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. …and here in Britain we’re mired in updating the oldest railway system in the world.

    No wheels! – we should be so lucky!

  2. This $91 billion is an astounding cost. In comparison between 1995 and 2006, the US government paid out $56 billion in corn subsidies. The Iraqi war was $4,000 billion

  3. 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.

  4. I too would be worried about “breaking distances”. At this speed, anything on the train would break. Braking distances, are quite another subject.

  5. In reply to #7 by rod-the-farmer:

    I too would be worried about “breaking distances”. At this speed, anything on the train would break. Braking distances, are quite another subject.

    It seems that with regenerative breaking, braking should be comparable with acceleration.

    Energy for maglev trains is used to accelerate the train, and may be regained when the train slows down (“regenerative braking”). It is also used to make the train levitate and to stabilise the movement of the train. The main part of the energy is needed to force the train through the air (“air drag”).

    @OP – The train accelerates to max speed in under three miles,

    This distance is not greatly different to conventional trains, but may actually be better than relying on friction, if reverse power-breaking can be used.

  6. 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.

  7. “a lot like a rail gun” – You mean a lot like a coil gun. A rail gun works very differently.

  8. Should build a tube around it. move the air within the train and reduce wind resistance and noise issues. The roof could be solar panels.
    reducing energy needed from grid.

  9. 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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