The Magnetic Levitation Train: A Technology ahead of Its Time?

Term Paper, 2008

17 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Magnetic Levitation Train
2.1. System & Technology
2.2. The Maglev Train around the World

3. Market and Product Analyses
3.1. PESTE(L) Analysis
3.2. SWOT Analysis

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1 Introduction

The magnetic levitation train analysed in this study was developed in Germany by the Transrapid International GmbH & Co. KG, a joint venture by Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp AG, as a means for high speed transportation. First prototypes were presented to the public as early as 1969 and 1979, yet, the first public high-speed maglev track was opened only four years ago in Shanghai, China. Despite the fact that businesspeople like engineers from all sorts of backgrounds speak very highly of the technology, the Shanghai track remains the only commercially operated one thus far.

Purpose of this paper is to analyse the potential of the maglev train, to assess its strengths and weaknesses, and to spot opportunities as well as threats to the application of this state-of-the-art - or perhaps ahead-of-its-time - technology.

2. The Magnetic Levitation Train

The magnetic levitation train (maglev train) was developed for high-speed public transportation. A maglev train can be made up of up to ten sections and carry up to 1,172 passengers. Moving without wheels and rails, it uses non-contact electromagnetic levitation, guidance, and propulsion systems, i.e. wear-free electronics instead of mechanical components. Using no wheels, axles, transmissions, or pantographs, the high speed maglev system thus hovers rather than rolls like usual trains do. Functioning without all these parts required for operation of regular trains, it hence shows less component abrasion than these. The following section will present the different components of the Maglev train system and concisely explain their function.

2.1. System & Technology

The Guideway

The guideway is a hybrid construction of steel and concrete beams of up to 62 m length and can be installed either at-grade or elevated on slim columns. A straight profile of precast concrete is combined with steel cantilevers at its ends. These flexible cantilevers of varying lengths are required for setting up curves over the course of the track. The possible curve radius mainly due to geometry of the train amounts to 270m

At the bottom of this hybrid construction of steel and concrete beams the so-called stators are attached which consist of steel plates pervaded by copper inductors. By means of induction these stators create the magnetic field which keeps the train levitating. Steely guidance rails installed at the sides of the guideway keep the train on track (Fig. 1).


Transrapid vehicles consist of a minimum of two sections, each carrying about 90 passengers. The number of sections forming a train can be increased to ten sections according to the occurring passenger volume. Being designed for passenger transportation the trains can also be set up for the transportation of goods through the use of especially designed cargo sections which can carry up to 15 tons each. Although existing, the possibility to transport goods is very limited compared to traditional trains.

Important with regard to the vehicle is also that neither the number of sections, i.e. the length of the train, nor the payload affect its acceleration power as the propulsion system is located in the guideway.

Support magnets and guidance magnets attached to a “tentacle-like” construction at the bottom of the train which encompasses the guideway in conjunction with the stators and guidance rails ensure the levitation of the train and that it stays on track with a constant clearance of 10 mm between guidance rail and guidance magnet (Fig. 1).

Levitation System

Electronically controlled support magnets located on both sides along the entire length of the vehicle pull the vehicle up to the ferromagnetic stator packs attached to the bottom of the guideway. As mentioned, guidance magnets located on both sides along the entire length of the vehicle keep the vehicle on the track (Fig. 1).

The levitation system is supplied from on-board batteries and which makes it independent of the propulsion system. The vehicle is capable of hovering up to one hour without external energy. While travelling, the on-board batteries are recharged by generators integrated into the support magnets. Interestingly, the train requires less power to hover than to run its air conditioning equipment.

Propulsion System

The Maglev train uses a synchronous long-stator linear motor for both propulsion and braking. In principle, it is functioning like a rotating electric motor whose stator is cut open and stretched along under the guideway. Instead of producing a torque like usual electric motors do, the long-stator linear motor creates a linear force along its length which is responsible for moving the train forward. This force stems from a magnetic travelling field generated by alternating current in the stator and an opposing electromagnetic field around the support magnets of the vehicle. The support magnets hence function as the excitation portion (rotor) of the linear motor. The two opposing fields surrounding (a) stators and (b) support magnets repel each other and thus force the vehicle away from the stator, carrying it forward. The train speed can be continuously regulated by varying the frequency of the alternating current. During the braking phase of the train the direction of the magnetic travelling field is reversed which turns the motor into a generator which produces energy that can be fed back into the electrical network.

2.2. The Maglev Train around the World


The first commercial high-speed maglev line opened in Shanghai in early 2004, commuting between Longyang Road subway station in East Shanghai and Pudong International Airport. Running at a top speed of 431 km/h the train covers the 30.5 kilometres in just over seven minutes.

As passenger numbers continue to fall short of the initial expectations - due to limited operating hours, expensive tickets, and an inconvenient location of Longyang Road station - suggestions have been put forward to extend the current track. While plans to extend the track to Hangzhou, 170km to the southeast of Shanghai, have recently been put on hold, tracks leading to Shanghai’s second major airport Hongqiao International and the Expo 2010 site are currently being built. The construction has faced repeated protests by local residents, however, forcing the Shanghai Urban Planning Administrative Bureau to divert from the initially planned route, thus doubling the cost of the project. ,

Middle East

A variety of feasibility studies have recently been conducted concerning the construction of Maglev tracks in the Middle East. One of these studies analysed the possible construction of a line between Teheran and pilgrim city Mashhad in the northeast of Iran. However, due to international political frictions involving the country, German chancellor Angela Merkel urged the Transrapid International GmbH & Co.KG not to export the technology to Iran.

A further possible track under consideration would connect the emirates Abu Dhabi and Dubai where currently a major airport is being erected. Planning status and a potential project schedule related to this remain undisclosed, though. The same holds true for a feasibility study regarding a Maglev connection between Qatar and Bahrain, since competing alternatives are still being analysed by these countries.


Excerpt out of 17 pages


The Magnetic Levitation Train: A Technology ahead of Its Time?
Vrije University Brussel  (Solvay Business School)
Advanced Technology
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
604 KB
Magnetic, Levitation, Train, Technology, Time, Advanced, Technology
Quote paper
Jens Hillebrand (Author), 2008, The Magnetic Levitation Train: A Technology ahead of Its Time?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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