Magnetic levitation: Maglev car tests reach 140mph

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Daniel Sims

Posts: 669   +27
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Why it matters: When people discuss maglev technology, it usually concerns train systems where it is known for allowing incredible speeds. Recent tests have explored the potential advantages maglev rails could bring to cars. The trials are early, but the results are promising.

Chinese media recently reported that a 2.8-ton car levitated 35mm above a modified section of highway in eastern China. A separate test hit a maximum speed of 230kph (about 143mph). Researchers think applying maglev locomotion to cars could increase their range and longevity while consuming less energy.

The tests occurred on a 7.9 km (5-mile) stretch of road in Jiangsu province, where researchers from Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu installed a permanent magnet array and conductor rail to enable maglev transportation. In all, they modified and tested eight standard cars for the special tracks. Maglev technology uses magnets and electromagnetic forces to levitate vehicles – usually trains – above tracks.

The trials likely don't mean we'll see widespread maglev cars in China soon, however. Local transport authorities held them to study the safety of high-speed maglev driving on existing roads and to investigate the expansion of the technology. Along with fuel efficiency benefits, maglev cars could decrease traffic jams through the coordination of separate lanes.

China has been a pioneer in maglev for some time. The world's first maglev train – still in operation – was the Shanghai Transrapid. It's also the world's fastest electric passenger train, with a cruising speed of 431kph (268mph).

Last year, China unveiled an in-development 600kph maglev train in Qingdao. While the Shanghai line only runs from an airport into town, China hopes to eventually use maglev trains like the one in Qingdao to significantly cut the travel times between major cities compared to planes and traditional high-speed rail.

A report from Allied Market Research released this week alleges that the global maglev market could generate $2.7 billion in 2025 and $5.6 billion by 2035. Urbanization in developing European countries could be the primary driver of that growth.

One of the strongest sectors of the maglev market may be superconducting maglevs (SCMAGLEV), which consume 30 percent less energy than other maglev trains due to their lack of electrical resistance. A project is currently underway to demonstrate the potential of SCMAGLEV technology with a line running between Baltimore and Washington, DC.

The success of the Jiangsu tests is indeed good news for maglev ambitions in China, but it's too soon to tell how fast maglev cars could spread.

Image credit: Xinhua

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EEatGDL

Posts: 770   +501
I have a better idea: why not simply make the roads a shallow pool and do aquaplaning all the time? You know it's fantastic to lose traction and being unable to turn or brake.
Maglev has a place with rails, not open open roads with other drivers and random situations that require a quick reaction and "TRACTION".
 

netman

Posts: 838   +380
I have a better idea: why not simply make the roads a shallow pool and do aquaplaning all the time? You know it's fantastic to lose traction and being unable to turn or brake.
Maglev has a place with rails, not open open roads with other drivers and random situations that require a quick reaction and "TRACTION".

You're being too serious...! It's only a concept...!
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,087   +3,985
TechSpot Elite
This is some fantastic technology and I can't believe that it hasn't been implemented yet on a much larger scale. This would be especially useful in a far-flung country like Canada where the distances between population centres can be insane:
Halifax to Quebec City - 1,019km
Quebec City to Montreal - 262km
Montreal to Ottawa - 198km
Ottawa to Toronto - 402km
Toronto to Winnipeg - 2,060km (Another 214km to Brandon)
Winnipeg to Regina - 572km (another 264km to Saskatoon)
Regina to Calgary - 758km (another 300km to Edmonton)
Calgary to Vancouver - 1,057km

Direct distance between Halifax and Vancouver - 5,791km :eek:

A high-speed maglev train line would be invaluable to cover distances like we have in Canada.
 

Thanthan

Posts: 95   +201
Just no? Thinking about how expensive this technology is to implement with trains, scaling it out to something much less space efficient is going to expand those costs significantly… it’s really interesting as a research project, but very, very far from something that could be a commercial success within a reasonable timeframe. Frankly I doubt it could be so within my lifetime, and I ain’t all that old…
 

Inthenstus

Posts: 130   +191
This is very interesting. I don’t know all the details of if it would even be viable with the resources we have. But in theory, we don’t even need the cars to be off the ground. Just reducing their weight to be that of a feather would reduce energy consumption greatly. Granted, there would need to be a safe way to prevent the car from blowing off the road and stop safely.
 

quadibloc

Posts: 375   +250
This is an important step on the road to the flying car. However, it's not clear from the article how the cars are propelled. Are they propelled by interacting magnetically with the maglev rails, or do they propel themselves by moving air the way an airplane would, or do they have a wheel contacting the ground that produces forwards motion conventionally?
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,838   +1,909
I have a better idea: why not simply make the roads a shallow pool and do aquaplaning all the time? You know it's fantastic to lose traction and being unable to turn or brake.
Maglev has a place with rails, not open open roads with other drivers and random situations that require a quick reaction and "TRACTION".
You realize there IS a rail in the road for this? And if you deviate even slightly off this rail, you lose the levitation effect and your "TRACTION" returns in full force.

Furthermore, no one's suggesting retrofitting your 1998 Civic with this technology. It's intended to be used in conjunction with autonomous vehicles on controlled-access highways, which eliminates the vast majority of the 'random situations' to which you refer.
 

TheRealSCDC

Posts: 448   +766
All great, but where are you getting the electricity to power these, when places like California ask their people to refrain from charging their EV's.

It's all about the Grid people, The Grid has to support all of this. If we don't go Nuclear Power, we better keep firing up coal to meet demand.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,087   +3,985
TechSpot Elite
This is an important step on the road to the flying car. However, it's not clear from the article how the cars are propelled. Are they propelled by interacting magnetically with the maglev rails, or do they propel themselves by moving air the way an airplane would, or do they have a wheel contacting the ground that produces forwards motion conventionally?
From what I understand, maglev tracks have a third rail in the middle that interacts with the vehicle to give it motion. The bottom of the vehicle will be magnetised to be the same pole as the outside rails which causes the vehicle to hover. The third rail is segmented with electromagnets embedded in each segment. The polarity of these magnets is manipulated by a computer so that the middle magnets to the front of the vehicle will have opposite polarity to the vehicle itself, while the middle magnets to the rear of the vehicle will have like polarity. This creates a push-pull effect which manipulates the speed of the vehicle. It can be used for acceleration and also for deceleration. The vehicle itself is a completely passive participant and only needs to have powerful magnets on the bottom to interact with the rails.

It's essentially the same concept used by rail guns.
 

TheRealSCDC

Posts: 448   +766
From what I understand, maglev tracks have a third rail in the middle that interacts with the vehicle to give it motion. The bottom of the vehicle will be magnetised to be the same pole as the outside rails which causes the vehicle to hover. The third rail is segmented with electromagnets embedded in each segment. The polarity of these magnets is manipulated by a computer so that the middle magnets to the front of the vehicle will have opposite polarity to the vehicle itself, while the middle magnets to the rear of the vehicle will have like polarity. This creates a push-pull effect which manipulates the speed of the vehicle. It can be used for acceleration and also for deceleration. The vehicle itself is a completely passive participant and only needs to have powerful magnets on the bottom to interact with the rails.

It's essentially the same concept used by rail guns.
If done correctly, it can accelerate an object to untold speeds, just by polarization. As we know, contact with anything is a source of friction. So with this, the only source of friction would be air and water (or another car). Every time the magnet hits another magnet with the opposite polarization, it can be accelerated, if done correctly. It's cool as hell from that aspect.
 

christiangeli

Posts: 67   +47
If car weight on road can be reduced, friction loss (rolling resistance) will be reduced and can save on energy. Imagine, the system can adapt when braking to add more friction on the road, better braking and less rolling .
 

Steveb8189

Posts: 90   +99
This is very interesting. I don’t know all the details of if it would even be viable with the resources we have. But in theory, we don’t even need the cars to be off the ground. Just reducing their weight to be that of a feather would reduce energy consumption greatly. Granted, there would need to be a safe way to prevent the car from blowing off the road and stop safely.

At speed, rolling resistance is a very small component of the overall resistance so it wouldn't make that much difference.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,087   +3,985
TechSpot Elite
If done correctly, it can accelerate an object to untold speeds, just by polarization. As we know, contact with anything is a source of friction. So with this, the only source of friction would be air and water (or another car). Every time the magnet hits another magnet with the opposite polarization, it can be accelerated, if done correctly. It's cool as hell from that aspect.
Yep. That's why one of the theoretical applications involves a very long vacuum tube. It's estimated that a maglev in a vacuum tube can safely reach Mach 4.0 and the best part is that it's 100% electric. In jurisdictions like Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, electricity is almost 100% clean (Quebec, Manitoba and BC are almost 100% hydro while Ontario is a combination of hydro and nuclear). I think that it would also almost completely eliminate domestic methods of travel that burn fossil fuels like air and conventional rail. And just think of what it could do as a freight hauler!
 

PEnnn

Posts: 951   +1,237
All great, but where are you getting the electricity to power these, when places like California ask their people to refrain from charging their EV's.

It's all about the Grid people, The Grid has to support all of this. If we don't go Nuclear Power, we better keep firing up coal to meet demand.


Or the Third World State of Texas, where their power Grid can't handle heat or cold weather.
 

EEatGDL

Posts: 770   +501
You realize there IS a rail in the road for this? And if you deviate even slightly off this rail, you lose the levitation effect and your "TRACTION" returns in full force.

Furthermore, no one's suggesting retrofitting your 1998 Civic with this technology. It's intended to be used in conjunction with autonomous vehicles on controlled-access highways, which eliminates the vast majority of the 'random situations' to which you refer.
If the rail is at the same level of the road and not within an exclusive lane with concrete barriers to both sides preventing lane invasion from other cars, random situations include: other cars invading the lane, animals or people crossing the road, a jackknifing semi, heavy vehicles aquaplaning, other drivers doing something stupid on perpendicular crossroads, etc.
The only way to eliminate such situations is to be above the road (just to avoid flooding too), yet modified maglev cars would be very inefficient when a maglev train is more sensible for such effort.
 

TheRealSCDC

Posts: 448   +766
Or the Third World State of Texas, where their power Grid can't handle heat or cold weather.
The U.S. Border Patrol reported more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in the 2021 fiscal year, more than quadruple the number of the prior fiscal year and the highest annual total on record.

You try to handle that kind of influx and any state would struggle. Some people are so out of touch with what is really going on with the world.

Thanks Brandon.
crossings in 2021 compared to previous years.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,838   +1,909
random situations include: other cars invading the lane, animals or people crossing the road, a jackknifing semi, heavy vehicles aquaplaning, other drivers doing something stupid on perpendicular crossroads, etc.
Access-controlled highways don't have crossroads. Magnetically-levitating vehicles don't hydroplane. And autonomously-controlled vehicles don't randomly invade other lanes.

In any case, you're still missing the essential point. A system like this can be instantaneously disengaged for emergency braking. Such a vehicle would have much more traction than one riding on rubber balloon tires, not less.

At speed, rolling resistance is a very small component of the overall resistance so it wouldn't make that much difference.
10% or so for passenger vehicles-- but it can be 25% or more for laden freight trucks. That's a fairly substantial fuel savings.
 

PEnnn

Posts: 951   +1,237
The U.S. Border Patrol reported more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in the 2021 fiscal year, more than quadruple the number of the prior fiscal year and the highest annual total on record.

You try to handle that kind of influx and any state would struggle. Some people are so out of touch with what is really going on with the world.

Thanks Brandon.
crossings in 2021 compared to previous years.
Nice try. The Texan "power grid" is in shambles. Even without a single migrant!!

Texas loves to bend over and hand subsidies and tax breaks to well connected oil comaopnies. Infrastructure for its citizens doesn't even show on the Republican radar. Their corruption stinks to the highest heaven.
 

TheRealSCDC

Posts: 448   +766
Nice try. The Texan "power grid" is in shambles. Even without a single migrant!!

Texas loves to bend over and hand subsidies and tax breaks to well connected oil comaopnies. Infrastructure for its citizens doesn't even show on the Republican radar. Their corruption stinks to the highest heaven.
Umm. Doesn't corruption stink to high levels, on any level? That would include our entire Government. lol.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,087   +3,985
TechSpot Elite
All great, but where are you getting the electricity to power these, when places like California ask their people to refrain from charging their EV's.

It's all about the Grid people, The Grid has to support all of this. If we don't go Nuclear Power, we better keep firing up coal to meet demand.
While nuclear would be great, it's really expensive to implement and operate. Therefore, I think that hydro is an even better choice in places that can implement it. It doesn't cost anything for a river to flow.
 

PEnnn

Posts: 951   +1,237
While nuclear would be great, it's really expensive to implement and operate. Therefore, I think that hydro is an even better choice in places that can implement it. It doesn't cost anything for a river to flow.
Indeed. But what many forget about nuclear, is what to do with nuclear waste, (the reatctor's "food" need to be replaced)..... which will outlive the planet and everybody wants it buried "somewhere" away from their backyard!
 

TheRealSCDC

Posts: 448   +766
Exactly. in 0 atmosphere, the speed would be endless. But here on our wonderful planet, air-gravity-mothernature say "bring it on, I'll send you to your maker" :joy:
 
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