Saudi Arabia pulled its deal with Virgin Hyperloop One after the company’s chairman Richard Branson criticized the kingdom over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Financial Times reports.


Earlier this week, Branson said he was temporarily freezing his partnership with Saudi Arabia, which includes a planned investment in Branson’s space exploration ventures until more details are known about Khashoggi, who was reportedly killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey earlier this month. The Saudis were reportedly considering investing $1 billion in Branson’s business.

As a result, Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd and CTO Josh Giegel said they would not attend the Future Investment Initiative (FII), a massive conference colloquially known as “Davos in the Desert,” hosted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund on October 23rd through 25th. Other tech and financial executives have also pulled out of the conference.

At the start of 2018, the EPA reported that the average US fuel economy was 24.7 miles per gallon, and the journey between St. Louis and Kansas city is 248 miles along I-70. The current average price of fuel per gallon is $2.91, so if we do (248 / 24.7) x 2.91, the final figure is $29.21. That would mean that users could expect a ride in one direction to cost around $30.

One of the very first claims the company made was that trips on the Hyperloop would cost less than that of a bus. Greyhound’s prices for runs between St. Louis and Kansas City range between $22 and $65 depending on the date of travel. If our math is correct, give or take, the company is going to sail very close to its original target.

Another development at Virgin Hyperloop One is the conflicting reports about the company’s potential deals with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Financial Times is reporting that a planned deal has fallen through after Sir Richard Branson spoke out about the (alleged) killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

CNBC, however, refuted the claims, saying that Virgin Hyperloop One is still negotiating with the regime. The deal was due to be signed at a Saudi Arabian investment conference running between October 23rd – 25th. It remains to be seen if the deal is signed, but any such agreement may look unwise given the current political environment.