Home : History of MagLev

Chronological history of magnetic levitation

1750 - The first beginnings of magnetic levitation can be traced back to John Mitchell where he noticed the repulsion of two magnets when the same pole of each was put together. 1

Early 1900s - Emile Bachelet in France and Frank Goddard in the United States discussed the possibility of using magnetically levitated vehicles for high speed transport. However, they did not propose a practical way to achieve this goal. 4

1922 - Hermann Kemper in Germany pioneered attractive-mode (EMS) Maglev and received a patent for magnetic levitation of trains in 1934. 7

1934 - On August 14, Hermann Kemper of Germany receives a patent for the magnetic levitation of trains. 2

1962 - Research of linear motor propulsion and non-contact run started. 6

1965 - Maglev development in the U.S. began as a result of the High-Speed Ground Transportation (HSGT) Act of 1965. 7

1966 - In the USA, James Powell and Gordon Danby propose the first practical system for magnetically levitated transport, using superconducting magnets located on moving vehicles to induce currents in normal aluminum loops on a guideway. The moving vehicles are automatically levitated and stabilized, both vertically and laterally, as they move along the guideway. The vehicles are magnetically propelled along the guideway by a small AC current. The original Powell-Danby maglev inventions form the basis for the maglev system in Japan, which is currently being demonstrated in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. Powell and Danby have subsequently developed new Maglev inventions that form the basis for their second generation M-2000 System. Powell and Danby were awarded the 2000 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Engineering by the Franklin Institute for their work on EDS Maglev. 2, 4, 7

1969 - Groups from Stanford, Atomics International and Sandia developed a continuous-sheet guideway (CSG) concept. 7

1970 - Study of electrodynamic levitation systems using superconducting magnets started formally. 6

1972 - LSM-propulsion experimental superconducting MagLev test vehicle (LSM200) succeeded in levitated run. LIM-propulsion experimental vehicle (ML100) succeeded in levitated run. 6

1975 - LSM-propulsion experimental superconducting magnet test vehicle (ML100A) succeeded in perfect non-contact run. 6

1977 - April, Miyazaki, Japan 7 km. maglev test track was opened. In July, test run of ML-500 inverted-T guideway started at the Miyazaki Test Track. 5, 6

1979 - In January, a simulated tunnel run tested. May, a run with helium refrigerator on-board tested (ML-500R) and in December, a run of 517 km/h run was attained. (321 MPH). 6

1980 - November, a test run of MLU001 on U-type guideway started on the Miyazaki MagLev Test Track in Japan. 6

1981 - November, a two-car train test run started. 6

1982 - November, a manned two-car train test run started. 6

1984 - Research on the idea was quickly started and a small train was unveiled in Birmingham, England.  It was used to ferry people between the town's airport and the city's main train station. The train in Birmingham was just a smaller and slower version of what is now in existence. 1, 9

1986 - December, a three-car train registered 352.4 km/h run. (219 MPH) 6

1987 - January, an unmanned two-car train attained 405.3 km/h (252 MPH). February, a 400.8 km/h run of manned two-car train attained (249 MPH). April, The Railway Technical Research Institute reorganized as a foundation, taking over the R&D work so far pursued by JNR. May, a test run of MLU002 started. 6

1988 - California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission formed to run a track from Anaheim to Las Vegas. 5 December, substation cross-over test was carried out. 6

1989 - March, aerodynamic brake system tested (MLU001). November, 394 km/h run attained (MLU002) (245 MPH). 6

1990 - March, test of traverser-type turnout started. November, start of initial phase in construction of the Yamanashi MagLev Test Line celebrated. 6

1991 - National Maglev Initiative receives one billion dollars federal government funding. 5 June, test run using sidewall levitation system started. Test run energized by inverters started. October, the MLU002 burned down in a fire accident. 6, 9

1992 - The Federal Government in Germany decides to include the 300 km long superspeed MagLev system route Berlin-Hamburg in the 1992 Federal Transportation Master Plan. 2

1993 - January, Test run of MLU002N started. 6

1994 - February, the MLU002N attained 431 km/h. (268 MPH) 6

1995 - February, the MLU002N attained 411 km/h (manned). (255 MPH) 6

1996 - July, Yamanashi, Japan 42.8 km. maglev test track opened. 5 November, Tractor-pulled running test of MLX01 on the Yamanashi MagLev Test Line started. 6

1997 - April, the running test of MLX01 on the Yamanashi MagLev Test Line started. December, the MLX01 attained 531 km/h (manned) (330 MPH). MLX01 attained 550 km/h (unmanned)(342 MPH) .6

1998 - In June, the US congress passes the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21). The law includes a MagLev deployment program allocating public funds for preliminary activities with regard to several projects and, later on, further funds for the design, engineering and construction of a selected project. 2 December, test of two trains passing each other at a relative speed of 966 km/h  (600 MPH). 6

1999 - For the fiscal years 1999 - 2001, $55 million are provided for the MagLev deployment program. An additional $950 million are budgeted for the actual construction of the first project. In November, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and Transrapid International sign a letter of intent to select a suitable Transrapid route in the People's Republic of China and evaluate its technical and economic feasibility. 2 March, MLX01 arranged in a five-car train set attained 548 km/h (unmanned) (341 MPH). April, the MLX01 arranged in a five-car train set attained 552 km/h (manned)  (343 MPH). November, test of two trains passing each other at a relative speed of 1,003 km/h  (623 MPH). 6

2000 - March, The Committee of the Ministry of Transport of Japan concluded "MagLev has the practicability for ultra high speed mass transportation system." August, a cumulative traveled distance exceeded 100,000 km. 6

2001 - In January, in the US, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater selects the Pittsburgh and the Washington - Baltimore routes for detailed environmental and project planning. Later that month in China, a contract is concluded between the city of Shanghai and the industrial consortium consisting of Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, and Transrapid International to realize the Shanghai airport link. In March, the construction of the Shanghai project begins. 2 Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino experienced MagLev trial ride. 6

2002 - Southern California Association of Governments Maglev proposed a 275 mile network and a 54 mile Initial Operating Segment (IOS) was approved December 5 running from West Los Angeles to Ontario Airport. 5 February, cumulative traveled distance exceeded 200,000 km. March, number of passengers for MagLev trial ride exceeded 30,000 persons. July, test run of new train set including MLX01-901 started. 6

2003 - March, longer traveled distance 1,219 km in a day was attained. July, cumulative traveled distance exceeded 300,000km and the number of passengers for MagLev trial ride exceeded 50,000 persons. November, longest traveled distance 2,876 km in a day was attained. December, the MLX01 arranged in a three-car train set attained 581 km/h (manned). 6

2004 - August, the number of passengers for MagLev trial ride exceeded 80,000 persons. October, the cumulative traveled distance exceeded 400,000 km. November, a test of two trains passing each other at a maximum relative speed of 1,026 km/h. 6

2005 - January, His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Naruhito experienced MagLev trial ride. 6

2006 - Chinese developers unveiled the world’s first full-permanent magnetic levitation (Maglev) wind power generator at the Wind Power Asia Exhibition 2006 held June 28 in Beijing, according to Xinhua News. On August 11, the Shanghai maglev caught fire from an onboard battery. September 22, an elevated Transrapid train collided with a maintenance vehicle on a test run in Lathen (Lower Saxony / north-western Germany). Twenty-three people were killed and ten were injured. 8, 9, 10, 11

2008 - Elevators controlled by magnetic levitation are set to debut


Future - In the future, Maglev promises to be the major new mode of transport for the 21st Century and beyond because of its energy efficiency, environmental benefits and time-saving high velocity transport. Because there is no mechanical contact between the vehicles and the guideway, speeds can be extremely high. Traveling in the atmosphere, air drag limits vehicles to speeds of about 300 - 350 mph. Traveling in low pressure tunnels, MagLev vehicles can operate at speeds of thousands of miles per hour. 2

The energy efficiency of Maglev transport, either in kilowatt-hours per passenger mile for personal transport, or kilowatt hours per ton-mile for freight, is much lower for MagLev than for autos, trucks, and airplanes. It is pollution free, can use renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, and in contrast to oil and gas fueled transport, does not contribute to global warming. It is weather independent, and can carry enormous traffic loads - both people and goods - on environmentally friendly, narrow guideways. The cost of moving people and goods by MagLev will be considerably less than by the present modes of auto, truck, rail, and air. 2

In addition to dramatically improving transport capabilities on Earth, MagLev has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of launching payloads into space. While it presently costs $10,000 per pound to orbit payloads using rockets, the energy cost to orbit that same pound would be only 50 cents per pound, if it were magnetically accelerated to orbital velocity. As ultra high velocity magnetic launchers are developed, the cost of reaching space will come down to everyday, mass market standards. 2, 3

These and additional applications such as MagLev for mining, the Water Train and others to come will guarantee MagLev an important place in transportation history.


1 - www.cdli.ca/d6vsatf2000/s5/project22/history.html
2 - www.pulaki.com/sites/maglev/history.htm
3 - www.maglev2000.com/works/how-01-c.html
4 - www.maglev2000.com/works/how-01-d.html
5 - www.shaperyenterprises.com/maglev4.htm
6 - nationalmaglev.com/default.asp?page_id=23729
7 - www.monorails.org/tMspages/TPMagIntro.html
8 - www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2006-08/12/content_663257.htm
9 - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maglev_train
10 - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Lathan_maglev_train_accident
11 - www.worldwatch.org/node/4217
12 - www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10926915/