Billionaire Buddy: Richard Branson shows admiration for Elon Musk, Tesla, and an electric vehicle future

Billionaire business maverick Richard Branson has always had a thing for electric vehicles, Elon Musk, and Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA]. Branson, founder of the iconic Virgin Group, has been quite vocal about his admiration for Tesla in the past. He's hosted a Google Hangout session with Elon Musk on entrepreneurship and written about Tesla multiple times on Virgin's blog. Case in point: back when Musk opened Tesla's patents, Branson wrote, "Very impressed by the news that electric car company, Tesla Motors have frozen their patent portfolio to help accelerate sustainable transport... Elon is a good friend of mine. I hope many more entrepreneurs follow his spirit of ingenuity and initiative." 

Both billionaires have related interests as well. Musk's SpaceX and Branson's Virgin Galactic share common ground. The two aerospace companies have been working towards a global satellite internet strategy. Branson even expressed interest in partnering up Virgin Galactic's OneWeb initiative with Musk's SpaceX: "If Elon wants to get into this area, the logical thing for him would be to tie up with us, and if I were a betting man, I would say the chances of us working together rather than separately would be much higher."

And last year, while Branson's Virgin Racing team was competing in the all-electric Formula E race, he caused a stir when he remarked, "Tesla is as sexy as any other car on the road today... We have teams of people working on electric cars. So you never know, you may find Virgin competing with the Tesla in the car business as we do in the space business." But Branson later backtracked when he took to the Virgin blog and wrote, "There have been lots of stories about yours truly starting an electric car company to rival Tesla, which are slightly wide of the mark for the moment. I have huge admiration for what Elon Musk and his team have done to develop and highlight the potential of electric cars."

This past week, Branson was, once again, at the all-electric Formula E race with his Virgin Racing team. And in an interview with CNN* [see below], Branson made another bold statement showing his unwavering support for the electric vehicle movement: "Formula E is pushing the boundaries forward into what will be the future. Fifteen years from now, I suspect every car on the road will be electric."

Above: Virgin's Richard Branson discusses an electric vehicle future (Source: CNN*)

Earlier in the day at an Innovation Summit, Branson explained how this electric vehicle future could come to pass, "If governments set the ground rules -- and they sometimes have to be brave and set positive ground rules -- and for instance said, 'more than 50% of cars must be battery-driven in 10 years and 100% in 15 years,' we could make that happen. It will be great fun and really challenging to do. The cars would be much more efficient... and battery technology will get better and better."

In an attempt to put Branson's bold assertions into some context, CNN noted, "Cumulative sales of electric vehicles (EVs) passed one million last year... but the number of electric cars around the globe is still low, with the International Energy Agency [IEA] calculating that they accounted for just 0.1% of the total number of passenger cars on the road worldwide in 2015." To illustrate the IEA's findings relative to electric vehicles, check out CNN's handy infographic (see below). Regardless of how fast electric vehicles charge into the future, it's fantastic to see Virgin's Richard Branson pushing for a world with more electric cars. 


*Source: CNN (Infographic above based on findings from the International Energy Agency's Global EV Outlook 2016)