Japan's newest floating train is one blistering maglev

Nov 28, 2012 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org)—Japan intends to outdo itself, rendering the sleek bullet train system that won it fame in the 1960s toward becoming so "yesterday." You can now look forward to the upcoming marvels of floating trains. The country known for its fast and efficient rail lines this month draws fresh attention after recently unveiling a magnetic levitation train that can travel at speeds over 310 mph. Japan is looking beyond its bullet train system as rail developers seek to excel globally once again, by offering a next-generation, no-wheels maglev (magnetic levitation) system. The maglev trains are frictionless, faster and are quieter than trains that use wheels.

According to the , maglev are propelled by varying shifts in horizontal magnetic fields that alternately attract and repel along the rails.

Central Japan Railway Co (JR Tokai) designed the maglev trains, which are scheduled for use in 2027. Earlier this month, JR Tokai unveiled its Series L0 prototype that utilizes maglev technology; the train can float above the track and travel with very high speed. The front car of the Series L0 maglev is about 92 feet long of which 49 feet forms an aerodynamic nose section. Asahi Shimbun said the streamlined nose is similar to those on its bullet train counterparts, which reduces wind drag. Asahi Shimbun also said there will be 14 carriages including the cab car. The carriages have four seats abreast; the end car can accommodate 24 passengers, while other cars will hold 68.

The new trains that are scheduled to go into use in 2027 are to link Shinagawa Station, in central Tokyo, with Nagoya and will travel at about 311 mph. It takes 90 minutes for a conventional, speedy to complete the journey between the two stations. The new train would complete the same trip in 40 minutes. "Through the test runs, we will make final checks to ensure that commercial services are comfortable,' said head developer, Yasukazu Endo. The extended plan is to have the new trains connect Tokyo to Osaka by 2045, Japan is also looking at its train technology's export potential. There is a commercial system operating in China; the service is in place in Shanghai.

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antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2012
Just wondering if at those speeds it would be sensible to add ground effect capabilities to the aerodynamic package? Or would the increased drag offset the reduction in power needs for the levitation effect?
Sonhouse
not rated yet Nov 28, 2012
Looks to me like the front end would have a downward force from the shape of it and at 300 mph there wouldn't be much ground effect since it would only be a few inches off the rails if that.
javjav
4.5 / 5 (6) Nov 28, 2012
Just wondering if at those speeds it would be sensible to add ground effect capabilities to the aerodynamic package? Or would the increased drag offset the reduction in power needs for the levitation effect?


There is no need for ground effect. Superconducting materials and magnets create invisible magnetic rails all around the train, it really goes trough a magnetic tunnel where it can not derail. The only aerodynamic interest is to reduce wind drag. Using ground effect would only create the need for bigger magnets and superconductors as it would need to levitate more weight at high speeds.
antialias_physorg
3.3 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2012
as it would need to levitate more weight at high speeds.

I was thinking the exact opposite. At high speeds this would create lift and thereby reduce the needed size of the magnets

Actually I wouldn't reduce the size ofthe magnets because you can always have the case where the thing has to stop en route because of some emergency. And then it would be stuck on a part of the railway which could not create enough maglev to get it off the ground again. I was thinking more of needing less power for levitation at high speeds.

The increased drag would require more power for acceleration/maintaining speed. I was wondering whether the power savings for less levitation would be greater than the extra cost for more acceleration.
javjav
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 28, 2012
I was thinking more of needing less power for levitation at high speeds.

Power is not the issue, it does not work like that. Once the magnetic field has been created and the train placed on position the levitation system does not need to be "powered" anymore, this is the advantage of superconductors (you still need to accelerate the train and to keep the superconductor cooled, but no power is needed to keep levitation )

The increased drag would require more power for acceleration/maintaining speed. I was wondering whether the power savings for less levitation would be greater than the extra cost for more acceleration.
There would be no direct power savings in the levitation aspect as I said. Although it could permit smaller magnets and need less superconductor material (it has a limit on magnetic field intensity), which also decreases cooling needs. But air drag for sustentation would be high as the train is heavy, and security would be highly reduced (easier derail)
Birger
5 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2012
The high cost for the track means this train will be reserved for places with a very high population density.
This would include much of Japan, considerable parts of Europe, maybe the American Eastern Seaboard -what William Gibson called the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis (aka The Sprawl) in his near-future novels.
.
Extending such a network westwards to Cleveland or Chicago, or southwest to Houston might be hard to justify considering the high cost.
despinos
2.4 / 5 (5) Nov 28, 2012
Beautiful design.

I guess that if we get invaded by giant aliens, they will use it to fit their shoes... ;-)
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2012
Once the magnetic field has been created and the train placed on position the levitation system does not need to be "powered" anymore

The magnetic exclusion isn't arbitrarily strong. If you put enough force (in this case weight) on it the material will connect and the superconductivity will eventually break down. (Otherwise you could create a perpetuum mobile out of such an infinite exclusion superconductor).

While it is true that you only need to induce the current once for a specific weight at a specific point of the rail you would need to induce less if the load were less. And that current comes from somewhere (i.e. somewhere where resistance/losses do matter)
Lurker2358
1.2 / 5 (17) Nov 28, 2012
The high cost for the track means this train will be reserved for places with a very high population density.
This would include much of Japan, considerable parts of Europe, maybe the American Eastern Seaboard -what William Gibson called the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis (aka The Sprawl) in his near-future novels.
.
Extending such a network westwards to Cleveland or Chicago, or southwest to Houston might be hard to justify considering the high cost.


The stupid thing about ultra-fast railways is they don't actually make much sense unless the train is going to be travelling a very long distance between stops.

Additionally, energy cost goes up as a quadratic with velocity. we all know this.

The train will probably end up running at half speed or less to save on energy costs.
IronhorseA
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 28, 2012
Just wondering if at those speeds it would be sensible to add ground effect capabilities to the aerodynamic package? Or would the increased drag offset the reduction in power needs for the levitation effect?


I would be more concerned with winds hitting the train perpendicular to the direction of travel. The bigger the surface area, ie. the longer the train, the greater the force for any given wind speed. Cross ways aerodynamics and wind mitigation should be as much if not more important than its directional aerodynamics.
drhoo
3 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2012
The article doesn't mention superconducting magnets (which have significant engineering costs ) so regular lossy electromagnets are probably used.

A system that creates upward force due to travel along the rails could be done but the energy cost would hinge on how conductive the moving target conductors are ( probably be copper ) which would also be the material in the electromagnets.
So maybe it would be a wash in terms of energy savings.
javjav
5 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2012
[The train will probably end up running at half speed or less to save on energy costs.
No, to start with the cost of the infrastructure is the same, energy cost is not even comparable. And passengers will only pay for the higher infrastructure cost if it takes half time.
Second, the required energy is less than for traditional high speed trains, even if it goes at double speed, because the wheels friction is avoided and it is a key factor. The air front resistance is not too relevant if the train is longh enough
atomsk
3 / 5 (5) Nov 28, 2012
Just wondering if at those speeds it would be sensible to add ground effect capabilities to the aerodynamic package? Or would the increased drag offset the reduction in power needs for the levitation effect?


From Wikipedia:
The power needed for levitation is typically not a large percentage of the overall energy consumption;[2] most of the power is used to overcome air resistance (drag), as with any other high-speed form of transport

...sounds to me like reducing air resistance as much as possible is more important.
dschlink
not rated yet Nov 28, 2012
The last thing you want to do at these speeds is go into ground effect. The hard part is keeping the train down. The design being used will push the train down harder as speed increases. The smaller the gap, the better the control.
maxb500_live_nl
1.5 / 5 (11) Nov 28, 2012
For anyone here who doesn't know, the Germans (see youtube rapid transit) have been developing and testing a better maglev (less costly, improved safety) version for decades. China has bought the first one and it is operating it at Shanghai since 2004 at 450 Kp/h top speed. It could easily go over 550 kp/h now with all the lessons learned. The fact is even China mostly opted for normal rail because Maglev and especially this Japanese version is insanely expensive.

Just ask yourself. Do you really want to spend 20% of a nations annual gdp on an eleborate maglev system with already quickly rising cost in healthcare and housing because of an aging population and increased global demand for materials. Thats not a good investment at all by a long shot. The painful fact here is that Japan is desperate for more export products with it's quickly rising debt and failing companies. And even those older Japanese trains never sold well compared to European counterparts from France and Germany.
javjav
5 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2012
Just ask yourself. Do you really want to spend 20% of a nations annual gdp on an eleborate maglev system
20% gdp? really ? where is that number coming from?
High speed trains can substitute in land regional flights. It is already competing with flights in countries with well developed high speed train networks like Spain (not a rich country BTW, but they dedicate less than 1% gdp anually, and it is already a profitable business), although higher speeds are needed for a substituting all regional flights (which should be possible with maglevs ). If combined with clean renewable energies (which is not possible with planes, but it is with trains) they can help to develop a cleaner sustainable economy.
VendicarD
1 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2012
His Ass. Where else do Assholes get their information?

"20% gdp? really ? where is that number coming from?" - JavJav
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2012
For anyone here who doesn't know, the Germans (see youtube rapid transit) have been developing and testing a better maglev (less costly, improved safety) version for decades.

Unfortunately it was all but scrapped (a real shame. It looked awesome. There's a full scale version in a museum in Bonn where I used to work)

Problem is that trains only have a large advantage over planes if they can go right to the city center (and maglevs also aren't useful for freight, so they can't replace conventional trains. Also there's noise and EM radiation issues.). Maglevs require substantial new building - and it's basically impossible to lay down such tracks to any city center in germany.

Other countries (China, Japan, etc.) have a more 'robust' approach to this. They'll just order the stuff built and the houses that are in the way knocked down. They tried that in germany and got bogged down in endless legal battles until they gave up.
Mannstein
not rated yet Nov 28, 2012
The Greens were responsible for stopping the project which was to connect Hamburg with Berlin.
rah
1.7 / 5 (11) Nov 28, 2012
Yeah? Well, the US is investing billions in a train that will go 110 mph..one day..in the future
Eric_B
1 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2012
If combined with clean renewable energies (which is not possible with planes, but it is with trains) -javjav

a plane could run on hydrogen...
VendicarD
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2012
Laughably pathetic isn't it?

"US is investing billions in a train that will go 110 mph..one day..in the future" - Rah

America is taking it's last gasps of air due to a teminal case of
Republican disease.
JohnAnderson2012
1.4 / 5 (10) Nov 29, 2012
"America is taking it's last gasps of air due to a teminal case of
Republican disease."

Don't worry, the Dems will kill us all first with their liberal immigration policies.
Tri-ring
5 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2012
The Chuo Shinkansen route will be approx.70% through tunnels. That is the main reason for high cost as for the route to city center, yes you guessed it will be underground at around 45 meters deep through a tunnel so Japan is not going to be demolishing buildings to build this thing as someone suggests.

As for levatating it's only starts after it hits the 100Km/h mark. At lower speeds it runs on wheels. This is because of magnetic induction by the four super-conductive magnets on each car and the coils situated on the guideway. The magnetic strength to levitate the train only reaches the level when it hits 100Km/h.
cdt
not rated yet Nov 29, 2012
An important additional piece of information missing from the article. The maglev train is being funded almost entirely by the private rail company that runs the bullet train between the same stations, meaning this is a business decision by a company that expects to make a profit from the venture. I believe the train will have 3 stops along the way for the "local" service, though as with the current bullet train the majority of the trains probably won't stop at these stations.

Costs are are actually kept down by building underground -- they don't have to pay for the land if they are deep enough, and land costs can become exorbitant. Especially in the cities they are serving. Average land prices in Tokyo run around $6000 per square meter. For a 6 meter wide dual track, that comes to $36,000,000 per km.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Nov 29, 2012
The Greens were responsible for stopping the project which was to connect Hamburg with Berlin.

The project that stopped it was actually the connection between Munich airport and Munich city center. The simulations showed that there would have been no economic benefit whatsoever (rather a 20 million Euro loss per year - and this isn't including the initial investments which would have never been recouped. The maglev would also have used 4 times as much energy as the current subway connection).
So from a technical standpoint it's a shame it never got built. On the other hand: stuff needs to be at least have a chance of becoming economically viable in the long term.

Of historical note: the first patent in germany for a maglev was issued in 1920. So it's not exactly a new technlogy. The planned test-track was never built at the time because WWII got in the way.
Chris Miller
not rated yet Nov 29, 2012
Well! How refreshing to read an article on this with comments from people who actually understand the concept! (Let alone an article that actually gets the explanations right.) It is astounding how often (i.e. most of the time) articles get it completely wrong when trying to explain how maglev works, or mix up one maglev technology with another. And then readers simply don't get it and think this is the same as ordinary high speed rail...
VendicarD
5 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2012
Odd isn't it that it is the Conservative Libertarians who advocate complete and open borders without any restrictions on the movement of people or goods.

Would you like me to quote the relevant sections of the Libertarian Party Platform to you?

"Don't worry, the Dems will kill us all first with their liberal immigration policies." - JohnieBoy.
Shootist
1 / 5 (10) Dec 01, 2012
Yeah? Well, the US is investing billions in a train that will go 110 mph..one day..in the future


not going to happen.
Duude
1 / 5 (10) Dec 01, 2012
Japan has a debt to GDP ratio in excess of 2X. They have no immigration policy and couples replicate at less than 1/2 a child per couple while their country has the highest average age of any country in the world. By 2040, Japan will have declined into third world country status, yet they want to field an upgraded bullet train? This is the opposite of thinking ahead.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2012
Don't worry, the Dems will kill us all first with their liberal immigration policies.
How will that occur when US conservatives are in the bottom quartile of world IQ?