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Magnetic Levitation, or Maglev

Ever wonder what happened to the jet packs, that was going to have us jetting
through the air like the Jetsons? Well, turns out they couldn’t get past the
20 second fuel limit. Then there was the monorail, or the updated version, the
maglev. Those futuristic, sleek, cool trains that glide almost silently over
head atop modern concrete superstructures.

A traditional train has metal wheels that ride on steel tracks, but a train that
uses magnetic levitation (a maglev train) moves without touching the track.
Maglev is an advanced transportation technology in which magnetic forces lift,
propel, and guide a vehicle over a specially designed guideway.

This method has the potential to be faster, quieter and smoother than wheeled
mass transit systems, potentially reaching velocities comparable to turboprop
and jet aircraft (900 km/h, 600 mph). The highest recorded speed of a maglev
train is 581 km/h (361 mph), achieved in Japan in 2003.

There are two primary types of maglev technology:

EMS  (electromagnetic suspension) – uses the attractive magnetic force of a
magnet beneath a rail to lift the train up.

EDS  (electrodynamic suspension)  – uses a repulsive force between two magnetic
fields to push the train away from the rail.

Each involves advantages and disadvantages. Time will tell us which principle,
and whose implementation, wins out commercially.

The high speed of some maglev trains translates to more sound due to air
displacement, which gets louder as the trains go faster. At low speeds, however,
maglev trains are nearly silent.

The low-speed maglev (100 km/h) Japanese Linimo HSST, cost approximately (US)$100
million/km to build. Besides offering improved operation and maintenance costs
over other transit systems, these low-speed maglevs provide ultra-high levels of
operational reliability and introduce little noise and zero air pollution into
dense urban settings.

These costs compare competitively with airport construction (e.g., Hong Kong
Airport cost (US)$20 billion to build in 1998) and eight-lane Interstate highway
systems that cost around $50 million per mile ($31 million per kilometer) in the

At a time when people find road travel increasingly expensive and air travel
close to high priced torture. Why would an environmentally safe alternative mode
of transportation such as the maglev not be seriously considered? Probably because
the powers that be deem it to be too expensive to build verses the profit return.
But, The car manufacturers and big oil companies don’t build our roads. Nor does
the airlines build the airports. Those infrastructures are compliments of the
taxpayer. So make it a government subsidy, no profit, big deal, as long as it
pays for itself, we are all better for it and so is our planet.

While high-speed maglevs are expensive to build, they are less expensive to
operate and maintain than traditional high-speed trains, planes or intercity
buses. Data from the Shanghai maglev project indicates that operation and
maintenance costs are covered by the current relatively low volume of 7,000
passengers per day.

As maglev systems are deployed around the world, experts expect construction
costs to drop as new construction methods are perfected.

So, let a dream from the 60’s, become a reality now. It was a good idea then,
it is a great solution for so many reasons today. Not the least of which is
Earth can breathe a little easier.

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  1. levitation Says:

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