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Our 2014 article about maglev trains has been one of the most read on our blog. Now, nearly 5 years later, we’re looking at what’s been happening. Which of the trains in the original article are still running, which ones are new, which ideas have been canned or realised?
There are a few maglev trains around (actually, the technology is older than you might think). Many teams around the world are currently also working on hyperloop trains, which run through near vacuum tubes. Especially for the latter, promises sound fantastic: Most of them claim the trains will be…
- Faster than existing trains and even aircrafts (around 1200km/h); maglev trains hover over their tracks, and vactrains (or hyperloops as they’re now called) in addition run through near vacuum and can thus avoid even more of the friction, meaning the propulsion works even better
- Greener than alternative options (car/truck, train, ship, plane), as they run on electricity
- More reliable, e.g. through less friction
- Quieter than usual forms of transport
- More affordable for the passengers; often claims are that it costs much less to build a maglev or hyperloop, which means ticket prices can be lowered
- A great return on investment for businesses/cities
There’s an interesting comparison on TravelStatsMan.com. It looks at different high-speed trains (not just maglev/hyperloop) and compares them with planes in terms of travel time, costs and CO2.
You can also read more about the potential environmental impacts of hyperloops here.
Commercial Maglev Trains
There are six commercial trains running currently that use maglev technology, three of which we already reported in the 2014 article, and three that have started operation since:
|Location||Running since||Top speed||Track length|
|Daejeon Expo Maglev||South Korea||1993||100 km/h||1 km|
|Shanghai Maglev Train||China||2002||431 km/h||30.5 km|
|Linimo||Japan||2005||100 km/h||8.9 km|
|Incheon Airport Maglev||South Korea||2016||110 km/h||6.1 km|
|Changsha Maglev Express||China||2016||100 km/h||18.55 km|
|Beijing S1 Line||China||2017||110 km/h||8.25 km|
The SkyTran maglev and the Vactran ET3 as well as the Magline in Canada that we reported about in the last post seem to have been cancelled 🙁
However, there’s still a big (and fast!) one…
Construction for the Chūō Shinkansen L0 maglev train in Japan started in 2014. While testing in 2015, the train set a world speed record of 603 km/h. The expected operation speed is a little slower with 505 km/h – but can you imagine travelling along the ground that fast? Unfortunately we’ll have to wait a little longer; the Chūō Shinkansen is planned to be completed in 2037.
China has also just unveiled a new maglev train prototype in Qingdao, capable of running at 600 km/h as well.
But wait, it gets even faster… with:
In the last article, “the Hyperloop” was a specific vactrain concept (called Hyperloop Alpha) proposed by Tesla and Space X founder Elon Musk in 2013. Today, “hyperloop” is a generic name for a whole species of dreamed up maglev trains running in near vacuum tubes. Expected travel speeds of the final train would be around 1200km/h. The basic concept for most of them stems from Musk’s concept which was open-sourced, although the idea of vactrains has been around for much longer.
So far, two Space X Hyperloop Pod competitions have been held, and many prototypes have been tested. There have also been several feasibility, environmental and other studies about hyperloop systems, and lots of hard conceptualisation and planning work. The barriers to realising a hyperloop are bureaucratic as well as financial, technical and even social. Currently there is not one system that is ready to run commercially; however, much work is happening behind the scenes, and we are hoping to see the first commercial hyperloop running in the next decade, maybe even in the next 3 years.
Some of the most promising hyperloop projects/companies:
- Virgin Hyperloop One: This is probably the best funded company. It has a full-scale test track in the Nevada desert where an empty pod reached speeds of 387 km/h in December 2017. They are planning to build tracks in Abu Dhabi and Toulouse, France and are working on more projects in the US, Canada, Finland and the Netherlands.
- HyperloopTT: Evolved from a crowd funding campaign, this team is also planning to build a hyperloop track in Abu Dhabi in the UAE starting later this year. They are also planning commercial systems in the Ukraine and in China. They recently completed a 320m test track in Toulouse, France, with tests with a full-scale pod planned to start this year.
- TransPod is a Canadian company currently working on building a 3km test track (with a half size scale prototype) in Limoges, France to be finalised this summer; another 10km test track is planned for a route to be built between Calgary and Edmonton (Alberta, Canada).
- The Dutch Delft University Hyperloop team won the hyperloop competition organised by SpaceX in 2017, and came second the following year. Hardt Hyperloop, the company which emerged from the first winning Delft team, opened a 30 meter long test track in 2017, the first one in Europe. They are currently working on a high-speed test facility which they’re hoping to open later this year.
- Spanish company Zeleros has built a hyperloop prototype and a 12-meter research test-track in Spain. They have also been founded by a team successful at the at SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, this one from UPV (Universitat Politècnica de València).
The Hyperloop Konsortium, a collaboration between Hardt, Zeleros, TransPod and Polish startup HyperPoland, is currently working on developing standards and regulations for hyperloop. This will much facilitate global adaptation of the technology.
SkedGo was started in 2009 by three founders with previous successful exits and has offices in Australia (HQ), Vietnam, Argentina, Germany, Finland and the UK.
SkedGo provides personalised trip planning and mobility as a service technology, for leading start-ups, corporations, and governments. Their senior developer team offers tailored solutions leveraging the TripGo API. The result: organisations can seamlessly and rapidly integrate mixed/multi model transport services, parking, book & pay features, events and itineraries.
CEO and founder Claus von Hessberg started SkedGo to address social and environmental challenges, with focus on mobility as a service and transportation. He was nominated as one of the ‘Top Ten Mobility as a Service Influencers’ by industry publication BMaaS. CTO and Co-founder Adrian Schoenig leads the development teams at SkedGo. He has a background in information systems and computer science, with a major in artificial intelligence. Co-founder Dr Tim Cooper holds a PhD in Computer Science from Sydney University. He runs several successful businesses in the tech space.
- Title image: “Hyperloop Cheetah capsule in tube 02” by RichMacf [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- “SC Maglev Test Ride” by Maryland GovPics [CC BY 2.0], via flickr
- “HyperloopTT system front view” by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (Media Kit), via Dropbox
Content (main sources)
- “1st Test Track for Superfast Hyperloop Transport System Opens in Europe” via LiveScience
- “A Real Tube Carrying Dreams of 600-M.P.H. Transit” via NY Times
- “Canadian and European Hyperloop Leaders Launch Industry-first Partnership to Establish International Standards and Regulatory Framework” via TransPod
- “Frequently Asked Questions – TransPod Hyperloop” via TransPod
- “Hyperloop” via Wikipedia
- “Hyperloop coming to Abu Dhabi in 2019, offering next-gen transport for business travel” via Tech Republic
- “Hyperloop One: Our Story Timeline” via Hyperloop One
- “Hyperloop pioneers welcome a new era in high-speed transportation with industry-first international alliance” via Climate-KIC
- “Hyperloop pod competition” via Wikipedia
- “Hyperloop: Ushering In The 4th Dimension Of Travel” by Sarwant Singh via Forbes
- “Six operational Maglev Lines in 2018” via Maglev.net
- “TransPod” via Wikipedia
- “TransPod: Limoges-Paris en 40 minutes | 20 Heures [English Sub]” via YouTube
- “With India Plans In the Pipeline, Virgin Hyperloop One Raises $172 Mn in Equity Funding” via Inc42
- “Zeleros” via Crunchbase
- And all websites linked in the article above