China is using some groundbreaking tech in its new ‘sky train’.
The country has recently unveiled Red Rail, which is claimed to be the world’s first suspended maglev train.
At first glance, it’s a bit like a monorail but with its single rail running above the carriages, rather than underneath.
But the train carriages never actually touch the rail, instead levitating in place.
That’s where its maglev system comes in – there are sets of magnets in the carriages and the rail, one set to push it away from the track and the other to propel it forwards.
However, there are two points of difference with Red Rail, the first obviously being the fact it’s been flipped upside down.
But the other big change is that it uses permanent magnets that produce a constantly repelling force.
That’s instead of electromagnets which are typically employed for maglev trains.
What that means is that Red Rail can function without the need for an electricity source.
That’s good peace of mind when you’re in an upside down train carriage floating in the air.
China is already testing the sky train
Unlike many concepts we see that are merely a set of renders and bold ideas, Red Rail is already being tested with real people on board.
South China Morning Post reports that the first testing track in Xingguo is 800m (0.5mi) long and stands 10m (33ft) above the ground.
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This development train used two carriages with capacity for up to 88 people, and comfortably hit a top speed of 80km/h (50mph).
The next stage of testing will see it on a longer 7.5km (4.7mi) track, allowing it to hit speeds up to 120km/h (75mph).
But while the technology clearly works, it’s unlikely to be adopted en masse outside of China at this stage.
That’s primarily because of the amount of rare earth metals required for the types of magnets being used.
China is believed to be home to 40 percent of the reserves of these metals. That’s nearly twice as much as second-placed Vietnam has.
The country also processes 85 percent of the world’s entire rare earth metals as of 2020.
So, it might currently be impractical for mass adoption, but it’s clearly a step in the right direction.
China also reportedly has plans to build an underwater train from Mainland China to the US.