Are Super Trains Here to Rescue Our Futures?
Highways are becoming more congested by the day, and the skies aren't doing any better. And with pollution posing an additional problem, we are running out of options. Could the newest Steel-Wheel and MagLev trains be the answer?
Most of us are pretty familiar with steel-wheel trains. They use an overhead power-source to drive electric motors connected to the wheel. The run along steel rails and if a high-speed turn is necessary, it either has to be very wide or the train must have a tilting mechanism. The major drawback to using a steel-wheel design is the friction between the wheels and the rails. It increases the total power needed to get from point A to point B. A problem unseen in the MagLev world.
When talking about MagLev trains, there are 2 slightly different configurations. The first and more established is known as Electromagnetic Suspension (EMS). The chassis of the train wraps around the guide-way and uses powerful magnets on the underside of the guide-way to pull the train upward. The only real drawback to an EMS Train is the need for complex electronics that constantly monitor the gap between the guide-way and the train and adjust the current as necessary.
The other and still experimental system is known as Electrodynamic Suspension (EDS). Instead of using magnets on the underside of the guide-way, EDS Trains use "levitation coil" on the top of the guide-way. As the train moves over the coils, the magnets on the bottom of the train create a repulsive force which causes the levitation. However, EDS Trains must be in motion to levitate. When they first start from a stand-still, they have to run on wheels until they reach a certain speed.
Currently, steel-wheel trains can hit speeds over 200mph which raises the question of whether or not a transition to MagLev is necessary. MagLev supporters have a very strong argument in their favor, and it's one that can't be ignored. Steel-wheel trains use transmissions, wheels-and-axles, and brakes, which can all be costly to replace of repair. Most MagLev trains do not need moving parts directly tied to propulsion. "Engineers joke that the only moving parts are the doors," says Richard Thornton, MagneMotion's CEO. Over time, this has the potential to save a substantial amount of money.
There is no doubting the huge benefits that these trains offer. The only real question is whether MagLev trains are cost effective enough to offset the high building costs, and there are plans being developed to build tracks across the US to answer that question. Guess we have to wait and see.
From : Popular Mechanics