After Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Asia’s billionaire Mukesh Ambani has a new opponent – Elon Musk, the world’s richest man. It’s not a simple challenge. The billionaires are going to lock horns in the energy-transport sector. Mukesh Ambani has acquired a majority stake in the US company skyTran that develops pod taxi, for $25.76 million. In the future, the skyTran may become a challenge for Musk’s hyperloop project.
Mukesh Ambani invested in skyTran three years ago through Reliance’s subsidiary Reliance Strategic Business Ventures. The association began in October 2018 by acquiring a 12.7% stake in skyTran. In November 2019, the shareholding increased to 17.37%. In April 2020, Reliance made a third investment to increase its stake to 26.3 per cent. Right now, it has been risen from 26.3 per cent to 54.46 per cent to strengthen Reliance’s plans for eco – friendly transportation. skyTran enables carbon emission-free journeys in cities using magnetic power.
The concept of pod taxis in India was introduced in 2016 by Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari. In 2017, a panel led by NITI Aayog approved a proposal to test the transport system using pod taxis. New Zealand’s Metrino Personal Rapid Transit, UK’s Ultra Global PRT and US-based skyTran were shortlisted.
Hyperloop has three projects in the pipeline – the Mumbai-Pune, Bangalore Airport Connectivity and Delhi-Chandigarh. With Mukesh Ambani’s investment in skyTran, India will witness the big battle between the billionaires as both skyTran and Musk’s Hyperloop make pod taxis. The personal rapid transit is a small public transport facility. It consists of small automated vehicles that operate on a network of specially built tracks. Hyperloop and skyTran taxis can achieve speeds of up to 240 kilometres per hour on magnetic fields. Reliance mentions in its regulatory filing that skyTran has developed advanced magnetic levitation and propulsion technology to implement personalised transportation systems aimed at solving the problem of global traffic congestion. A few days before this new investment, Mukesh Ambani had announced that he would make batteries for electric vehicles similar to Elon Musk’s Tesla projects. Ambani is also planning projects in the transport and energy sectors on the same route as Musk.
Tesla derives most of its revenue from car manufacturing. The Tesla manufacturing plant has already begun in Bengaluru.
There is a striking difference between the two companies in terms of the technology application. The Hyperloop is great for travelling long distances within the city while skyTran focuses on intracity transport. Ambani’s skyTran and Musk’s Hyperloop might come face to face in India’s future pod taxi projects.