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China's new high-speed train just set a new record as the world's fastest — and it could travel faster than an airplane

The maglev uses "magnetic levitation" to effectively glide on thin air.

China's new high-speed maglev train

Photo Credit: iStock

It's not often that a train can get you to your destination as fast as flying, but China's new high-speed maglev train might just pull it off.

On a recent test run, the train sprinted to record-breaking speeds of 281 miles per hour, making it the fastest train in the world. 

Once completed, engineers hope the maglev will reach 621 mph (much faster than commercial flights, which cruise at an average of 545 mph to 574 mph). 

The maglev uses "magnetic levitation" to effectively glide on thin air, eliminating friction and noise pollution while allowing trains to travel at higher speeds.

It does this using superconducting magnets in a low-vacuum pipeline. Superconducting magnets are electromagnets that have been cooled to extreme temperatures, which strengthens the magnetic field. 

Superconducting magnets on the train interact with metal on the walls of the pipeline to both levitate and propel the train forward, creating a cushion of air between the train and the track. 

China already has one maglev train in operation in Shanghai, which connects Pudong Airport with the Longyang Road station in the city center. The 19-mile journey takes roughly seven minutes.

China plans to expand its maglev technology on railways across the country to ease travel between large cities and rural areas. 

This goal is part of the China Railway 450 Technology Innovation Project, which was included in the country's fourteenth five-year plan between 2021 and 2025.

By enabling greater connectivity across the country, the CR450 project will minimize travel times and costs for China's vast population, while also reducing air pollution emissions from transport. 

At the moment, transport emissions in China are rising. The number of passenger cars multiplied 12 times between 2005 and 2020, from 19 million to 239 million. 

In 2018, the country was responsible for 11% of the world's transport-related air pollution emissions (second only to the U.S.). 

Decarbonizing China's transport sector will play a key role in the nation's plans to have its carbon emissions peak by 2030 and to become a carbon-neutral country by 2060.

Maglev trains do not generate any direct emissions, and they have the added benefit that they do not split the landscape. Unlike with highways and traditional train tracks, animals can cross safely underneath maglev railways.

China's super-fast maglev train could be operational within three to 10 years

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