Nevomo tests succesfull: MagRail trains can levitate on existing tracks
MagRail tests confirmed that railway vehicles can magnetically levitate on existing railway infrastructure without any friction, Nevomo announced on 5 September 2023. It is anticipated that the high-speed MagRail passenger trains developed by the Polish company will be able to operate at speeds of up to 550 kilometres per hour on conventional railway lines.
Following 3.5 years of intensive research and experimentation, Nevomo has successfully proven the feasibility of integrating linear motor and magnetic levitation technology into pre-existing rail infrastructure. In experiments conducted on a section of the Nevomo test track spanning over 720 metres in Nowa Sarzyna, Poland, a MagRail vehicle achieved a speed of 135 kilometres per hour while showcasing consistent levitation and magnetic guidance capabilities on the rail infrastructure. The vehicle, measuring 6 metres in length and weighing 2 tons, initiated levitation at slightly over 70 kilometres per hour and accelerated from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in just 11 seconds.
“For the first time in railway history, a rail vehicle moved not on the existing tracks, but over them, without friction. It shows that our MagRail technology is not just a vision for the future but a tangible solution for today. A solution for a greener, more connected Europe. By leveraging existing infrastructure, we offer a cost-effective and environmentally friendly approach to modernising rail transport, in line with the European Green Deal’s objectives”, says Przemek Ben Paczek, CEO and Co-Founder of Nevomo. “We know the system works, that combining levitation with propulsion on existing lines works”, stated Paczek. In terms of timeline, this means that Nevomo is talking “years, not decades” before this technology could “revolutionise rail transport”.
Indeed, in the world of mobility, a significant turning point is underway, with the sector grappling with issues like congestion, delays, and the pressing need to reduce emissions. Rail transport, a 200-year-old industry, boasts numerous advantages but requires further modernisation to bring it into the 21st century, according to Paczek. While steel wheels on steel rails excel in guiding trains and maintaining cruising speeds, they falter when it comes to braking speeds. Catenary systems limit rail speeds to 350 kilometres per hour, hindering their ability to compete with air travel. The development of new infrastructure is costly, while road transport is becoming increasingly greener and competitive, he explained, in his opening remarks.
Watch the video on YouTube: World’s first levitating train on existing infrastructure! | MagRail by Nevomo
Increased speed and sustainability
Nevomo estimates that their technology would double rail capacity, halve travel times, and all this at half the cost. This high-speed levitating MagRail technology has the potential to increase speeds on standard rails to 300 km/h and on high-speed lines to 500 km/h (up to 550 km/h), with eventual integration into the Hyperloop concept. These developments align with European initiatives to expand high-speed rail networks. MagRail allows both conventional and levitating trains to operate on the same tracks. Feasibility studies indicate a potential for doubling of passenger capacity. The dream of travelling from Paris to Berlin in just an hour could thus become a reality.
One significant aspect of this innovation is its potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2, through a modal shift towards rail transport. In Europe alone, this shift could lead to a reduction of 78 million tons of CO2 emissions, with a global impact of 500 million tons, although this goal might not be achieved by 2030.
In the longer term, MagRail has the potential to merge traditional rail systems with the future vision of ultra-high-speed solutions like the Hyperloop. “Instead of running on fixed timetables, MagRail trains will be available to passengers in variable capacity, constantly adapting to the current demand in stations, similarly to metro systems – but for inter-city trips. Using Nevomo’s technology, wagons would be able to move on their own and simply adjust the number of carriages per train “on the fly”. For that, upgrading selected sections or entire railway lines would be sufficient, eliminating the need to build entirely new transport infrastructure”, according to a Nevomo press release.
Evolution or revolution?
“We are not reinventing the wheel; we are upgrading and supplementing an existing system that has been the most efficient mode of transportation for centuries”, asserts Paczek during the press conference. For Nevomo, the recently tested MagRail system represents a missing component, one that can transform existing rail assets to provide improved access to city centres. Unlike the resource-intensive and time-consuming process of building new Maglev lines, which also use levitation and can reach around 500 km/h, this technology’s application could be “nearly immediate”.
Stefan Kirch, CBDO and co-founder of Nevomo emphasises that competition is not a negative force and the company does not mean to compete with regular rail services. Nevomo sees itself not as a revolutionary but as an enabler, empowering railway operators to enhance their services. “We do not plan to build our own tracks or trains”. Instead, the company believes that the rivalry should be directed towards other sectors, such as road and air travel in order to get more passengers to travel sustainably on rails.
EU funding for MagRail research
The construction of Europe’s longest passive magnetic levitation test track, on which Nevomo has conducted successful tests, was co-financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund under the Intelligent Development Programme. The project is being implemented as part of the “Fast Track” programme of the National Centre for Research and Development.
To date, for the development of the MagRail technology and its testing, Nevomo has raised eleven million euros, comprising five and a half million euros in equity and five and a half million euros in non-dilutive EU grants. Additionally, last year the company was awarded seventeen and a half million euros from the European Commission (EIC Accelerator: two and a half million euros in grant funding and fifteen million euros in equity). Funds for a Pre-Series A round of seven million euros are also being raised. Nevomo’s key investors include EIT InnoEnergy and Hütter Private Equity.
Dutch European Parliament Member Dorien Rookmaker stated that, as a political entity, “you can step on the gas pedal and invest or you can put on the brakes with rules and regulations, and I think it’s far better to invest, and be a positive force for society in general”. She further emphasised that bringing Europeans together with high-speed rail connections will lead to economic growth. It is also an equaliser: everyone can use it. She also added that “China is around the corner” in terms of developing similar technology, and may also be interested in commercialising it in Europe.
“The successful tests are the result of the knowledge and hard work of dozens of our engineers and experts. And this is just the beginning. We already collaborate with industry giants, including Rete Ferroviaria Italiana, SNCF, Duisport, and GATX to define various applications for MagRail, and these successful tests are paving the way for pre-commercial operational pilots”, says Sebastian Kaluza, Product Development Director at Nevomo.
Nevomo will continue the research and the development of MagRail not only for levitation but also for further exploration of different applications of the technology to improve efficiency and capacity for rail transportation and finally to start commercialising the first version of MagRail for freight transport in 2024. Indeed, the next steps in this journey involve the industrialisation and commercialisation of freight boosters, with a formal announcement scheduled in just two weeks at the Gdansk-Krakow Railway Fair. Following this, there will be a commercial launch of the booster, followed by the homologation process.
Regarding the licensing of this innovative technology, the plan is to license it after obtaining the necessary safety accreditations. Homologation tests will be conducted on a test track over 10 kilometres in length, to achieve speeds of 500 kilometres per hour. The aim is to achieve homologation and certification to achieve full MagRail readiness by 2030. Initial implementations and safety approvals will pave the way for licensing the technology to railway suppliers, allowing for the scaling of the product. Expanding operations to the United States is also on the radar. While Nevomo has been active in Europe and the Middle East, North America is likely to become the third target market, with operations expected to commence next year.