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Need for speed: Improved maglev train prototype unveiled at west Japan factory

An improved prototype of the maglev train for the Chuo Shinkansen Line is seen at a factory in the city of Shimomatsu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on March 25, 2020. (Mainichi/Michiko Morizono)
An improved prototype of the maglev train for the Chuo Shinkansen Line is seen at a factory in the city of Shimomatsu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on March 25, 2020. (Mainichi/Michiko Morizono)

SHIMOMATSU, Yamaguchi -- Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central) unveiled the front car of an improved prototype of the "L0" series maglev train, the base model for future operations on the high-speed maglev Chuo Shinkansen Line, at a Hitachi Ltd. factory in this western Japan city on March 25.

The first car measures about 28 meters long, 2.9 meters wide and 3.1 meters high. More than half of the car's length is occupied by its 15-meter-long nose. The prototype was improved on using data that the company obtained through a staggering 2.22 million kilometers of test runs on the Yamanashi maglev test line in central Japan.

The new model has a super long wavy nose with small depressions. As a result, when running at a speed of 500 kilometers per hour, air resistance decreases about 13% compared to the previous model, and it's expected to reduce the consumption of electric power and noise levels.

JR Central plans to open the maglev train line between Shinagawa and Nagoya stations in 2027. Motoaki Terai, head of a JR Central development department for the maglev train, said, "It's about 80% to 90% completed. We want to improve comfort levels." The new prototype is planned to be transported to the Yamanashi experimental line and will start test runs around the end of May.

(Japanese original by Norio Oyama, Shunan Bureau)

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