Monday, October 16, 2006

More About Maglev

First, let us make it perfectly clear that we do not consider Maglev to be equivalent to rail. We tend to dismiss it, as we did in our post of last Thursday. A thoughtful reader seemed interested, however, and we have done a little more research.

We were right. Maglev has little in common with "rail" besides the fixed guideway. It takes just about as much capital to build a Maglev line as it does to build airport facilities to serve comparable passenger densities. This puts is far more costly than rail right-of-way. The guideway is far more costly than rail, because the motor is effectively in the guideway. The cars are much lighter, and therefore less costly, because they have no motors. There is no rolling resistance, but for high-speed, the air resistance is just as important.

Based on those lines already operating, research shows that the fuel savings are nominal compared to standard high-speed rail. At relatively low speeds, there is some fuel savings, and this steadily decreases with increased speed. For speeds comparable to what HSR can obtain, the fuel savings ranges from 20 to 28 percent, depending on who's talking.

Can Maglev be run down a freeway median? You bet it can, with the proper grading and separation. (See our comment to comment for previous post.) Maglev climbs better and turns can be banked more with proper engineering. However, the guideway also has to be protected from debris. So don't throw your Star----'s cup out the window of your car and into that median. We shudder to think what will happen when that semi goes out of control and crosses the median. Snow and ice are its enemy, just as with conventional rail.

Maglev is still somewhat experimental, though there are serious Maglevs in operation right now. Because it could theoretically reach speeds comparable to flight (600mph), Maglev should probably be written up as a successor to standard air passsenger transport, not to Passenger Rail. However, we see Maglev more as a possible robotic freight system that could shoot heavy loads of freight across the country in pipeline-like straight lines. Arthur Clarke's space elevator and mass driver concepts are both variations on Maglev.

Hey, this thing called Maglev could clear out the rail corridors that are clogged with freight and make them safe, and fun, for Passenger Rail.

© 2006 - C. A. Turek -
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