France chose the TGV over the Aerotrain as the model for high speed rail travel in France. The Aerotrain was a concept developed by Jean Bertin in the 1970s. It used a shuttle which floated above the rail over a cushion of air. The system is different from the Magnetic Levitation of MagLev which use extremely strong electromagnets to make the train float over the rails.
In 2017, Emeuric Gleizes founded the Spacetrain in France. This company is developing on the concept of aerotrain using the new modern transportation technologies which have been developed since the concept was developed in the 1970s. Whereas the TGV can travel at a maximum speed of 340 km/h, the Spacetrain can travel at an average speed of 540 km/h and can max up to 720 km/h. This is, well, commercial aircraft territory.
The Spacetrain is an autonomous vehicle and runs on a monorail. It is elevated over an inverted T monorail using an air cushion. It uses liner induction electric motors for moving ahead. This motor comprises a primary fixed to the rolling stock which is called the inductor, and a secondary made of ferro-metallic plates fixed to the monorail called the armature. The magnetic forces thus generated propel the train along the track. The energy for these linear induction motors is produced using a hydrogen fuel cell system. The vehicle has an advanced hydrogen storage system which gives it a range of 600 km. The trains are stopped using the linear induction motors but for emergency braking they have been provided with high performance carbon fibre brake systems.
Spacetrain has developed these technologies and already selling its linear induction motors to Siemens and fuel cells to Air Liquid, both of which are global leaders in these areas. The train is considered to be safer than solutions like Hyper-loop as these trains will operate in the open and not in some confined tube. As a result, in case of an emergency, evacuation would be faster and easier as compared to other solutions which operate in confined tunnels.
Spacetrain promoters believe that the present cost of building and operating high speed rails is becoming prohibitive. As a result, several train operators are cutting costs by reducing train frequencies, stopping less busy routes and offering below par service. They aim to provide cheap, reliable and fast rail solutions to overcome such issues. The company claims that the cost of building a Spacetrain line would be approximately Euros 8 to 10 million/ km which is much lower than for other alternative solutions.
Presently the company is testing its individual components. This will be followed by building a 1:2 prototype for testing and finally a 1:1 prototype would be built and tested over a few km long monorail system. They aim to have a working prototype ready by 2020 and the train in service by 2025.