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What are Maglev Trains?

Michael Anissimov
Updated May 23, 2024
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Maglev trains are trains that levitate about 10 mm off the tracks using repulsive electromagnets on both the tracks and the train itself. This levitation greatly reduces friction, potentially allowing the train to move faster and consume less power than it would otherwise. There are no regularly used maglev trains, though test tracks have been built in Germany, the USA, and Japan; including the MLX01, located in Japan, which is the fastest train ever built at 550km/h (344 mph). There are plans for a maglev railway in Germany called Transrapid, set to link Berlin and Hamburg by 2009, but political roadblocks have slowed the process.

One problem with maglev trains is their high cost. The price of all that electromagnetic material begins to add up, especially with longer tracks, and the improvement gain rarely seems to make up for the extra cost. Tracks have to be wider than those of conventional trains, to provide enough surface area for the repulsive force to support the train. A large benefit of these trains is that they have fewer moving parts than conventional trains, including a lack of wheels, meaning that maintenance requirements are significantly cut back.

Maglev trains have been theoretically possible for as long as there have been trains and magnets, but they haven't actually been implemented until the 1960s, when Japan built a test track. Britain installed a track at an airport around the same time, but it was replaced by a bus system due to the difficulty of procuring spare parts. It is questionable whether or not these trains are commercially viable at this time. As Germany is the only country with actual plans to implement a commercial system, and interest in the US has waned, Germany will be the world's testing ground for maglev trains.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated WikiMotors contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
By Fiorite — On Dec 20, 2010

@ FrameMaker- I live in Ohio and we were supposed to get a large chunk of federal funding for a high-speed rail that would connect Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Governor elect Kasich just gave away $400 million in funding for this rail system, it would have given me, and countless others, an alternative to driving or flying between the cities, and it would have put thousands of Ohioans to work in a state that desperately needs jobs. Sometimes I hate how political jockeying costs constituents security. Now California, Illinois, and Florida will get most of that money.

At least we aren't the only state that lost big. Wisconsin gave up twice as much on a line that would have created a regional powerhouse; connecting St Louis, Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee with a 120 mph rail line. We need to focus our resources on updating our infrastructure to match that of the rest of the world. The rest of the developed world and half of the developing world (China) have high-speed rail as an efficient means of moving people across their nations.

By FrameMaker — On Dec 18, 2010

The cost of maglev trains may be restrictive, but I think high-speed rail is a great idea. It is definitely a sustainable part of future transportation. With the unstable costs of jet fuel, and no reliable alternative for these fuels, high-speed rail looks like a tempting alternative linking the major business hubs of this country. It may not be the best option for long distance and cross-country travel, but a train that travels 600 miles in 2.5 hours will be much faster, and better than taking a plane.

Imagine taking a business trip from Phoenix to Denver, Los Angeles to San Francisco, or Vegas to L.A without having to go through the lengthy check-ins, Tarmac delays, and concerns for weather and wind. The overall length of time spent traveling would be much shorter, and the hassle, discomfort, and cost would be less. Who would oppose this besides those invested in the airline industry?

By anon82303 — On May 05, 2010

i think this has greatly helped me with my user knowledge on maglev trains. this would possibly give me a level six for my app task assessment. Thank you.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated WikiMotors contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology,...
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