Rare earth elements (REEs)

Like all conventional wheel-rail trains, aircraft and all modern motor vehicles, maglev systems use small amounts of rare earth elements in their on-board electronics. Apart from this, maglev systems can be further differentiated in terms of their use of rare earth elements.

  • Japan's EDS system makes extensive use of rare earth elements (REEs) in the vehicle's superconducting coils, but not in the guideway.
  • The Transrapid EMS system completely avoids REEs, both in its guideway and in its vehicle levitation mechanisms;
  • Urban (medium speed)  EMS maglev systems make extensive use of REEs.
    The analysis underscores the diversity of maglev technologies' reliance on these elements, reflecting their critical role in advancing modern transportation.

In greater detail:

Japan: Superconducting dynamic magnetic levitation train "EDS" - (L0, MLX-01; Chuo Shinkansen)
No rare earth elements are installed in the guideway. Drive and levitation coils are made of aluminium. However, rare earth elements are used in the vehicle. Each section of the maglev has bogies with two superconducting coils made of a mixture of barium and rare earth elements such as yttrium, cooled to minus 190°C. The more sections are coupled together, the more coils are required and thus, the demand for rare earth material increases accordingly. The EDS system is designed for high-speed applications.

Germany / PR China: Transrapid “EMS” Maglev
Neither in the guideway nor in the levitation system of the Transrapid any rare earth elements are used. The stator package under the track and the magnetic poles consist of electric steel (Si rich Fe) without permanent magnets. The levitation field is generated by electric current with the help of an aluminium coil, which is wound around a ferromagnetic steel core without additional permanent magnets. The Transrapid is designed for high-speed applications.

Europe / PR China / South Korea / Japan: “Urban EMS” Maglev (Linimo, Rotem EcoBee, Beijing S1, Changsha Maglev, TSB)
EMS urban Maglev systems usually use U-shaped steel profiles made of hot-rolled steel, which are installed below the guideway. The material is standard ferromagnetic steel as used in industry. The magnetic coils for levitation and guidance use the same material as conventional power transformers, and no rare earth elements are required. The coil itself consists of aluminium windings.

Brazil / Germany: Permanent magnetic levitation train with superconductor "SC" (COBRA, Supratrans)
These systems use permanent magnets along the entire length of the guideway and a superconductor magnet cooled to -190°C in the vehicle. The number of permanent magnets is directly proportional to the rail length. The longer the rail, the more permanent magnets are required. These extra strong magnets

 Scientific evidence: