Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) trains are the first practical use of Magnetic Levitation Technology in vehicles.
In the present moment there are several countries working on the development of Magnetic Levitating trains: Japan and Germany were pioneers; USA and Australia are working in on it now. China, not being a pioneer, already has a magnetic levitating train from the airport of Shanghai to the city.
Magnetic Levitation and Propulsion: The trains are floating in a magnetic cushion about 3/8″ (1 cm) above its tracks. The propulsion is done by differential shifts in the lateral magnetic fields that generate a pull-push effect along the tracks.
Advantages of Maglev Trains
Speed: These trains can attain speeds of 250 mph easily (the speed of a jet aircraft).
- The Japanese Maglev’s last record was of 581 km/h, or 361 mph.
- The Shanghai MagLev Train can speed up to 431 km/h, or 268 mph.
No friction: The main reason behind the high speed of MagLev trains is the lack of friction forces among the mobile pieces. The lack of friction increases the mean life of the pieces reducing maintenance costs.
Ecology: ManLev trains don’t run on combustion engines, they don’t actually have an engine in the traditional sense. There are, then, no contaminating byproducts, i.e. no fossil pollution. The level of noise is also highly reduced.
Propulsion of New Technologies: The Japanese MagLev train uses superconduction as a main part of it technology. The need of obtaining high temperature superconduction sped up the research in the area of ceramic materials among other fields.
Disadvantages of Maglev Trains
Development Price: The construction of Maglevs is expensive in comparison to other transportation technologies. The estimated costs for the projected Los Angeles MagLev is $8.5 billion, to build a freeway would cost $2.4 billion instead.
Poor adaptability: Fast trains can run in slow lines, so the fast lines are being added to complement an already existing rail system. MagLev trains cannot do that and, as such, they cannot be inserted in the present railway structure. In zones like China or Australia where there is not a high density railway system, MagLev trains will probably be the best choice in the close future. In zones where the railway structure is highly developed like Western Europe, it won’t be worth it for a long time.