Sustainable Energy

Magnetic trains: Attracting interest in Japan

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Magnetic trains: The future?
Magnetic trains: The future?

A nation with technology at its heart, Japan is already home to a dizzying array of high tech gadgets, gleaming skyscrapers and even restaurants staffed by robots.

When it comes to transport the country can also boast a proud record of innovation. Its Shinkansen network is famous for electrified, high-speed -- and safe -- train travel.

Since 1964, the original Tokaido Shinkansen has carried around 5.6 billion people between Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka at top speeds of 285 kilometers per hour (177 miles per hour).

On parts of the Tohuku Shinkansen, which runs between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori, trains can reach speeds of up to 320 kph.

"The Tokaido line has always been Japan's main artery," Kousei Nakazato, from the Daiwa Research Institute, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"However, after the war, this line reached its full capacity of transport. It was decided that they needed to increase the capacity," Nakazata added.

"Among many technologies, electric rail systems are very energy efficient: it is vastly better for both energy consumption and CO2 emissions," he said.

According to the Network Rail – which runs and maintains rail tracks in Britain – electric trains are quick, reliable and "cause 20-35 percent lower carbon emissions than diesels," helping to boost air quality in urban centers.

Magnetic trains:

JIJI PRESS | AFP | Getty Images

The use of magnets to create super-fast trains is another option for countries looking to improve transport infrastructure.

In April last year a Maglev – short for magnetic levitation – reached a top speed of 603 kilometers per hour (375 mph).

"The Maglev train works thanks to superconducting magnets mounted into the linear motor train, reacting to the coils built into the guide way," the Yamanashi Maglev Exhibition Center's Makiko Kajiwara, said.

"They create a magnetic force that lifts the train 10 cm off the ground while it moves," Kajiwara added.

According to the Maglev Exhibition Center, the linear Chuo Shinkansen "will be the fastest bullet train in the world." It is hoped that the line will go into operation on the Tokyo-Nagoya route in 2027.

"The Maglev would emit a third of CO2 emitted by a plane for the same distance. So it's a very environmentally friendly transport solution," Kajiwara said.