How much more efficient are mag lev trains than regular trains?



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    The unique feature of mag lev trains is that they do not contact a track while they are moving. The advantages of that are that there is no friction on the track, no wear on the track, little vibration inside the train. The lack of friction makes the practical top speed of mag levs very high. One running in a vacuum, as in some science-fiction, could actually go faster — much, much faster — than a plane.

    But “efficiency” isn’t the word that comes to mind, except the efficiency of the levatation. These are highly expensive trains that can only run on track created just for their use. Their main purpose often isn’t efficiency, but maximum speed.

    When talking “efficiency” in a train, ship, airplane or car, you are talking slow. Every extra mile per hour above “really slow” costs extra energy.

    Check the Wikipedia article for details, but notice that two of the major commercial maglev lines are in China and Japan — both of whom very heavily subsidize their railways. (The famous Japanese Bullet train is a substantial part of the entire country’s budget!)

    After four decades of very expensive development, it’s hard not to notice that maglevs still don’t seem ready for prime time, most places.

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