Scientists at Southwest Jiaotong University in China have built a prototype testing platform for a near-vacuum high-speed maglev train that is theoretically capable of reaching speeds up to 2900 km/h or about 1,800 mph. Currently, the fastest commercially operated maglev reaches just 431 km/h and even the world record is just 581 km/hr.
According to project lead Dr. Deng Zigang, this huge increase in speed is achieved through the lack of air resistance in the near-vacuum tunnel.
“If the running speed exceeds 400 kilometers (250 miles) per hour, more than 83 percent of traction energy will wastefully dissipate in air resistance,” he says. Additionally, overcoming that air resistance is loud, making it uncomfortable for passengers.
In his team’s tunnel, they’ve brought the air pressure to 10 times lower than atmospheric pressure at sea level, drastically reducing the amount of energy needed to overcome air resistance.
Currently, the high speed is limited by the size of the testing platform, but with longer straightaways, Deng thinks 2,900 km/h, or nearly three times the speed of a commercial aircraft, could be achieved.
To give you an idea, a train like that could take you from Paris to Moscow in about an hour, meaning you could breakfast on the Champs-Élysées and be in Red Square in time for lunch.