The United States' first ground transportation project featuring trains propelled by magnets is stuck in neutral. More than a year after it was supposed to begin ferrying passengers, the magnetic levitation, or maglev, line at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., is still being held up by budget problems and technical difficulties.

As reported here in October 2002 (p. 20), the train was to be up and running last fall. But that expectation was derailed when the partnership�comprising Lockheed Martin, American Maglev Technology of Florida Inc. (AMT), Dominion Power (a Virginia electric utility), and the state of Virginia�learned that US $2 million from the Federal Railroad Administration (Washington, D.C.) was held up by a delay in the passage of a transportation appropriations bill in the U.S. Congress. The funds, expected early last year, still haven't materialized.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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