In an effort to rely on their own technologies, China is proudly presenting its homegrown magnetic levitation (maglev) trains, which will soon be in operation on the Metro Line S1 in Beijing and Changsha…
It is the CRRC’s goal to showcase its technology to the international market by initially pioneering the project at home, as it was always thought that only Germany, Japan and South Korea had mastered the use of maglev technology, but now China has entered the arena.
The medium-and-low speed maglev train, which is the first completely independent intellectual property of China, had a trial run on 26 December 2015 in Changsha. The eventual operating venue will be the Beijing subway lines, which are currently under construction and are expected to be in operation towards the end of 2016.
The total distance travelled by the Changsha maglev express is 18.55 kilometres, making it the longest medium-low commercial maglev to date and is also the fourth maglev express and the third medium-low maglev express in use globally.
The medium-low maglev train No.CF102 has 3 cars and has a total length of 48 metres and is the same width as the metro B type train. It has a maximum capacity of 363 passengers, and operational top speeds of 100 kilometres per hour. The development of this train took nearly 10 years of technical construction with an additional year to complete its systematic integration.
This Changsha maglev employs the ‘hugging-rail’ design, which joins the train to the railway and completely eliminates the risk of it derailing or overturning. Various other emergency rescue methods have also been incorporated to ensure safety. Moreover, this type of maglev has advantages including; increased cost efficiency, an absence of noise, vibration and radiation. The train and railway is free from wheel friction and vibration; thus, its noise level is around 70dB when operating at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour. Its minimum turning radius is 50 metres, which is half the value of the metro and is sufficient to travel through urban areas. Its grade ability is double that of other common mass transit systems maximum capabilities, with the ability to climb the equivalent of two floors within a distance of 100 metres. The comprehensive cost of construction is only a third to half of the metro and much lower than light rail.
In terms of its traction system, key technology focuses on the lightweight traction converter, linear motor stable slip frequency control, DTEC network control and diagnosis, high frequency insulation, linear induction velocity measurement, and dynamic current equalize technology, etc.
The Changsha medium-low maglev showcases China’s medium-low maglev integrated technology. The successful development of this train also included independent levitation system with an intellectual property of a levitation frame capable of adapting to 1860mm gauge and an entire highly reliable electric vehicle system. Finally, the train brings China into the ranks of only a handful of countries offering world-class medium-low maglev train technology.
On 6 May 2016, the first Chinese medium-to-low speed magnetically levitated rail line came into operation. The train shuttled between Changsha’s south railway station and the local airport, with one stop in between. It takes only 19 minutes and 30 seconds to complete the 18.55-kilometre trip. The train has a seating capacity of 363 passengers with a maximum speed of 100 kilometres per hour. A one-way trip costs US$3. At the railway station passengers will be able to check in and deposit their luggage at the new terminal.
Developments to bring out the best of the domestically designed maglev are ongoing. Train number CF1003 has been showcased in international markets via the CRRC information centre in several countries to entice other governments to opt for this Chinese technology. The CF1003 is said to be the future of public transportation. This 3-car train is 46.4 metres in length, 2.8 metres wide and 3.61 metres tall. Its seating capacity is 432 passengers, and the maximum gradient capability is 70 percent. It operates at 100 kilometres per hour with a minimum turning radius of 75 metres.
The CF1003 that is being proposed to the international market has many technical advantages including a total lack of operational friction, low noise, no vibration and ride comfort. Its electromagnetic radiation output is no more than that of many common household appliances. Its sophisticated rail-holding design grants it superior safety and zero risk of derailment. The CF1003 is highly adaptable to various environments including steep gradients and small curves. The comprehensive cost of construction is a third of metro vehicles or light rail vehicles. Its design is simple and fits perfectly with a plainly built viaduct. The CF1003 will be used in China as a show model first.
China would also like more homemade maglev trains to be used as domestic models in other countries to highlight that this Chinese technology offers an option that will help support their local economies. On 16 May 2016, a low-speed maglev train was showcased in a trial operation in Changsha. The research on linear electro motors and electromagnetics began in 2003, and in 2011 the motors and systems were developed for a 1.58-kilometre experimental line. This prototype train ran along a line named ‘Zhuifengzhe’, which means ‘wind pursuer’. To date, the train has run approximately 30,000 kilometres without incident, whilst simultaneously accumulating a large amount of technical data for later commercial use.
When the Changsha maglev project was launched in 2014, the linear electric motors and suspension electromagnet systems were optimized to further improve reliability and stability in all weather conditions. Both the motor and suspension electromagnet systems needed to be lightweight and highly adaptable to the environment in order to resist wind, sand, rain, snow and ultraviolet radiation.
The Changsha maglev project has made innovations in the motor’s driving and protection methods, including the insulation structure and processing. Eighteen patent applications have been filled out for these techniques, including four invention patents. The project has developed motors with a maximum thrust of 3.3kN to allow the maglev train to carry more passengers, whereas the Japanese low-speed maglev rail system uses 2.7-kN motors. In addition, the suspension electromagnet that is used on the Changsha line can provide a buoyant force of up to 33kN, nearly 20 percent higher than its Japanese peer. As a result of special insulation techniques the line is able to operate normally even if the electromagnet is submerged in water for 24 hours. The research project team has assured sufficient balance between the thrust and buoyant force to guarantee the train runs smoothly.
The Changsha line features an improved performance-price ratio, better safety, lower noise emission and superior climbing capability when compared to maglev technology from other countries. The maglev train is environmentally friendly not only because of the shift to public transportation, but also because it creates a more harmonious relationship between cities and the environment.
Lau Wei Ye. Manager, Malaysia Representative Overseas Business Division
CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co., Ltd.