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Is Superbus the future of public transport?

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Richard Branson takes a spin in prototype designed to transform commuting
  • It's designed to reach speeds of 250 kph and transport passengers in comfort
  • Creator says electric "Superbus" was designed to make public transport "sexy"

(CNN) -- Richard Branson loves it, says Wubbo Ockels, former astronaut and creator of the super-fast, super-long Superbus.

And he's not the only one.

"We've had interest from Las Vegas. We also had interest from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Netherlands," Ockels said.

The 15 meter-long (50 feet) Superbus is a new spin on public transport that aims to match the speed and comfort of a train while offering the flexibility and convenience of the car.

It has a top speed of 250 kph (155 mph) and Ockels envisions it running on a dedicated highway. But it's not just high-speed transport from A to B, Ockels says -- the Superbus can also use normal roads at normal speeds.

Public transport has to be exciting. You want to say,'well, I have a car but today I'm going to take the Superbus instead.'
Antonia Terzi, Superbus chief designer

What's more, it's powered by electricity, which was central to the vision of its chief designer Antonia Terzi.

"What inspired me was the concept that it was a sustainable, new type of transport," Terzi said.

"Public transport has to be exciting. You want to say 'well, I have a car but today I'm going to take the Superbus instead,'" she added.

A former Formula One aerodynamicist, Terzi has incorporated hydraulic cylinders in the design so that the car can sit just 7cm off the ground when traveling at high speed, rising to a height of 43cm when it uses normal roads in towns and cities.

Rear-wheel steering helps the Superbus achieve a 24-meter turning circle, going easily around a roundabout, says Terzi.

After taking a ride earlier this month, 61-year-old Branson commented on his blog that he thinks the Superbus could take on the train business one day, matching it for speed while trumping its convenience by dropping commuters off at their front door.

Ockels says he wanted to create something sexy, and something that makes you feel powerful when you are inside, but most of all something that could compete with the car.

He hopes to have the vehicle on the roads within five years.

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