My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: JR Tokai to start Chuo Shinkansen Maglev by 2015 - How Elon Musk's Hyperloop is American Engineering is Faster, Cheaper and Better

Monday, July 14, 2014

JR Tokai to start Chuo Shinkansen Maglev by 2015 - How Elon Musk's Hyperloop is American Engineering is Faster, Cheaper and Better

“It is important for Japan to show leadership with a new kind of train”

Professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, Hiroo Ichikawa, an author of a book titled “The True Reason Why the Maglev Will Transform Japan” commenting on the Chuo Shinkansen Project by JR Central slated to start 2015

Trains are still a great way to travel, despite the fact that they’re usually associated with clacking, Steam and a packed Gangplank of people boarding an unsanitary mode of transportation. But what if taking a Train was a lot like taking an Aeroplane both in time spent on the train and in terms of speed?

Introducing Japan’s Maglev Train, called the Chuo Shinkansen, which is to connect the cities of Tokyo and Osaka, a distance of 500 km (310 miles) as stated in “Japan Pins Hopes on Floating Trains”, published July 7, 2014 6:43 p.m. ET by ERIC PFANNER, Wall Street Journal

Slated to start construction in 2015 with a cost of about $90 billion to connect a distance of 500 km (310 miles) from Tokyo and Osaka, it'll go down in the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive Train Route.  This as by the time it’s finished, it might tip the scale at a whopping US$112 billion, making it, hands down, the most expensive Railway link in the World!

Another first is the fact that at 500 km/h (310 mph), the Chuo Shinkansen will best the current fastest Bullet Train in Japan, the Shinkansen that currently connects the two cities by some 200 km/h (124 mph). This feat is achieved via the train magnetically levitating several inches above the concrete Tracks using superconducting Magnets both in the Train and in the Tracks.

By reversing the Magnetic Fields along the length of the track, the Maglev, once set in motion is pulled/pushed along on a cushion of air in much the say way an air hockey puck is propelled by changing air pressure across the air hockey Table. This cushion of air reduces the track resistance and making the train travel as fast as a Jet plane, slicing the time it takes to travel that distance to about 40 minutes.

That's where the Maglev name comes from; no wheels, folks, just floating on a cushion of Air. So how will this colossal and expensive feat of engineering be constructed? Are there any environmental concerns? Finally, what’s got me curious, is there a cheaper, more efficient way to make a faster Train?

JR Tokai and the Maglev – Tokyo to Osaka in 40 minutes by 2045

The Chuo Shinkansen is being built by Central Japan Railway Co., also know as JR Central or JR Tokai, one of six (6) companies formed after the privatization of the Japanese National Railway System.

It's been a long time coming too, with an early prototype being demonstrated back in 2012 on Nippon Sharyo Ltd’s 7-mile Maglev test track near Tokyo as stated in “Japanese Floating Train of the Future Has Arrived”, published NOV 29, 2012 02:22 PM ET by Alyssa Danigelis, Discovery News.

Nippon Sharyo Ltd's is a subsidiary of JR Central and along with the engineering firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd that helped in the design of the Chuo Shinkansen Maglev, stand to gain lucrative international Contracts if this project is a success.

Especially after the successful Test-Run on Tuesday June 4th 2013 clocking speeds as high as 500 km/h (310 mph) as reported in “Floating by at 311mph: Japanese 'Maglev' bullet train undergoes its first successful test run”, published 4 June 2013 17:57 GMT, By Nicola Rowe, Daily Mail UK.

Chuo Shinkansen Construction Plan – Construction starts 2015 and ends in 2 Stages by 2045

Their planned construction route for the Maglev Project is roughly 90% underground, mostly through tunnels that will be cut straight through the 3,000-meter (9,800-foot) Japanese Alps. This is a route that was chosen by previous Japanese Governments in their 1973 Government blueprint as a backup to the existing Shinkansen, which is a scenic route that runs along the Japanese coastline between Tokyo and Nagoya.

The idea was not just only to link the two cities with a faster railway but also to reduce the chances of travel between them cut off by a major earthquake or tsunami. Because of the enormous cost of building the Chuo Shinkansen, the Railway will be built in two stages using money coming directly from the existing Tokyo-Osaka Shinkansen:

1.      Tokyo to Nagoya to be completed by 2027
2.      Nagoya to Osaka to be completed by 2045

In essence, the revenue from the older Tokyo-Osaka Shinkansen is being used to subsidize the construction of the Chuo Shinkansen, although many concerned Japanese in Osaka are lobbying the Japanese Government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to use Public funds to accelerate the project. 

As for the Chuo Shinkansen, it’s expected to generate some impressive passenger numbers when compared to the old Tokyo-Osaka Shinkansen:

1.      88 million Passengers annually to take the Chuo Shinkansen
2.      72 million coming from the Tokyo-Osaka Shinkansen
3.      143 million passengers currently take the Tokyo-Osaka Shinkansen

At the current projected pace of construction, it'll just miss the Tokyo Olympics slated to be held in 2020 as stated in “Tokyo wins bid to host 2020 Olympic Games”, published 08 Sep 2013 12:01AM BST By Ben Rumsby, The UK Telegraph.

Still, it’s being held up by many as beacon of Japan’s Engineering prowess, despite being a potential White Elephant that threatens to go way over budget. Why do I thus smell danger in all of this?
Chuo Shinkansen and Japanese Population – Millennials aren’t having more Children

With a price-tag that high, it’s bound to have enemies, especially as the money can be spent on other things, such as developing Robots to deal with Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (Dai-ichi simply means "number 1") which was damaged during the Tsunami and Earthquake on  Friday March 11th 2011 as stated in my Geezam blog article entitled “Japan Nuclear Reactor Meltdown is the Asian Tiger Chernobyl

Located some 250 km north of Tokyo City, it’s STILL a major concern some three (3) years on, leaking radioactive Water into the Ocean.  Japan is currently trying to contain the disaster using an Ice Wall to freeze the Radioactive Water in place as stated in “Fukushima operator struggles to build ice wall to contain radioactive water”, published Tuesday 17 June 2014 11.01 BST, by Agence France-Presse in Tokyo, The Uk Guardian

This is not withstanding the concerns over the relevance of the project, given that Japan’s population is projected to decline to about 100 million by 2050 from the current figures of 170 million people. This is because Japanese Millennials (ages 18 to 28) aren’t having as many kids as before and older Japanese (ages 45 to 99) are living longer, placing increased burden on their Health Sector.

Due to two Decades of a declining economy, a current ongoing Economic slowdown due to the ongoing 2008 Recession in the US of A that spreading across the World and the expense of living in Japan, many Japanese Millennials are fearful of the future.

Thus, many are doing as most Millennials worldwide are doing; opting to just have fun in their semi-successful, unmarried lives as their Economy hobbles along as they’ve still not yet recovered from the Earthquake and Tsunami as I’d predicted in my Geezam blog article entitled “Japan Nuclear Disaster – Implications for Jamaica and the Consumer Electronics World”.

Most Japanese Electronics companies are just beginning to recover from the loss of cheap electricity that the Nuclear Reactors provided as explained in my blog article entitled “Competition in Mobile POS coming from Square as SHARP is rescued by Qualcomm - Move to Mobile Computing On the Road indicates SHARP's Playing for Keeps”. Some who had been suffering have found their footing via lucrative Technology partnership with American companies to freshen the appeal of their product lines.

Most noteworthy are Panasonic and the Mozilla Corporation plan to use Firefox OS in their TV and other devices as explained in my blog article entitled “Panasonic and Mozilla Foundation form Partnership to bring Firefox OS to Smart TV's - Big boost for Open Web and HTML 5 Platforms making Firefox OS a possible Google Chrome OS Competitor”.

So with jobs in Japan scarce and the future looking uncertain, their economy is projected to decline by some 27 million, which I suspect are mostly elderly people dying as Millennials opt not to have kids.

Chuo Shinkansen and the Environmentalist – White Elephant Eco-Disaster tramples Japan

Equally troubling too about the Chuo Shinkansen is the extent of the excavation work to be done to create the Tunnels for the Maglev Rails. To avoid the coastal areas, the tunnels will be cut straight through the 3,000-meter (9,800-foot) Japanese Alps.

This means tons of pristine Japanese Wilderness will be destroyed just to build a Train that may connect two cities whose population may have significantly decline by 2050. In essence, empty trains on this already obvious White Elephant, to quote visiting professor at Chiba University of Commerce, Dr Reijiro Hashiyama, in his decidedly anti-maglev book, quote: “There are certainly doubts about whether demand for high-speed railways will increase in our country, where the population is projected to be halved toward the end of the 21st Century”.

However, despite this, one thing is that this will definitely do is bring Japan closer, whether or not the population declines. With a faster Maglev Transport, Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka will merge into one big super city connected via this super-fast railway connection that would make doing business in all three cities possible due to the quicker, easier commute.

Especially true if you live in Tokyo and work at Toyota’s Nagoya Plant making Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles as stated in my blog article entitled “PEM Fuel Cell Technology gets Japanese Government support - Hydrogen Gas Stations Coming in First World and Developing World Countries”, which Toyota plans to commercialize around the same time that the Chuo Shinkansen will start construction in 2015.

Chuo Shinkansen Maglev Competition – Advanced Technology that’s not very safe

Putting cost aside, the real money-maker for JR Central will be from contracts to build their version of a Maglev in other countries such as the US of A, France, Canada and even England. Still, at US$110 billion that an awful lot of money to pay for 500 km (310 miles) to build a Maglev railway from Tokyo and Osaka, even factoring out the extensive excavation work.

The American Government most likely will not jump on this expensive bandwagon, as they’d have great difficulty justifying the high upfront cost, even if the Japanese gave away the Technology for free. The competition, mainly French and German Engineers, may also be cheaper too!

The French and German also build Trains, many of which, ironically are build in China, being as labour costs are cheaper. Still Germany's Transrapid Maglev line, which the Chinese used for a 19-mile urban transit line in Shanghai, was opened in January 2004. The Shanghai Maglev, which cost $1.3billion (£830million), has a top speed of 431.3 km/h (268 mph) due to the short track length.

But these super fast Maglevs have a super fast problem; they're hard to slow down safely. Being as they have no physical contact with the Track, to stop them requires magnetic dampening and reversal of the magnetic fields that set them in motion in the first place. When these fail, the results can be catastrophic, with crashes at speeds almost close to that at which the Maglev was originally travelling.

Chuo Shinkansen Maglev vs Hyperloop – American Engineering that Altius, Citius, Fortius and Cheaper too

So is there a safer, cheaper and more original way to travel? One possible alternative is the proposed Hyperloop Project by Space X CEO Elon Musk as described in “Elon Musk on Hyperloop: 'It's like getting a ride on Space Mountain'”, published August 12, 2013 1:58 PM PDT by Nick Statt, CNET News.

Instead of using magnetic field, the Railway is just a pair partially-evacuated Hyperloop Glass or Plastic Tube, possibly 4 to 6 meters across with the Passenger Train inside. The Hyperloop Passenger Train will most likely constructed of Lightweight metallic and plastic alloys streamlined like a Jet Plan in Profile.

The pair of partially-evacuated Hyperloop Glass or Plastic Tube are separated by a distance of 50 to 100 yards, with one tube for Hyperloop Passenger Train arriving and one evacuated partially-evacuated Hyperloop Glass or Plastic Tube for Trains leaving in the opposite direction.

The Hyperloop Passenger Train would have to be hermetically sealed and pressurized much like a space capsule that’s pushed along by air pressure and capable of carrying up to 100 passengers at a time. To create motion, the Hyperloop Passenger Train would be levitated off the ground using Jets of Compressed Air inside the partially-evacuated Hyperloop Glass or Plastic Tube.

Then the Hyperloop Passenger Train would use air pressure from the compressors at the back of the Hyperloop Passenger Train to accelerate forward, much like a Jet plane. But because the partially-evacuated Hyperloop Glass or Plastic Tube will be at low Air Pressure, the air resistance will be far less than what the Maglev will experience.

To that end, not only will the Hyperloop Passenger Train be floating on cushion of air, thanks to the fact that it’s sealed inside of the partially-evacuated Hyperloop Glass or Plastic Tube with little or no air resistance, it’ll be capable of moving at speeds as high as 1,287.5 Km/h (800 mph), up to eight times as fast as the JR Central’s Chuo Shinkansen.

Space X CEO Elon Musk clearly has stated he isn’t capable of building this concept train that’s straight out of the movie Logan’s Run (1976). But it’s an opportunity for American Engineers and the Government of the United States of America to push the boundaries of Mechanical Engineering and build the Hyperloop Passenger Train as their own answer to the Maglev.

If they do, they’re design would not only demonstrate American know-how akin to the Japanese and the Europeans but it would also be cheaper by far, coming in at around US$500 million for the same 500 km (310 miles) to build a Maglev railway from Tokyo and Osaka. Not to mention being faster and safer, with stopping being merely a matter of flooding the partially-evacuated Hyperloop Glass or Plastic Tube with pressurized Air or Water.

It would also use less Energy, as much of the power needed would just be to power air Compressors. This is both to pressurize the evacuated Hyperloop Glass or Plastic Tube as well as onboard the Hyperloop Passenger Train to levitate it within the partially-evacuated Hyperloop Glass or Plastic Tube and to move it forward. A set of Li-Ion Batteries built into the train can achieve that, with Magnetic induction strips located along parts of the track being used to transfer power to the Hyperloop Passenger Train when in motion if low Battery Power levels are detected.

So the Hyperloop Passenger Train is clearly faster, cheaper, more power-efficient and safer than the JR Central’s Chuo Shinkansen Maglev Train. Time for Americans to put on their Engineering hats and start building this Escape Pod from Logan’s Run (1976).

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