Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between the Japanese and the German superspeed maglev system?
Superspeed maglev systems consist of different possible combinations of a magnetic levitation system and a non-contact propulsion system. In Germany, almost all possible combinations have been developed and tested until 1977 before the decision was made in favor of the current system.
In contrast to the German Transrapid that encompasses its guideway and is pulled towards the guideway table from below by its electromagnetic levitation system, the Japanese Chuo Shinkansen runs in a U-shaped guideway and is held in its track from the sides by an electrodynamic levitation system (repulsive principle). Superconductive coils in the vehicle cooled with liquid helium generate very strong magnetic fields which induce an inverse magnetic field in the passive reaction coils in the guideway. Beyond a speed of about 100 km/h these fields are sufficiently strong to suspend the vehicle. Up to that speed the Chuo Shinkansen moves on wheels.
The Transrapid's gap width is 8 to 10 mm, that of the Chuo Shinkansen 10 cm. Both trains are propelled by means of a long-stator motor in the guideway.
Disadvantages of the Japanese technology are the high costs, the high technological expenditure for the high-temperature superconductors and the extreme magnetic fields inside the vehicles. Additionally, the unregulated levitation system of the Chuo Shinkansen means much less comfort. An advantage is that is earthquakeproof.
The combination also tested in Germany until 1977 of an electromagnetic levitation system and a short-stator motor in the vehicle has been further developed in Japan as HSST (High Speed Surface Transport). However, this system is not suited for high speeds and therefore only considered as a short-distance means of transport.