(ORDO NEWS) — If you’ve ever imagined a future filled with flying cars, then your dream might be getting a little closer to reality.
Chinese researchers at Southwestern Jiaotong University in Chengdu, Sichuan province, last week road tested modified passenger cars that use magnets to hover 35 millimeters above the rails, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
The researchers fitted the sedans with powerful magnets on the floors of the vehicles, allowing them to levitate over a nearly five-mile-long rail.
A total of eight cars were tested, one of which reached a speed of about 143 miles per hour, the report said.
Xinhua claims the tests were carried out by state transportation authorities to study safety measures for high-speed driving.
But Deng Zigang, one of the university professors who designed the cars, told a state news agency that using magnetic levitation in passenger cars could reduce energy consumption and increase range.
This could be useful for the EV industry that is facing “range anxiety” or where consumers fear they won’t be able to complete an EV trip without running out of power.
Some commercial trains have been using magnetic levitation, or “maglev”, which involves electrifying a magnetic field to push or pull vehicles at high speeds, since the 1980s.
China, Japan and South Korea use maglev trains today. Last year, Qingdao, Shandong Province, China debuted a maglev bullet train that can reach a top speed of 373 mph.
Theoretically, maglev technology allows high-speed travel without using as much power as a traditional engine due to the lack of friction.
This technology has been proposed for hyperloop projects such as Elon Musk’s The Boring Company and Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One.
Researchers have been studying the potential of maglev vehicles for more than a decade, and in 2012, Volkswagen developed the concept of a hovercraft.
But potential security issues still need to be worked out. For example, what happens if a car moving at high speed is off track or is knocked off course by a non-magnetic vehicle?
There is also the very difficult issue of infrastructure: Building a nationwide electromagnetic backbone network will likely take years and require huge public investment in any country, notes AutomoBlog.
It may be worth surmounting these hurdles: The “Age of Magnetism” could revolutionize the energy industry and help fight climate change, says George Sassin, vice president of the New York State Office of Energy Research and Development, published in 2018 on LinkedIn .
“While this sounds like science fiction, in 50 years this could very well be our everyday life,” he wrote.
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