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How Maglev Works
Maglev 2000

History of transportation

Superconducting maglev

Learning to levitate

How the M-2000 system works

M-2000 guideways

M-2000 Vehicles

Superconductors

Maglev FAQ



Maglev FAQ

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT MAGLEV

  1. How much will it cost to travel by Maglev compared to airplanes? Will it be faster or slower, more comfortable?
  2. Why is Maglev better than the High-Speed Trains already operating in Europe and Japan?
  3. How will Maglev change my life, other than making it easier to take trips?
  4. Why are superconducting magnets used in the Japanese and M-2000 Maglev systems? What are the advantages and disadvantages of superconducting magnets?
  5. What is a superconducting magnet? How is it different from ordinary magnets?
  6. Are superconducting magnets really dependable? Will it be safe to travel by Maglev?
  7. What happens if the electric power is cut off to a Maglev guideway? Will the vehicles on it crash?
  8. Are there any health or environmental hazards from the magnetic fields of a Maglev vehicle?
  9. Why don't we already have Maglev systems? If they are as good as you say, why aren't they being built?
  10. You state that Maglev vehicles can deliver trailers and freight containers over long distances at high speed and low cost. What about personal autos?

Q. How much will it cost to travel by Maglev compared to airplanes? Will it be faster or slower, more comfortable?

A. The average cost for air travel is about 13 cents per passenger mile. This includes labor, airplanes, fuel, and other costs, and corresponds to a ticket price of about $600 round trip, for a coast-to-coast flight. Some tickets cost less, some more, for a particular flight, depending on the discount offer, date of purchase, age, and so on. The 13 cents per passenger mile does not include government subsidies for airports, highway access, FAA operations, etc.

M-2000 Maglev operational costs for vehicles, energy, and labor total about 4 cents per passenger mile, not including the amortization cost for the guideway. Projecting guideway amortization cost is difficult since it depends on ridership and whether the guideway carries freight as well as passengers. For a M-2000 guideway cost of 10 million dollars per 2-way mile, that carries only passengers, amortization cost is about 10 cents per passenger mile, assuming a 30-year payback period and 10,000 passengers daily. If the guideway carries 1000 trailers daily and allocates 3 cents per ton mile (30 tons per trailer} of revenue to guideway amortization, the passenger share for guideway amortization is zero cents per passenger mile. Total cost for passengers is then only 4 cents per passenger mile, about 1/3 of that for air travel. If M-2000 guideways carry both passengers and truck type freight, Maglev will be much cheaper than air travel.

Although jet aircraft speed is greater than Maglev (500 mph compared to 300 mph) the actual trip time will be much less for Maglev. First, access to Maglev stations will be much easier and faster than airports. With the M-2000 National Maglev Network, over 70% of the population will live within 15 miles of a Maglev station, which they could reach in a few minutes. Second, the departure frequency of Maglev vehicles will be much greater than for aircraft. Most airports have only a few flights daily to a given destination: Maglev stations will typically have dozens. Third, Maglev schedules will not be upset by bad weather or congestion, which is often the case for air travel.

Finally, because Maglev vehicles are much cheaper than airliners -a few million dollars per vehicle, compared to a 100 million dollars or more for an airliner - and because their operating cost is very low, Maglev travel will be much more comfortable than air travel. There is no need to pack riders in like sardines to save money -passengers will travel in first class style, for lower cost than economy air. Moreover, the vibration and noise experienced on airliners are completely absent on Maglev vehicles.

 

Q. Why is Maglev better than the High-Speed Trains already operating in Europe and Japan?

A. Maglev is better than high-speed trains for many reasons. First, rather than the point-to-point service between city centers characteristic of high speed rail, Maglev will have many more stations, distributed so that people have easy and fast access to the Maglev Network. Second, individual Maglev vehicles will hold 100 people at most, compared to the 500 to 1000 people on a high-speed train. This enables more frequent and convenient service. Third, Maglev vehicles travel at 300 mph, compared to 180 mph for high-speed trains. The faster Maglev vehicles, plus their ability to accelerate and decelerate much more quickly, cut the travel time for Maglev by at least a factor of 2, as compared to high speed rail. Fourth, the Maglev noise is much less than steel wheels on rail. Finally, Maglev vehicles travel on elevated guideways, something that the much heavier trains cannot do. Elevated Maglev guideways enhance safety and reduce environmental impact, compared to an on-grade rail track.

 

Q. How will Maglev change my life, other than making it easier to take trips?

A. Maglev will dramatically change the way people live in the 21st Century, with effects far beyond those associated with personal trips. First, and very important, with Maglev people will live much farther from their work place and from city centers, while still being able to travel to them in a short time. Spreading population over a much larger area than is possible with present transport systems will greatly reduce the cost of owning a home, and allow people to enjoy nature much more.

Second, sending trailer trucks by Maglev instead of on highways will cut the costs of goods, increase highway safety, reduce congestion and delays, and make the highways last much longer.

Third, Maglev will greatly reduce pollution, extend oil resources and help keep oil and gas prices reasonable, and lessen the rate at which carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. This will help slow global warming.

Fourth, Maglev because of its potential for greatly reducing the cost of launching payloads into orbit will open up space to much greater usage, colonization, and eventually tourism.

 

Q. Why are superconducting magnets used in the Japanese and M-2000 Maglev systems? What are the advantages and disadvantages of superconducting magnets?

A. Superconducting magnets are used in the M-2000 and Japanese Maglev Systems for the following reasons:

  • Superconducting magnets enable Maglev vehicles to operate with much greater clearances above the guideway, than are possible with room temperature magnets. With superconducting magnets, the gap between the Maglev vehicle and the guideway can be 6 inches. With room temperature electromagnets or permanent magnets, the gap is only about 3/8 of an inch. Large gaps improve safety, allow greater construction tolerances, decrease construction costs, and reduce sensitivity to ground settling and earthquakes.
  • Superconducting magnets enable the levitated vehicle to be inherently and passively strongly stable against external forces (winds, grades, curves, etc.) that act to displace the vehicle from its normal suspension point. Attractive force suspensions based on room temperature electromagnets are inherently unstable, and require constant, fast response servo control of the magnet current to operate safely.
  • Superconducting magnets let Maglev vehicles levitate much heavier loads than are possible with room temperature electromagnets or permanent magnets. Heavier load capacity lets Maglev vehicles carry freight, water, mining ores, etc., to generate large revenues.
  • Superconducting magnets have much lower power requirements than conventional room temperature electromagnets.

The only disadvantage of superconducting magnets is their need for refrigeration. However, the power for the refrigerator is small compared to the power to overcome air drag on the vehicle. Accordingly, operating cost for superconductors is a minor perturbation.

The superconducting magnets on Maglev vehicles are not complicated to construct or operate. Thousands of superconducting magnets now operate routinely and reliably around the world in MRI devices, high-energy accelerators, and other applications.

 

Q. What is a superconducting magnet? How is it different from ordinary magnets?

A. The main difference between superconducting magnets and conventional room temperature electromagnets, is that they use low temperature, zero electrical resistance conductor wire in the magnet winding, instead of room temperature, non-zero electrical resistance conductor. Conventional electromagnets use aluminum or copper conductor, while superconductor magnets use niobium-titanium-copper wire (or other superconductor, depending on application). Also, conventional electromagnets often use iron cores to reduce the current and I2R losses in the conductor winding.

Because superconductors have no electrical resistance, very high currents and current densities are practical, resulting in much more powerful electromagnets than are possible with room temperature conductors. While room temperature permanent magnets have no current windings or I2R losses, their inherent physical characteristics limit their magnetic field capabilities to much less than those of superconducting magnets.

Superconducting magnets require good thermal insulation to keep the superconductors cold. They also have to be cooled with helium (for low temperature superconductors) or nitrogen (for high temperature super conductors) compared to conventional electromagnets which are cooled by ordinary water.

 

Q. Are superconducting magnets really dependable? Will it be safe to travel by Maglev?

A. Superconducting magnets are highly reliable. High-energy accelerators routinely operate with many hundreds of superconducting magnets positioned along the path followed by particles that travel in precise orbits along miles of evacuated tubes. If only one of these many hundred magnets failed, it would shut down the accelerator for a long period while the magnet was repaired or replaced. Such a situation could not be tolerated, and in fact, does not occur in practice. In the proposed superconducting super collider (SSC), for example, over 10,000 superconducting magnets would have been positioned along the 76-kilometer circumference of the SSC. Failure of one of these magnets would have shut down the SSC.

The M-2000 Maglev vehicles are designed with multiple (typically 16) superconducting magnets that operate separately and independently of each other. The M-2000 vehicle will remain levitated and operate safely even if several of its magnets were to fail. Because the failure rate of superconducting magnets is very low, the probability of two magnets failing in a period of few minutes, the time needed to reach a stopping point, would be less than once in a million years of operation.

Such a failure rate is much smaller than the engine failure rate in jet aircraft. Furthermore, the Maglev vehicle would continue to operate, while the jet aircraft would not. In fact, it would take the simultaneous failure of at least 6 independent magnets to compromise levitation capability -a probability that is infinitesimally small compared to other modes of transport.

 

Q. What happens if the electric power is cut off to a Maglev guideway? Will the vehicles on it crash?

A. The M-2000 vehicles are automatically and passively stably levitated as long as they move along the guideway. The electric power fed to the guideway magnetically propels the M-2000 vehicles and maintains their speed. If the guideway power were cut off, the vehicles would coast for several miles, gradually slowing down due to air drag. When they reach 30 mph, they settle down on auxiliary wheels and brake to a stop on the guideway. When power is restored to the guideway propulsion windings, the vehicles can magnetically accelerate back up to their cruising speed.

Because the vehicles are automatically levitated and stabilized for speeds greater than 30 mph, there is no chance of a crash if guideway power is cut off.

 

Q. Are there any health or environmental hazards from the magnetic fields of a Maglev vehicle?

A. There are no health and environmental hazards from the magnetic fields around the M-2000 Maglev vehicle. The magnetic fringe fields from the quadrupole magnets on the M-2000 vehicles drop off much faster with distance than do the fringe fields from dipole magnets. This rapid decrease in fringe fields allows the magnetic fields in the passenger compartment to be at Earth ambient level, ~ 0.5 Gauss. All humans live constantly in Earth's magnetic field and are adapted to it. They will experience no difference in field strength when they ride in a M-2000 Maglev vehicle.

In fact, people presently experience stronger magnetic fields than the Earth ambient value when they ride subways and electrified trains, when they operate electrically powered equipment in the home or when they walk down city streets. The magnetic fields in M-2000 vehicles will be lower than in the above examples.

 

Q. Why don't we already have Maglev systems? If they are as good as you say, why aren't they being built?

A. There is a tremendous investment, both in money and human experience, in our present modes of auto, truck, air, and rail transport. The US spends almost a trillion dollars annually on these transport systems. Until recently, they have functioned adequately.

Moving into a new transport mode like Maglev is difficult and takes time, because of the large capital investments required, and the need for people to acquire new job skills and change their ridership habits. Such a shift requires demonstration Maglev systems to convince the public that Maglev is real. Such demonstrations are now at hand. Moreover, the increased congestion, delays, and costs of transport on the nation's highways and airways will help speed the transition to Maglev.

 

Q. You state that Maglev vehicles can deliver trailers and freight containers over long distances at high speed and low cost. What about personal autos?

A. It appears practical to transport autos by Maglev over long distances. Such capability would be attractive for vacationers, since it would be much faster and more comfortable than driving hundreds of miles. To transport an auto from New York to Chicago by Maglev, a distance of 800 miles, would cost about 100 dollars.

 

   


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