Clean Transport

Published on September 5th, 2013 | by James Ayre


Levitating Train Surpasses Speeds Of 310 Miles Per Hour — Breaks World Speed Record

September 5th, 2013 by  

A world where it’s possible to travel long distances, very rapidly, while completely avoiding all of the pitfalls that accompany air travel — both with regard to comfort and with regard to carbon emissions — seems to be getting closer and closer. Well, in some parts of the world anyways… While the US continues to drag its feet on that matter, yet another milestone has been passed in another part of the world — a new world record has been set by a Japanese Maglev train traveling at an incredible 310 miles per hour.

The world train speed record was set during a recent 27-mile test run of the “L Zero” magnetically levitated train — a test run that apparently went flawlessly according to those involved. According to the journalists that were invited onboard, even while traveling at top speed, “they could barely feel a thing.”

Image Credit: Screen Capture

Image Credit: Screen Capture provides more info:

The train does have wheels — it rides on them when the train is at low speed — then rises up above the track when it reaches approximately 93 mph. On the test run, the train reached its peak speed just three miles into the trip, which would suggest riders would feel pushed back into their seats, but those on board reported no such sensation. …

Maglev trains are able to travel very fast all while using less energy than conventional trains because they allow the train to ride on a cushion of air — friction from the wheels on the track is eliminated. Most in the field expect they will require less maintenance costs as well.

But what’s still not clear is if the lower operating costs will make up for the dramatically greater installation cost. The line between Tokyo and Osaka is expected to cost approximately $90 billion and it won’t be completed until 2045 (an initial line is expected to begin operating between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027 reducing travel time from 95 to 40 minutes).

While 2027 is still quite a long ways off, at the very least, steps are being taken in that country to improve the infrastructure — while in the US, any improvements in recent years, such as a federal high-speed rail plan, have been fought tooth and nail by an extreme wing of a certain political party.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • sstrom

    It is a shame that the USA is so far behind in mass transit. I was in China and rode their bullet train from Dongguan to Guangzhou at over 140 MPH and that was awesome. So smooth and comfortable, and that train was on wheels. You could not tell how fast you were going unless you passed a crossing gate that was close to you. Why a superpower (USA) who claims to be the leader in technology does not see the value in this technology is beyond me. Mass transit in the USA lacks because it is inefficient and slow. We need to move our system to the 21st century.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Having ridden European HSR, I have to agree. It’s time we got out of uncomfortable airplanes for moderate distance travel and into fast, electrified rail.

    • Agree, I took the French TGV once from Geneva to Paris in 4 hours, I recall it went around 160 mph… non stop of course…


  • Aegys87

    $90billion!?…wow…now I’m excited for the Hyperloop…

    • Steven Sullivan

      Aegys87 that is only 3 nuclear power plants without the 8 million gpd of water being sucked out of the earth and a legacy of radioactive waste. Put it in context and maybe you can see its a worth while project

      • Aegys87

        I hope you’re joking, even the California High Speed Rail will cost up to $60billion, and it connect cities from Sacramento to San Diego, the maglev here connects Tokyo and Osaka for that price tag, and the distance is much shorter than the California HSR. The current maglev in commercial operation is in Shanghai, last I check, it is still losing money and is not expected to pay back for the next 100 years, it is nothing more than a vanity project by a ‘rich’ government.
        And how do you calculate $90billion to equate 3 nuclear power plants? The French would have gone bankrupt by now. Btw, nuclear power plants generates clean electricity at a much economical rate than your beloved coal and gas. As for the millions of gpd water being wasted(if those numbers are accurate at all), those water are simply used for cooling and not vaporized off.
        What happened at Fukushima or San Onofre is NOT because of nuclear power but because of HUMAN ERROR, so blame the unprofessional human. The French and Swedish had done exceptionally well harnessing nuclear energy and dealing with the waste properly, yet you seem to conveniently turn a blind side. Oh and for your information, coal power plants do emit radioactive waste in the form of emitted ash. I guess you are really okay being blissfully ignorant without checking the facts straight.

        • Steven Sullivan

          not joking, Duke Energy just shut down two nuclear projects here in Florida due to costs and a big boo boo they did. Even without the mess up the estimated costs had run north of 24 billion , thats with a B, and climbing for the Levy facility. Nuclear facilities use on average 8 million gpd of water depending on the size. i want you to drink the water from those cooling towers if you think it is safe and then tell your kids to do the same. the new construction cost for a lane of a 4 lane highway is between 3.1 and 9.1 million per mile. the distance between Tokyo and Osaka is 314miles do the math.(avg) 6 million x 4(lanes)=24 million times 314 miles. not much of a stretch

          • Aegys87

            Your calculation are flawed and overly simplistic, and what is this asking me to drink water from the cooling tower? Do you and your kids drink from the local swimming pool? Its free from radiation you know.
            Like I said, shame on Duke Energy and their management for making a mess with their nuclear projects, I’m looking closely at the Voeglte project in Georgia to see how’s the progress. They have a lot to learn from the French about nuclear energy, they cleanest and also cheapest electricity in Europe, free from the Russian gas and OPEC oil, now with trams being built all over their cities and electric cars on the road, French transportation is going all nuclear.
            Btw, how many people have been killed by nuclear radiation from existing nuclear power plant so far? and how about deaths/illnesses from coal power plant?…you do the math…

          • Bob_Wallace

            “They have a lot to learn from the French about nuclear energy”

            Olkiluoto 3 in Finland is being built by the French nuclear company, Areva. They were supposed to have that reactor on line in 2009. Initial cost estimates were about € 3.7 billion.

            They are now hoping to be on line in 2015. And the expected cost has risen to at least €8.5 billion.

            Then there’s the Flamaville reactor. The French company, EDF, began construction in December 2007 with completion expected in 54 months (mid 2012). The initial budget was € 3.3 billion.

            The projected completion date is now 2016 and the estimated budget has swollen to €8.5 billion.

            We don’t need to learn that stuff from the French. We’ve long know how to way under estimate cost and build times for reactors. We’re champs at that. That’s why nuclear fizzled in the US before. And why it will almost certainly fizzle again. We’re right on track, behind schedule and over budget, at Vogtle.

            Or were you thinking that we need to learn how to shut reactors down during heat waves the way the French do?

            No need. We’ve got that one figured out as well.

            Or maybe you were thinking that we could learn how to temporarily store spent fuel and leave it for future generations? Well, we could copy their technique. But we’ve got the basic principle mastered.

            I wonder if we might learn something from the Germans? Hummmmmmmmmmm…………….

          • Bob_Wallace

            “I’m looking closely at the Voeglte project in Georgia to see how’s the progress.”

            Since beginning actual construction in Vogtle in March of this year the V3 reactor is now 15 to 19 months over time line and about $1.2 billion over budget.

            In other words, pretty much normal nuclear reactor progress.


          • Aegys87

            So far all the arguments against nuclear are simply cost overrun and delay. Anything else to add before I post another reply?

          • Steven Sullivan

            Aegys87, you are just another thick in the skull individual there is nothing clean about nuclear. like i said drink the water, i did not tout the merits of cooling water as being harmless you did that. secondly my numbers are not flawed since i pulled them from a national transportation report if anything it probably to conservative. i know we had a mile of highway wit a couple of ramps that ran over $200 million dollars. i am not a supporter of coal nor natural gas, but if those were my only choices i would chose gas over nuclear. the bond and capital markets wont touch the stuff so you are a lone wolf whistling Dixie in the wind. clean my foot, do you know that it is going to take 60 years to decommission that plant and deal with the waste as well several billion dollars in costs

          • Aegys87

            Now I see…you obviously don’t understand how a heat exchanger works, you see its a device that transfer heat from one medium(usually the hotter region)to another, a bit like how your air-conditioning works, in a nuclear power plants’ case, there will be multiple stages of heat exchanger to extract the heat from the exhaust to the river or ocean flowing. Basically the water that is flow through will NEVER had any contact with the nuclear reaction taking place. Besides, the cooling process is too cool the exhaust steam that exitted from the steam turbine, AGAIN, no contact with the reactor. The water that flows into the river is simply from the river itself that was warmed up from the multiple heat exchanger process.
            You actually thought the water was pumped into the reactor and then flush out into the sea? Obviously you are no engineer. And the fact you even mention about bonds and capital which had nothing to do with nuclear safety means you’re just a bean counter being caught up in some anti-establishment movement that you don’t even understand what its all about. Just leave your technical argument to the expert.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Basically the water that is flow through will NEVER had any contact with the nuclear reaction taking place. Besides, the cooling process is too cool the exhaust steam that exitted from the steam turbine, AGAIN, no contact with the reactor. The water that flows into the river is simply from the river itself that was warmed up from the multiple heat exchanger process.”
            Perhaps you can understand how people get the impression that cooling water in reactors might sometimes be radioactive due to the fact that they read about the release of radioactive water from reactors.

            “On March 16, a report was released by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) stating that Canada’s Ontario Power Generation has released radioactive water into Lake Ontario via a leak in the Pickering A nuclear generating station.

            As a result of what appears to be a *pump seal failure*, tens of thousands of litres of radioactive water escaped the generating station on Monday and ended up in Lake Ontario.

            This is concerning for a number of reasons, but it is especially concerning considering the fact that Lake Ontario is the main source of drinking water for millions of people.”
            “Before Sunday’s shutdown of Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, about 79 gallons of diluted radioactive water were released into Lake Michigan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday, May 6.”

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s see what comes to mind…

            1) Every once in a while one of these things makes it past the “Whew! That was a close call.” point and melts. Causes nasties.

            2) Because of that most people don’t want one near them. Irrational fear, I know, after all they might get hit by a meteor.

            3) With a heating planet it’s getting harder to find sites with reliable supplies of cooling water. Heat waves and droughts make a lot of inland places unsuitable. Take the interior of China, for example. Or the interior of the US. That means that new sites are largely coastal.

            4) And that doubles back on #2. Seeing how populations tend to congregate along seacoasts people aren’t really willing to pick up and move somewhere else so that a reactor can be built. And they don’t want to live next to one.

            Would we call out the military to clear a space?

            5) Then there’s the ‘trained and experienced’ problem. Right now existing reactors are looking at a problem of the boomers aging out. That’s leaving them a bit tight in terms of staff, although the closing reactors may help them out and free up some spares.

            Anyway, the industry isn’t exactly attracting a lot of talented young folks who want to spend their lives working with nuclear energy and we don’t have construction companies that know how to build reactors. (That Vogtle time line overrun thing….)

            6) There’s bit of a financing problem. Private money wants nothing to do with loaning their money to new reactors unless taxpayers take on all the risks. I’m not sure taxpayers are all that interested in risking several billion dollars just so reactor builders can enjoy some sweet paychecks. And if Vogtle continues the way it’s going risk tolerance is likely to slip some.

            7) There’s the “What the hell do we do with even more deadly radioactive waste?” problem. And, no, it isn’t solved. Even if Yucca Mountain gets shoved down the throats of Nevadans there’s not enough space to deal with a bunch more reactors.

            8) Did I mention how long it takes to build a new reactor? Yes, we know that China can build them in 5-6 years, but we are not China. We’re kind of like Europe. China x 2+.

            New wind farms and new solar arrays come on line so danged fast. They start reducing fossil fuel use and start producing revenue in weeks to months. Not a decade.

            That makes wind and solar so tantalizing.

            9) There’s the very nasty problem of new reactors being too expensive. Now, there’s a lot of dispute about what the cost might be. If we look at real world data, the turnkey bids for Ontario, San Antonio and Turkey, then we see something like $0.20/kWh. If we take the optimistic estimates of the true believer then we get $0.10/kWh.

            Just for fun let’s put a very heavy thumb on nuclear’s side of the scale and assume 10c/kWh. Can’t avoid bankruptcy if you have to earn 10c/kWh.

            Wind is now producing for 6c/kWh. Solar is breaking below 10c/kWh. By the time one could bring a new reactor on line both wind and solar will be less. Pretty much guaranteed.

            Here’s what 10c/kWh for a new reactor means. It means that you have to earn that much, on average, 7,884 hours a year.

            Now assume that wind is going to be available 50% of the time. Reactor is going to have to drop its price to less than 6c/kWh in order to cause wind to curtail. That means having to sell the other 50% of the time for at least 15c/kWh.

            And solar is going to be available 20% of the time. Nuclear has to undercut solar 8c/kWh during those hours. Take even more losses, crank up its asking price to something close to 20c/kWh.

            Well, we can store 6c/kWh for 6-8 cents (pump-up hydro / flow batteries) giving us a 12c to 14c option and that kills nuclear’s opportunity to make a penny.

            (And I didn’t even bring natural gas into the conversation. I stuck with carbon-free.)

          • Bob_Wallace

            Say, did you happen to notice that EDF – the French nuclear company – sold off all their stuff in the US and left?

            They stated that they couldn’t make money with nuclear in the US.

            Kind of goes along with what these guys had to say…

            Let me state unequivocably that I’ve never met a nuclear plant I didn’t like,” said John Rowe, who retired 17 days ago as chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation, which operates 22 nuclear power plants, more than any other utility in the United States.

            “Having said that, let me also state unequivocably that new ones don’t make any sense right now.”

            “I’m the nuclear guy,” Rowe said. “And you won’t get better results (than) with nuclear. It just isn’t economic, and it’s not economic within a foreseeable time frame.”


            “On July 30th, the Financial Times published an interview with GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt on the future of various energy alternatives. For decades, GE has played a significant role in many sectors of the energy business. It makes huge electric generators for electric utilities. It sells wind turbines. It sells solar installations and it recently added oil patch activities to its roster of companies. It has also been a leading supplier of nuclear power generation equipment. So for one of the leaders in that last space to suggest that nuclear isn’t a competitive solution now or going forward is a significant statement.

            Mr. Immelt expressed his view that it is almost impossible on a cost basis to justify investing in nuclear power plants for the future. ”So I think some combination of gas, and either wind or solar … that’s where we see most countries around the world going.””


          • Aegys87

            I am not a fan of gas as well because besides being carbon, it comes with a whole range of environmental drawbacks its not even worth it, like oil it will be depleted eventually. Obviously the case against nuclear is still economics, but i need to argue with your point no 7 about this nuclear waste, recent innovations in nuclear engineering means its possible to consumed these nuclear waste into energy as well, google “TerraPower”. This opens the door to even more possibilities not just to clean this ‘waste’ but also to extract even more energy. This means an end to end solution to the fear of nuclear energy.

            As for the problem of economics, do take note the there have not been a nuclear powerplant built in the States for more than 30 years, obviously the valuable skills and expertise will take time to recover, and the economic price is a lesson to learn. Furthermore, we are entering a new phase in nuclear technology with the advent of Generatian 3+ pressurised water reactor, these are state-of-the-art and the safest reactors ever design. Eventually, all the expenses will result in a power plant that consumes LITTLE material yet release HUGE amount of energy, THIS is the opportunity we shouldn’t be missing.

            And just as we’re speaking, our scientist from MIT to Oak Ridge and Sandia are developing newer, cleaner and safer nuclear technologies that will only means our future is getting better, that is if we do not pull out the plug.

            About those quote from Jeff Immelt and other corporate big wits, hey, Donald Trump HATES wind turbine, and he is very vocal about it, you can find different opinion from different people.

            Make no mistake, I am BIG on wind and solar, in fact I work in the solar industry, but believing that wind and solar alone can satisfy our demand is naive, even the Ivanpah Solar Thermal plant has to battle with environmentalist, so whats with nuclear being the bad guy? And I’m not a fan of hydro power as it means sinking an entire town.

            I see nuclear as part of the puzzle to go completely carbon free, along with solar, wind, geothermal, wave and other innovations to come, and the more we keep an open mind we can save ourselves the trouble of looking at China and thinking “well why didn’t we did that….”

          • Bob_Wallace

            I am also not a fan of natural gas, but let’s look at NG in a rational way, shall we?

            From a financial angle.

            Built-some-time-ago-and-paid-off coal and nuclear plants produce relatively inexpensive electricity. But their cost is dependent on being able to sell 24/7 (minus normal offline time). As I pointed out, having a lower priced producer come on line means periods of selling at a loss which means that prices must be higher at other times in order to avoid bankruptcy.

            Wind and solar have no fuel costs. Natural gas is cheap and dispatchable. The combination steals market from thermal plants. We have seen five nuclear plants fail for financial reasons in 2013. Germany and Australia are seeing coal plants close due to competition from renewables.

            Utilities are going to use whatever is cheapest. As long as there is no price on carbon in the US NG, along with renewables, is going to kill existing thermal plants. And certainly make new builds unreasonable.

            People can invent all sorts of molten salts/thorium/Gen III+/Gen IV/superdooper reactors but the problem persists. New builds are expensive. No one has invented a cheap reactor.

            When you build something new you must pay the “mortgage”. Just because the market doesn’t need your product for several hours each night does not mean that your creditors will forgive you a similar amount of your debt. The bill has to be paid.

            A new build that has to make 10c/kWh 90% of 365*24 cannot avoid bankruptcy.
            You can try to tap dance around the math. But the math abides.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “I see nuclear as part of the puzzle to go completely carbon free, along with solar, wind, geothermal, wave and other innovations to come, and the more we keep an open mind we can save ourselves the trouble of looking at China and thinking “well why didn’t we did that….”

            Have you considered China’s very significant corruption problem?

            Are you aware that South Korea has had to shut several of its reactors because safety certificates were faked?

            f “yes” to those questions, have you considered what would happen to the world nuclear industry if one of their reactors melted down?

            How about if one of the European or North American reactors tanked?

            Did you pay attention when the Joplin tornado struck not all that far from a US reactor whose backup generator would have been destroyed in a tornado hit? No grid power + no backup generator = what would have been, at best, a very public close call.

            We are so very close to an up-swell of “Close the Damn Things!!!”

            e can do the job without nuclear. IMO we should close any reactors which are questionable and that should be carefully determined by an agency other than the nuclear industry. We should build no more. We can do the job just fine, and for less money, without nuclear.

          • Bob_Wallace

            ” but i need to argue with your point no 7 about this nuclear waste,
            recent innovations in nuclear engineering means its possible to consumed
            these nuclear waste into energy as well”

            No, it is potentially possible to reuse spent fuel but breeder reactors have not solved the problem to date. And spent fuel is only a small percentage of our radioactive waste problem.

            We have an immense problem with nuclear waste. If it were possible to build a reactor, let’s say for $10 billion, why wouldn’t we be doing that right now? Remember Yucca Mountain would have been a $100+ billion expense.

          • Roy Wagner

            Reply potentially possible no one has ever built and operated a plant of this kind.
            The reactor will still have to be decommissioned.
            Accidents happen and you can still make a bomb out of it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Anyone who thinks breeder reactors are the solution should read this paper…


          • CaptD

            The very real RISK of a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster like Fukushima for whatever reason like NATURE!

          • Roy Wagner

            The Georgia Plants are already $ 600,000,000 over budget

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m seeing $740 million to $1.2 billion over.

          • Roy Wagner

            Amazing less than 2 months ago I read it was 600 $ million

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Georgia Power said its share of the estimated $14 billion project will rise to $6.85 billion, up from $6.11 billion,”


            That’s $0.74 billion, $740 million. And that’s only Georgia Power’s share. Georgia Power is a 45.7% owner. So I’d make it $1,619 million for the total. $1.6 billion over budget.

            And that’s a number from March. Since then the time schedule has slipped another three months which will boost the number higher.


          • Roy Wagner

            I understand the Plants were started without the design being finalized.
            I cannot understand how the estimates are so far out.
            Without it being deliberate to get them started in the first place.
            I believe there should be a standard design and build.
            10 of them one after the other so specialized equipment can be reused and the cost of all components would be lower.
            If a contractor fails to perform on time and within budget they are fined, replaced excluded from the next projects

          • Bob_Wallace

            These are
            Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors. They are a standardized plan, approved
            in 2005. The plans have been revised with the last revision apparently
            approved in 2011, two years before construction began at the Vogtle

            China started building them in 2008. Five years later China has not completed any.


            I don’t know what has caused the delays. One problem, IIRC,
            is that curved/straight rebar was installed when the plans called for
            straight/curved. Other problems seem to have arisen with the component
            manufacturers who are delivering late.

            This is typical nuclear build performance. When we were building rectors back in the 1970, well, I’ll give you a picture…

          • Bob_Wallace

            And here’s some history on predicted and actual prices.

            Bid low. Deliver high and late.

            Here’s an interesting read on how nuclear played out in Washington State…


          • Roy Wagner

            Ok I can see losing a week maximum for bent rebar to be exchanged it can also be bent on site.
            Steel suppliers everywhere have it in stock by the semi load delivered overnight.
            Unless of course they specified some weird size galvanized for your protection.

          • Bob_Wallace

            As far as I know not many of the details have been made public. At least I haven’t discovered them on line.

            The AP 1000 is supposed to be built partly in factories as components and then delivered to the site. It seems that one or more of the suppliers hasn’t met their deadline.

            The rebar, I suspect, was concreted in and it was a bit more complicated than shipping in another load.

            Whatever, it looks like these reactors are going in the same direction of previous builds. And the people calling the shots are performing as previous organizations. Apparently the decision has been made to quite checking costs until the project is finished. I suspect the people of Georgia are going to get some expensive electricity shoved down their throats. It’s a regulated market.

  • S.Nkm

    Break what record, the maglev train speed record? Certainly not any speed record by a large margin.

    • mtracy9

      Yes … the world speed record still goes to the speed of light. Thanks for calling our attention to this bit of sloppy editing. LOL.

      • S.Nkm

        ? Sorry I don’t understand your reply…

Back to Top ↑