China is testing a magnet-powered floating car that can go up to 143 miles per hour – check it out

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If you’ve ever imagined a future full of flying cars, your dream might be a little closer to reality.

Chinese researchers from Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, Sichuan province, conducted road tests last week for modified passenger cars that use magnets to float 35 millimeters above a power rail, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.

The researchers equipped the sedans with powerful magnets on the vehicle floors, which allowed them to float over a nearly five-mile-long power rail. A total of eight cars were tested, with one test reaching speeds of about 143 miles per hour, according to the report.

A video posted to Twitter by a Chinese journalist shows the vehicles floating – albeit bumpy – along the track:

Xinhua says the tests were conducted by government transportation authorities to study safety measures for high-speed driving. But Deng Zigang, one of the university professors who developed the vehicles, told the state news agency that using magnetic levitation for passenger cars has the potential to reduce energy consumption and increase the range of the vehicles.

That could come in handy for the electric car industry’s problems with “range anxiety,” or when consumers fear they won’t be able to complete a trip in an electric vehicle without the power going out.

Some commercial trains have been using magnetic levitation or “maglev” since the 1980s – in which a magnetic field is electrified to push or pull vehicles at high speeds. China, Japan and South Korea all use maglev trains today. Last year, China debuted a maglev bullet train in Qingdao, Shandong province, which can reach a top speed of 373 miles per hour.

Theoretically, maglev technology makes it possible to travel at high speed without using as much energy as traditional motor power due to a lack of friction. The technology has been proposed for hyperloop projects by Elon Musk’s The Boring Company and Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One. Researchers have been exploring the potential of maglev cars for more than a decade, with Volkswagen designing a hover car concept in 2012.

But potential security issues have yet to be worked out. For example, what happens if a car traveling at high speeds drifts off its magnetic track, or is thrown off course by a non-magnetic vehicle? There’s also the very difficult question of infrastructure: Building a nationwide network of electromagnetic highways would likely take years and a huge public investment in any country, notes the AutomoBlog.

The challenges may be worth it: An “era of magnetism” could revolutionize the energy industry and help fight climate change, according to a 2018 LinkedIn post from George Sassine, a vice president at the State New York Energy Research and Development Authority.

“While it sounds like science fiction, it could very well be our everyday life in 50 years,” he wrote.

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