The moment Thomas Vareliette first picked up a wrench, he just wanted to build and take apart things. He wanted to understand exactly what made the machines around him work, and build his own. He was only a child, growing up in the South of France, but he never wanted to stop dismantling and rebuilding various products. He would record his findings, seeing if he could build it himself later. At the time it was just a game, he was too young to understand that he was, in a sense, beginning his engineering career, but he was always fueled by the idea of solving a challenge each and every day.
“I love to start a project from a blank piece of paper, develop my own ideas and translate them into weird engineering language in order to produce a physical product,” he said.
Vareliette has come a long way from that child with a fascination for building things. He is now recognized around the world for his talents as an electrical harness designer and systems engineer, using his extensive knowledge to aid a variety of industries and revolutionize tech. He is well-known in the world of motorsport for his vast contributions to Signatech Nissan, ORECA, SMP Racing, and Toyota Motorsport, working on many vehicles that won at prolific races such as 24 Hours of Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship.
More recently, Vareliette has entered the transportation industry, working on the groundbreaking Virgin Hyperloop, the high-speed vacuum train that can take a fraction of the travel time of previous methods of transportation.
“I’m working hard to improve the life of everyone in the world and this is a fundamental change in my career. This project makes it possible to offer new spaces for economic development in the future, respectful of the environment and constitutes a challenge in terms of technological innovations. At a time when the world is tempted to withdraw into oneself, this project on the contrary opens up new frontiers, new opportunities to show the world that this new mode of travel will provide concrete answers to the problems that are ours today,” said Vareliette.
As the manager of Electrical Harness, Vareliette played a key role in making history on November 8, 2020, when the first passengers traveled safely on a hyperloop at the facility’s test center in Nevada. One of his most difficult but rewarding tasks was to define, design and produce the Power Electronic Unit (PEU) for low voltage and high voltage harnesses, essentially allowing the train to move.
Vareliette came on board when the project was just about to go into its design phase. The electrical harnesses are one of the cornerstones of the system. To allow the transition to the test phase, the harnesses are necessary for the bogie to pass into a commissioning stage phase. This required rigor, a considerable investment in terms of commitment to the service of the project but also a new versatility induced by the organization and the very architecture of the company.
“When you design a harness, you must follow a strict process that will most likely consume a lot of time. When I worked on the Power Electronic Unit (PEU) project, I had to innovate with the standard engineering process by taking radical decisions. I skipped the 3D detailed design and 2D drawings at the beginning and decided to build a mockup and kick off the harness production earlier to enable the production of this beast. All my decisions helped us to start the testing program on time,” Vareliette explained.
Today, all the harnesses Vareliette designed and built for the Power Electronic Unit and the bogie have performed successfully, passing all the qualification testing without a single failure. It is a remarkable feat, and even more impressive to know he did all of this within five months. For Vareliette however, it isn’t about the recognition or accolades that have made this such an important project for him. Instead, it is about working to build a better future.
“Honestly, I don’t focus on success; what is important to me is that my work is 100% reliable. In this area where money is massively invested, where part of the future of travel is being built, I always look to the future based on the experience gained to improve myself further and achieve excellence. Resting on one’s laurels is not good for innovation,” he said.
The Virgin Hyperloop is pushing to launch to the public as soon as possible, but with people like Vareliette behind-the-scenes creating it, we can rest assured it will be extraordinary when it does.