Transport

China unveils new 600 km/h ultra-fast maglev train

China unveils new 600 km/h ult...
China's CRRC claims its new 600 km/h maglev bullet train will be the fastest ground transport service in the world
China's CRRC claims its new 600 km/h maglev bullet train will be the fastest ground transport service in the world
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China's CRRC claims its new 600 km/h maglev bullet train will be the fastest ground transport service in the world
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China's CRRC claims its new 600 km/h maglev bullet train will be the fastest ground transport service in the world
The trains were unveiled in Qingdao
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The trains were unveiled in Qingdao
Each car will seat up to 100 passengers, depending on configuration
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Each car will seat up to 100 passengers, depending on configuration
View gallery - 3 images

China has produced the first of a new breed of maglev trains capable of speeds up to 600 km/h (373 mph), or nearly half the speed of sound. It says these will be the fastest ground transport services available on the planet.

The new maglev system was revealed to the public in Qingdao yesterday by its manufacturer, Chinese state-owned company CRRC Corporation, which said the new trains could make the 1,200-odd kilometer (745-odd mile) trip between Beijing and Shanghai a three and a half hour doddle, including waiting times. That's as compared to a two hour, five minute plane ride or a twelve-hour drive.

It's not yet clear where exactly these machines will be rolled out, but Nikkei Asia points out that CRRC exports trains all over the world, "especially to countries that have signed onto Beijing's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative." The trains can be configured to have between two and 10 cars, with each holding up to 100 passengers depending on fitout.

China claims this'll be the fastest ground vehicle on the planet, although the Central Japan Railway Company has already tested its own high-speed maglev at a world-record 603 km/h (375 mph). So perhaps this one's standard cruise speed will beat the Japanese train, or perhaps its creators believe it's got a heck of a top speed run in it.

Each car will seat up to 100 passengers, depending on configuration
Each car will seat up to 100 passengers, depending on configuration

According to China's Global Times, the "whirlpool" brake system on these things is considerably more efficient than previous efforts; this train will only take 10 km (6.2 miles) to pull up, where the current Shanghai maglev takes 16 km (10 miles).

If regular maglev bullet trains are going to regularly hit these kinds of speeds, companies working on hyperloop-style projects will need to start aiming considerably higher. Because as expensive as maglev rail is to build – and it's very expensive – hyperloops require operators to build ultra high-speed maglev systems inside fully air-sealed tubes, and then use vacuum pumps to keep the air pressure inside low enough to dial down wind drag.

The trains were unveiled in Qingdao
The trains were unveiled in Qingdao

If CRRC demonstrates you can get 600 km/h performance out of a regular maglev, hyperloops will need to leap out of the gate going significantly faster to make a case against their higher costs.

Indeed, these new CRRC trains have their own uphill battle to fight proving their commercial viability. The Guardian reports the current small-scale high-speed maglev running between Shanghai's CBD and its international airport some 30 km (19 miles) away cost about US$1.14 billion to build, and has consistently lost around a further US$100 million every year since it opened in 2004.

Check out a short video below.

View gallery - 3 images
9 comments
9 comments
guzmanchinky
This is a very cool accomplishment! Do all these trains lose money? If so, why? Is it just a case of costs going down dramatically once this tech become more common or mature?
akarp
"If CRRC demonstrates you can get 600 km/h performance out of a regular maglev, hyperloops will need to leap out of the gate going significantly faster to make a case against their higher costs."

No. The benefit of hyperloop is the near vacuum inside the tube...this reduces the drag and therefore energy required which translates to operational costs. While this could enable higher speeds, the main benefit is reduced costs.
1stClassOPP
About 20 years ago I had the privilege to catch a ride on a mag lev train developed in Germany. We reached speeds of over 300 km/ hr. The experimental track was about 20 km. The ride was great to say the least, no wheels turning, no vibration, very quiet. The tracks sections were powered consecutively. Great!
Karmudjun
Nice write up Loz.
The maglevs have a limited range of weight capacity - perfect for people moving - but sucks to use the pathway for any other rail or maglev use. There is substantial power costs as well - Bill Gates had best get his boutique nuclear reactors up an running so they can be plunked down every so often like redstone torches on a powered minecraft railway (yes, we old guys know mincraft). The faster the train - even with lower drag - the higher the operational costs. Which means the greater the chances of chronic year over year financial issues.

Man it looks good - but the hyperloop appears great in theory too. As both become reality - who can say which will prove financially durable? Will both keep costing more than they can make? It isn't tech like motorcycles or computers - they both operate only where the infrastructure is robust, not just anywhere - and that infrastructure construction and maintenance costs do not "go down dramatically" once the tech 'matures'.
G.F. Brown
Here in Houston, Texas, I have been promoting High Speed Commuter Rail, using elevated MagLev systems, for many years, however, it's a serious non-starter because of the political situation here. The politicians here will not think for themselves. They will only support those projects supported and controlled by the people who give them their campaign contributions : the Developers. The developers only want Light Rail, as they use it to increase the values of their real estate.
It's sad to know that Houston could lead the world in so many ways, but isn't allowed to, due to the greed of a handful of self-serving developers.
This is such a deep and intensely involved subject. I only wish I had the time and space to explain it properly, rather than simply hinting at it.
Derek Howe
akarp - The (hyperloop) efficiently is probably mute once you factor in vacuum pumps running 24/7.

On a side note, hyperloop idea is sound, but dumb.
The US will get loads of affordable high speed rail, using maglev tech. ONLY once the Boring Company proves it's able to cheaply tunnel through anything. Then you no longer have to worry about land rights, which is a huge challenge in the US for current (above ground) high speed rail, a problem that doesn't exist in the CCP's China.
VincentWolf
Sad that America is so slow technologically now. China will drain the swamp which is the US in the decades ahead. America has lost its way with Republicans leading the charade. They object to anything that doesn't use fossil fuels.
yawood
My wife and I rode in the Shanghai maglev in 2014 and reached over 300 km/hr. To be honest I was a little disappointed. We have ridden in the French, German, Russian, Japanese and Chinese fast wheeled trains and I expected the maglev to be super smooth and quiet but it really didn't feel a great deal different to its wheeled cousins. It was still a great experience though.
wolf0579
Not safe enough. anyone could throw a rock at this train and the impact at 600 km/h could be catastrophic. Add to this the "tofu-dregs" building problems... and a construction shortcut or inferior materials and a 600 km/h train is a bad combination. I wouldn't get on one unless it was made in the US, and ran only in tunnels, where zipperheads can't interfere with it.