand prix in Miami, the Virgin brands founder was asked by Bloomberg News where he was going with his participation in the series.

"We have teams of people working on electric cars," Branson answered. "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."

Branson was referring to his Virgin Galactic space tourism project, which suffered a setback last October when its SpaceShip Two suborbital aircraft crashed in the Mojave Desert during a test flight, claiming the life of one of the pilots on board and delaying the launch of customer rides indefinitely. Musk’s SpaceX builds rockets and cargo capsules for hire by government agencies and commercial customers, but also plans to expand to space tourism.

As for cars, teams in the Formula E championship currently use a spec, F1-style open wheel vehicle built through a partnership between Dallara, McLaren, and Williams Engineering with help from Renault, but over the coming years teams will be allowed to design and use their own electric motors and battery packs.

The Virgin Racing website proclaims that the reason it is competing in the series is to “accelerate the pace of development so that electric cars rapidly catch up with their petrol counterparts and replace them on the road.”

Currently, Formula E drivers have to switch cars in the middle of races, which last for about an hour each, because batteries with a capacity to go the full distance would be too large and heavy.

Halfway through the 2014-2015 season, Virgin Racing is third in the standings.