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.
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.
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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