Japanese maglev train begins public testing, buzzes peaceful countryside at 313 mph


The longest, largest, and fastest maglev train in the world, situated at the Yamanashi test track in Japan, has restarted public testing. The test track has recently been extended to 42.8 kilometers (26.5 miles), allowing for a five-car prototype train to be routinely pulled at speeds of over 500 kph (310 mph). The train accelerates to max speed in under three miles, and according to the Japanese journalists the ride is very smooth. On the inside, anyway: Externally, according to one journalist, the L0 Series train created “a shock wave and a massive gust of wind … a deafening sound that made conversation all but impossible” as it passed by.

Maglev, as you probably know, stands for magnetic levitation. There are many varieties of maglev, but in Japan’s case the L0 Series trains have superconducting magnets on the carriage and wire coils along the track. To begin with, the train rolls along on rubber wheels, but once it reaches 150 kph (93 mph), the magnetic field induction effect created by the superconducting magnets passing by the coils creates enough current to levitate the train 10cm (4 in) off the track. Because the coils on each side of the track are connected, the induced current automatically stabilizes the train if it moves off-center. A second set of coils provides linear motor propulsion (a lot like a railgun).


The main advantage of maglev is that, except when starting off, it doesn’t use wheels. Wheels introduce a whole raft of engineering concerns that are difficult and costly to overcome, such as massive wear and tear, breaking distances, and frictional losses. Levitation, due to the complete lack of friction, is quieter and smoother for passengers. The lack of wheels also means that the system requires much less maintenance, and can also operate under almost any weather condition. Despite these advantages, though, it still isn’t clear if maglev is commercially viable: While the running costs are significantly lower than wheel-rail systems, the initial installation cost is massively expensive. The Chuo Shinkansen Tokyo-Osaka maglev line, which is scheduled for completion in 2027, is currently estimated to cost nine trillion yen, or around $91 billion.

Written By: Sebastian Anthony
continue to source article at extremetech.com


  1. I wish we had a cross country train system in the US. I took a few trains in London and Paris including the Eurostar and loved them. Unfortunately, an entirely new rail system would need to be built.

  2. I remember travelling on the old maglev transit system at Birmingham International airport. Although I was hugely excited about the science behind it, it was a complete non-event, which is a great compliment to the engineers and scientists who made it possible. I believe that, in another failure to make a giant leap forward, it’s now been replaced by a cable propelled transit system.

  3. The only problem with this system is that it isn’t in a tube.

    Even partial evacuation would dramatically lower the costs (speed and cash) by reducing drag. It would reduce the amount of energy required to accelerate and maintain forward motion – and thus the cost of infrastructure (particularly costly track magnets and energy). I didn’t get a calculator out, I don’t know enough about the cost base, but it seems to me that these cost savings would more than offset the cost of building a tube (more likely two tubes).

    It might take 4 to 6 years to recover some of the tube costs over the monorail design, but it seems pretty obvious to me that a tube would be superior.

    A tube would be silent outside the train, as well as inside.

    Tubes would also bypass the weather – though high levels of seismic activity, like those in Japan, would pose design challenges.

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