A ground effect train is an alternative to a magnetic levitation (maglev) train. In both cases the objective is to prevent the vehicle from making contact with the ground. Whereas a maglev train accomplishes this through the use of magnetism, a ground effect train uses an air cushion; either in the manner of a hovercraft (as in hovertrains) or using the "wing-in-ground" design.
The advantages of a ground effect train over a maglev are lower cost due to simpler construction. Disadvantages include either constant input of energy to keep the train hovering (in the case of hovercraft-like vehicles) or the necessity to keep the vehicle moving for it to remain off the ground (in the case of Wing In Ground effect vehicles). Furthermore, these vehicles may be very drastically affected by wind, air turbulence, and weather. Whereas the magnetic levitation train can be built to operate in a vacuum to minimise air resistance, the ground effect train must operate in an atmosphere in order for the air cushion to exist.
Development work has been undertaken in several countries since the middle 20th century. No ground effect train has entered regular commercial service.
Yusuke Sugahara and his team of researchers at Tohoku University, in Sendai, Japan have developed the Aero-Train that uses wings attached to a fuselage to literally fly inches off the ground. Dubbed a “ground-effect vehicle” the train is designed to be completely powered by wind and solar energy — making this a true zero-carbon transportation system.
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