# How bright is the future of Maglev Cars?

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1. Jun 17, 2013

### Vanstorm9

Hey guys,
I made a topic similar to this earlier, but after I was informed that my ideas has several flaws that would prevent it from working, I revised it and researched more about my topic. This is my original idea with several concepts that has changed. I am planning on making a mini-model of this that will test out all concepts, so I would like some critique whether its logic, error in concept, or just difficulty.

I am just a simple high school student in a one-year physics course who wants to improve his ability in applied science and using physics to create new things (my dream is to be an inventor)

I always had this idea of a Maglev (electromagnetic) hover car where it uses the messier effect and superconductivity for magnetic levitation and Faraday’s electromagnetic induction principal to generate electricity give it the ability to recharge its motor if it runs on newly built magnetic roads.

I am a high school junior, a first-year physics high school student, so I don’t know if my physics reasoning is good enough and if I am actually typing in wrong physics concepts on this page right now.

So here are my ideas for the maglev car.

Main concepts
Electromagnetic suspension (Meissner effect)
By using a superconductor and using extremely low temperatures, it will allow electromagnetic suspension to be created and give the car the ability to levitate.

Possible experiement: Use liquid nitrogen to cool a superconductor/magnet and place it on a magnetic track and see how it levitates and move on the track, basically recreating this experiment:

Inductive Coupling/ Resonance
This is the use of transferring electrical current from one wire to another with no contact by using induction. This happens when a current flow through a coil and creates a magnetic field in the magnetic rails. The second coil in the maglev car will also create a magnetic field and have the field induce a current in the car’s coil, recharging the maglev car’s battery. This is also made possible through resonance, where if both coils achieve the same resonance, energy can travel in a stream from the rails to the car from meters away.
Possible experiment: Create two coils, one with a battery and one with an LED, and attempt to preform inductive coupling. In other words, I will try to recreate this experiment:

We are pretty close to using inductive coupling in electrical vehicles thanks to the breath through of the creation on OLEV (On-Line Electrical Vehicle) created by the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). They already created their first vehicle that uses inductive coupling to recharge the bus’s electrical motor while driving, as opposed to other electrical vehicles which relies on stopping and recharging (which means it is more time efficient).

Pros

Higher speed capability and lower travel time
Due to the fact that Maglev car does not contact the service, it has an advantage over the common four-wheeled cars: lack of friction. Road to tire friction has always been the force that restricted a car’s ability to achieve maximum speed and have always resulted in loss of energy. However, the maglev car makes no contact to the road and completely ignores friction, allowing less energy loss and maximum speeds.

Another friction that slows down vehicles is air resistance to maximum speeds of around 300-350 mph. However, if maglev highways were to take place in low pressured tunnels, where there is less air, then maglev cars can ignore both surface friction and air drag, achieving speeds up to thousands of miles per hour. There have been predictions from sources saying that if Maglev highways were to built, cars can reach Los Angeles from New York in just an hour.

Less accident rates and higher safety (guided maglev railways)
Maglev relies on magnetic rails in order to function; therefore the path of the car will be restricted to the magnetic railway. This is a good thing since this reduces the chance of “losing control” of the vehicle, which often results to car accidents. Also, the distance between the cars as well as the speed of the cars will be controlled by frequency of electrical power that feeds the car.

Constant supply of energy without recharging
The maglev car is an electrical car that uses inductive coupling (as demonstrated in Korea’s ONEV) by transferring electricity from underground power lines to the wires of the vehicle connecting to the motor.

No need for oil and gasoline & no pollution
The maglev cars run completely on electricity with no need for oil. This would only significantly reduce the amount of human conception on oil (since automobile and transportation is the main consumer of oil) , it would also significantly reduce the amount of CO2 output in the air. If millions of these were used on the road instead of gasoline powered cars, it will cause a great impact on global warming and the energy crisis.

Quiet
Maglev trains have a reputation of being quiet trains due to the use of electrical motors and magnetic suspension. Same goes for the future maglev cars.

Reasons for Maglev car being a top choice in the future

Why preferable over solar powered cars?

Weather independence
This is one of the huge advantages over solar powered cars. While the results between maglevs and solar powered may be the same in bright daylight, solar powered cars will lose their main source of energy in a cloudy or rainy day, or more common problem, at night. However, maglev cars is completely weather independent, capable of functioning at its highest during sunny, rainy, cloudy, and nightime weather conditions. Even though solar powered cars can store in electricity that it got from its solar panel to use during non-sunny condition, the weight of the battery reduces the efficiency of the car, giving it an additional disadvantage while the maglev cars is weather independent without losing its efficiency.

Significant increase in speed as opposed to decrease in speed
Another disadvantage of solar powered cars is their reduction in speed. Solar powered cars are designed to run even slower than gasoline powered cars in order to function properly. However, maglev cars is the exact opposite, it is designed to move 3 times faster than the top speed of gasoline powered cars (due to reduction in surface friction and air resistance). While speed is the great weakness of solar powered cars, it is the maglev car’s greatest strength while both of them have a fair share of other similar advantages. In this situation, Pro + con (solar) loses to Pro + Pro (maglev)

Easier maintenance/increased durability
The main source of power for solar powered cars is its solar panels, which will be completely exposed to the roof of cars. Due to such exposure, the solar panels have a higher chance of being damaged from outside forces which can cripple the car’s ability to receive energy from the sun. In addition, solar panels are expensive to maintain and replace. Maglev cars have no solar panels to be worried about.

Energy efficiency
Maglev cars only consume 0.4 megajoules per passenger mile, which is two percent of the energy consumed by the typical 60 mph car. In low-pressured tunnels, its energy consumtion would decrease to the equivalent of 10,000 miles per gallon.

Why Maglev technology over normal four-wheeled cars?

High energy efficiency
As explained before, Maglev cars only consume 0.4 megajoules per passenger mile, which is two percent of the energy consumed by the typical 60 mph car. In low-pressured tunnels, its energy consumtion would decrease to the equivalent of 10,000 miles per gallon.

Less need for highway maintenance
Maglev highways would last 50 more years than today’s roads due to the lack of mechanical contact between the car and the ground where the mechanical contact of today’s car constantly wear down the road, especially heavily weighted vehicles. Maglev cars also have a higher life-spawn than normal cars, airplanes, and normal trains.

Quiet
As mentioned, Maglev trains have a reputation of being quiet trains due to the use of electrical motors and magnetic suspension. Same goes for the future maglev cars.

Support for the rise of robotic/driverless cars
Driverless cars are increasingly becoming popular and more possible as shown by the creation of Google’s smart driverless cars as well as several robotic cars creations by several universities in the DARPA Grand Challenge. With the sensors of robotic cars, cars will have the ability to navigate through places safely without the need for a driver, allowing “autopilots” to many places

The fact that the maglev highways use guided railways, driverless robotic systems more easily can be installed to maglev cars and give more effective results in combination with cars on guided railways than normal cars today (due to less need of a complex navigation system). Maglev and driverless robotic car systems work great together.

Cons
Expensive cost to build Maglev highways
The only negative aspect of maglev car is the fact that maglev highways have to be created, which won’t be cheap. In order for this to happen, there has to be large funding to the project for the creation of not only maglev cars itself, but an actual system of highways for it. While there has been tests and sample Maglev car railways that show that this is definitely possible, the cost of the project and building a network of maglev highways is the only thing that is stopping its production.

However due to the fact that there is a significant decrease in maintenance and fuel costs as well as energy efficiency, this can be something that can pay off in the long run, if it is invested in today. I have high faith for the success that will come from production of these cars and these highways.

Any critique on this? Is this possible? Any advice in what I can do to make a small model of the maglev car (not the entire thing, just a small demo of it) or any correction to the concepts that I posted? Some of these may look ridiculous to you as I am only a high school physics student. However, I really want to interact with physics more and use these concepts to create something new and interesting, like this maglev electromagnetic hover car.

Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
2. Jun 17, 2013

### Simon Bridge

What is this for? Who will be seeing it and how will they be assessing your work?

References are from youtube - there is no math or credible citations to back up assertions. You make a lot of assertions that need to be backed up.

How would restricting cars to the roads reduce accidents, for example, and how do the cars get between the roads and the owners home? How do you propose to steer the cars - since drivers need to be able to choose their route?

That's just one part.

3. Jun 17, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Vanstorm, sorry I didn't respond to your PM - busy weekend.

How is your idea different from a maglev train? Why would we convert roads to maglev before making [more] maglev trains?

4. Jun 17, 2013

### Vanstorm9

Thanks for responding Simon,

This is like my own personal research project (to help myself learn better on both the topic of my project and the field of engineering as well as research), has nothing to do with academics though I may consider writing a research paper about it on my own time and having an experienced engineer review it. Basically, I am hoping for experienced engineers to look at this and give it more critique so that I can work on it more and propose an even more solid idea.

What kind of sources would you recommend that I should take? Published research papers or something. And what kind of math citations would be needed (yeah I know, I am pretty inexperienced). I actually got these information from many different websites as well as two online research papers from Cornell and MIT. I didn't feel like posting them though since my post was already really long and I felt like there was no need outside of formal research papers. Sorry about that, do you want me to add the citations?

Well I was thinking of some kind of smart highway system (either in the highway or in the car) where computers would measure the distance between the two vehicles. A majority of accidents made on the road are made by human error, so computers detecting the distance between two of the cars and managing their distances would help solve that. And with magnetic field as a huge role on the high ways, there can be potential in creating a better magnetic braking system.

And restricting cars to only the road will also serve the other fraction of the causes of accidents. With magnetic rails, there will be no surving, spinning out of control, go off course, crashing into a fire hydrant, etc. Drunk drivers will no longer have to worry about crashing into things.

For steering cars, I will talk about two things: changing lanes and making turns at intersections and highway exits. Making turns at intersections and highways will be relatively easy, in fact something like has already been made. Trains run on railways. Maglev trains run on magnetic railways. Maglev cars will run on magnetic railways. In the early centuries, two railroads can be connected together, giving the train two choices on which railroad it would take. What would determine its direction is a switch that closes one rail and opens up another. Turning on railways is possible. Same thing can be applied to maglevs. With more curve on the turns for the railways and some more coordination between the maglev car and the rails, maglevs will be able to turn anywhere as long as it is connected to the tracks.

For changing lanes, this would be trickier. I haven’t done too much research on that, but what I have been thinking is having the car possibly trying to control the magnetic field and transferring it to another neighboring track. Maglev trains are propelled through guide ways using magnetism to push and pull the trains. With the capability of giving the train to move forward and backward, would it be possible to use the magnets on both rails to move the maglev car sideways? Is it possible to shift the intensity of the magnetic fields as well as its direction? If I find out that it is, then it will be the answer to giving the maglev car its capability to switch lanes. I am going to have to research more about that, but that is my proposed solution.

How will it get between the roads to the owners home? I think the solution to that would be just to simply install maglev railways everywhere. An entire network of maglev railways will solve this problem. It’s not the best solution though since something like this would be extremely expensive, but if we had the money to, then this is what will happen.

Thanks for the critique, now I know what I should do more research on. Any other critiques and flaws that I have to work on?

Last edited: Jun 18, 2013
5. Jun 17, 2013

### Vanstorm9

Yeah I understand Russ, no worries.

Maglev cars would have more freedom over maglev trains. Trains are pretty restricted, and sometimes do not take the best route in transportation. You take a maglev train to go from one train station A to another to get to your work place. However the train you take passes your work office by many miles. After you got drop off from station B, you have to go ALL THE WAY back in the opposite direction to get to your actual destination. Trains are restricted. People wants transportation that moves quickly as well as having transportation freedoms. Plus, I don’t think we have much room for building more railways for trains. The trains would be too large and there would be way too many stations that would be needed in order to match the freedom of cars, while sacrifcing its advantage to go fast (since it has to constantly stop as nearby stations). Maglev cars are maglev trains with more freedom.

Pretty inefficient transportation method if one were to rely on maglev trains. Has many restrictions in terms of freedom

Why can’t we just rely on our normal cars we have today?

The purpose of maglev cars is to replace gasoline vehicles which consumes natural resources and pollute the environment. People need their own personal transportation and a lot of people are having difficulty getting rid of cars as the main one. What they want is something that is as good, personal, environmentally friendly, and more free than indirect transportation like trains and planes.

We need still cars. Cars are the best form of travel and one of the most efficient in terms of freedom. However, we are paying the price for this by purchasing more foreign oil, creating a higher output in carbon dioxide, and overall driving us deeper in the oil and energy crisis with a lot of pollution. We just want better cars, that is all we need. We have billions of people in the world. We have billions of cars in the world. We have trillions of CO2 from combustion engines in the world. Replace millions of gasoline powered cars with maglev cars and we can basically change the world.

Last edited: Jun 18, 2013
6. Jun 18, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

That is not a proposed solution, it is a collection of words without a physical model behind it. Existing maglev switches are huge, as they have to move the whole track (physically). Without a completely new concept (at least some model working on paper, or in a simulation), switching lanes will not be possible.

You are proposing to replace highways with maglev highways only? In that case, how do you get to the highway? With a classical car? So you need two cars instead of one? How do you get a regular car at your destination?
Replacing every road with maglev roads is certainly not feasible within any relevant timescale.

Where does that number come from?
Meissner effect.
At highway speeds, air resistance dominates.

How do the cars enter/leave those tunnels? Speeds of thousands of miles per hour will need acceleration tracks of something like 1000 kilometers (or miles) - where no car can have a different speed on the same track. In addition, those tracks need curve radii of the same size. You would need point-to-point connections, and then cars have no advantage over trains. Vacuum tunnels are very expensive, too.
Every driverless system gives that.

I don't think maintenance costs will go down significantly for maglev highways. The tracks are more complicated and they need active elements inside. And for the cost of maglev tracks, you can probably maintain a regular road for hundreds of years.

7. Jun 18, 2013

### Vanstorm9

I will do more research on possible concepts on changing rails, there is something I should work on.

But I am proposing for almost every single road to have maglev tracks. Basically, even your drive ways will have maglev tracks.

It’s actually possible to do it for a majority of the roads, but just an insanely slow process. It’s expensive, and the only way to do this is to slowly expand, possible months or years to start from a simple parking lot to a block to a neighborhood, and get into big stuff like street roads and highways. I will admit, there maybe some terrain that would be difficult to build maglev cars on, but on the typical flat streets and highways, I don’t see why it can’t be done. The only problem is that it’s expensive and extremely time consuming, I don’t expect this process to be put in effect really quickly.

True, while air resistance does dominate, surface and mechanical friction is still something less to worry about. While air resistance still maybe a problem for maglev cars that are not in low-pressured tunnels, it does not have to worry about that other friction that restricts its speed. People may someday find a way to improve the aerodynamics of the car, but right now, the main idea is that maglev is capable of achieving higher speeds and may reduce travel times.

It would use some kind of magnetic rail gun in order for the car to accelerate at high speeds. I personally view low-pressure tunnels as “express-ways” where it is only good for traveling really long distances in minutes. It’s useful if you want to drive to another state. I am aware that it is extremely hard to steer and make sharp turns when going thousands of miles per hour, so it won’t be used for your typical trip to the store. It’s good for long distances.

There are times where you don’t want to go too fast as thousands of miles per hour, but merely just want to go faster. There will be open air highways where the Maglevs will only travel in the hundreds speed range. Maglev cars with more speed capability (as well as finding a way to safely increase the maximum speed limit) will reduce travel time. It won’t be going thousand of miles in low-pressurized tunnels, that’s hardcore traveling. I guess that’s when we don’t care too much about air resistance limitations. With a slower speed, there is more control in your turns and capablites to go where you want to go. If you want to go to another state or far away town, then low-pressurized tunnels are the way to go. What about airplanes and trains? Well I think most drivers would prefer it if they can take their main form of transportation with them instead of leaving it at a parking lot.

Yes, driverless car systems can do that to, but with maglev railways, it’s guided. In normal driving, there are all of these things that the computer will have to worry about. Is this terrain drivable? Is there a tree or fire hydrant directly in front of me? How sharp should the degree of my turn be? Am I getting too close to the walls? Maglev railrays already deal with those things, giving computers just neighboring car distance and speed to calculate. Even if it doesn’t have much of an impact in terms of safety and better driving, at least the computers and AI can be cheaper since there isn’t as much things to program and install to the car.

You’re right about the maintenance cost. At this point, it won’t make much of a difference, we may not have the technology for it yet (or at least a better manufacture method). I can’t really say anything much at this point. However, if technology improves and process for building cheaper and stronger maglev rails (with same necessary quality), then that is where the rails will have the advantage and you can start seeing some maintenance advantages.

Alright thanks guys, I will try to research more into magnetism and try to see if I can come up with an idea to have the maglev cars change lanes. I will also study some engineering about low-pressured tunnels, aerodynamics, safety of maglev rails, and possibly ways to create cheaper magnetic rails.

I probably won’t focus too much on low-pressured tunnels though since that’s more like an extra feature and really just want to form the basic advantages of maglev cars which is being faster, more environmentally friendly, and more energy efficient.

Any other things that need to be worked on?

8. Jun 18, 2013

### Simon Bridge

Maglev trains run on single tracks, a maglev car will need to be able to run at arbitrary points ... peple stop by the side of the road and have a picnic, they pull u-turns, make 3-point turns, see a kid chase a ball out into the street and slam on the brakes ... stuff like that.

They will want to be able to change their mind about where they are going and duck into a driveway ... tricky at 1000kmph with almost no friction.

You should look at how hovering vehicles work in real life ... maglev trains are very restricted in their motions - they do nothing like turning at intersections for example and can only "change lanes" at engineered switches. I'd suggest building a scale model maglev system and see the difficulties involved.

Where does the energy for the maglev system come from - some centralized power plant?
Why would that be more environmentally friendly that running the power plant in each car (and how would people pay for the power?)

Then you have to think about how to end up with it ... it's very nice for science fiction but how do you get there from here? You appear to imagine that it is a matter of convincing someone to pay for lots of track and infrastructure over a long time - while the state of the art stays the same(?), while you have a mixture of technologies running side by side in perfect harmony(?)

If I had built the first maglev car, would you buy it?

I think it is the Utopian Dream aspect of the description that is of most concern ... you are not the first to propose a utopian hovercar system and they never get anywhere. Start smaller, iron out the problems on a small scale first.

Where are you at as an engineer btw?

9. Jun 19, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Maglev tracks are not compatible with regular roads - you cannot "upgrade" roads, you would have to replace them completely, breaking and disturbing traffic for years or even decades. In addition, no current maglev system can do tight turns like cars do on intersections - it would need some completely new system.

If your cars have a fixed height, here is an idea to switch lanes: Make a second track overhead (switching sides from time to time), design cars such that they can couple either to the floor track or the upper track.

That is not an issue, and the question "is there an obstacle in the way" is still present for maglev tracks - not all obstacles are as stationary as trees.

In towns, I don't see any significant advantage over hydrogen- or battery-powered cars. I would even expect a higher energy consumption to cool the superconductors.

10. Jun 24, 2013

### Vanstorm9

Ah, I never considered the maglev car turning at certain points and with functions like u-turns or 3-K turns and I was thinking about building more solar panels and wind turbines in order to supply for the amount of electricity needed, and for the payment for the power to supply maglev cars, I was thinking about some kind of car gauge that would measure the amount of electricity being consumed just like how a house is charged for electricity for its energy consumption.

Yeah, you’re right. I may be going a bit of stretch though I was focusing on basic concepts on making it possible in terms of what will make the car run, maglev concept, and the benefits that it would have on the car. There were a lot more problems to solve about this than I realized and I will see if I can do more research about that. Yeah, it’s true that it’s an utopian concept, so I may switch to studying a different topic while I still continue to improve my knowledge by seeing if I can study more about electricity and magnetism.

I was thinking about becoming a mechanical engineer or a computer engineer. I was thinking about mechanical engineering because I want to be well rounded and handle all aspects of physics.

For my new topics, I have been thinking of studying something like claytronics or the conversion of wasted heat into electricity. I am sure all of you all have been in college and have done research at an university before, mind giving me tips on how I can get started and what university students do in research projects?

11. Jun 26, 2013

### timthereaper

Despite probably having been talked out of pursuing this, you should still check out the Inductrack technology being developed by General Atomics and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It uses a passive magnetic levitation system that involves a track with loops of Litz wire to create a repulsive magnetic field as a series of Halbach magnet arrays pass over them. It it works, it could eliminate the need for superconductors.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductrack
http://www.ga.com/urban-maglev

Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
12. Jun 26, 2013

### Floid

Cost: A while back I read a popular science article about a group trying to do this between New York and London. Their estimated price was $25 to$50 million per mile to build this system. Granted they were doing a tunnel primarily through water which I am sure is a significant cost increase. But there are 47,182 miles of interstate in the United States....

Safety: What happens when your train is going thousands of miles per hour and the tunnel loses its vacuum? Can the system handle the rapid increase in air friction that would happen. The heat from it could burn up the dar. The unexpected forces could compromise the cars integrity and possibly lead to its destruction. The rapid deceleration would also be very uncomfortable (and possibly deadly) to the occupants.

Safety: What happens when an occupant has an emergency and needs to get to a hospital as soon as possible? How long does it take the vehicle to decelerate, enter a vacuum lock (you have to protect the vacuum of the system after all), etc?

Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
13. Jun 26, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

There is no realistic way to save the passengers, if the leak is significant. At 2km/s, the train material has an energy of 2MJ/kg, enough to evaporate the whole train (literally!). Even with 1g of deceleration (passengers sitting in travelling direction will certainly need a seat belt in that case), deceleration from 2km/s takes 200 seconds and 200km. And if the train can stop - close to the leak, the air will still hit the train with nearly the speed of sound.
The LHC accident in 2008 was caused by such a "collision" of gas with a wall.

I guess train and ambulance will need a similar time to reach some exit point.

Fission, fusion, solar, wind, ...
They won't need much energy anyway, you can recover most of the kinetic energy when the train decelerates. Cooling the superconductors (if present) and keeping the vacuum will need energy, of course.

14. Mar 28, 2015

### Ginna

Just found this post string. Big concern for me is exposing people to that great a level of magnetic fields is a health risk. Mag lev fascinates me, too! Why not turn it all 90 degrees and use a linear induction progression on the wheels to propel the car with each wheel having its own circular induction track? Just a thought.

15. Mar 28, 2015

### Staff: Mentor

The magnetic fields are confined to the vehicle - track contact, they are negligible inside the vehicles.

I don't understand what you mean with wheels and circular induction track.

16. Mar 28, 2015

### rootone

Who is going to fund the reconstruction of all the roads?
I'm pretty sure that the cost of construction and maintenance of maglev roads would be very much higher than conventional roads,
and unless ALL major roads were converted, the system wouldn't provide any advantage over trains.

17. Apr 7, 2015

### JakeBrodskyPE

What does magnetic levitation do that one might not get with, say, an electric car with wheels?

Does it travel more reliably in adverse weather such as floods, snow, wind, etc?

Does it operate more efficiently?

Is it safer in any respect?

What sort of infrastructure would you have to build to support it? A car merely needs a road. What would this need?

The reason I ask these questions is that you're proposing significant infrastructure with very little potential return on the investment.

18. Apr 7, 2015

### rootone

Indeed, why invest in something just because it's possible if there is no reason for doing it.
Well I guess it could be done in the name of 'Art', but I don't think many people would agree with government policies focused on aesthetic appeal.

Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
19. Apr 7, 2015

### phinds

Given that creating what the OP originally proposed would likely cost (even if feasible) the entire gross product of the WORLD for several years just to outfit the US, that would be one hell of an expensive art project.

20. Apr 12, 2015

### CWatters

Trains and trams that run on rails appear to have most of the same "advantages" such as lower friction and fewer accidents. Perhaps ask yourself why we don't have rails everywhere? We don't even have cars that could use/share the existing rail infrastructure.