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Floating Modified Cars Traveling Maglev Lane

What if there was no range anxiety with electric cars? Would electric vehicles see more adoption? What if your electric vehicle could glide over a surface that suspended it inches off the ground, like a maglev train? In China, floating cars lifted by magnets may already be a reality according to this video.

How far and how fast did the maglev EV go?

Maglev technology on EV | by Twitter

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, as well as researchers from Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, Sichuan province, have already done so. Or are at least extremely close. This modified car traveled a few hundred meters per inch and a half over a special conductive surface during testing. What’s more surprising, it reached speeds of 140 mph.

The application is better known as magnetic levitation or maglev technology. Eight different electric vehicles had magnets on their undercarriages. One of the test vehicles traveled several hundred meters. It was somewhat stable in motion when suspended from the driver’s surface. It can be seen moving back and forth as it glides across the surface.

Look for yourself

The video, captured by Chinese journalist QinduoXu, shows how electric vehicles, combined with maglev technology, could eliminate the need for an electric vehicle to use its powertrain for travel. This, in turn, means that there is no energy consumption on the surface of the maglev. And travelers can make trips in much shorter time frames.

Maglev systems start with powerful electromagnets attached to the suspension of a train. The magnets suspend, guide and propel the trains all at once. Their magnetic force can then be altered to create a controlled tension both for lift and to create propulsion along a specialized track.

How do maglev systems work?

Diagram of a Maglev Guideway and Control Equipment | Getty

The front corners of the vehicle are fitted with magnets with the north poles facing outwards. In the rear corners, the magnets with the south poles face outwards. A magnetic field controls both front pull and rear thrust.

The majority of maglev trains are located in China, Japan and South Korea. China’s recently launched maglev train in Qingdao, Shandong Province, reaches speeds of nearly 400 mph. This is partly the result of the lack of friction holding the train together as it does not come into contact with any surface. It also means a smooth and comfortable ride on essentially a cushion of air.

Maglev trains have been around since the 1980s, after decades of research and development. It’s green, fast, clean and quiet. And quick. So why aren’t maglev trains in use in the United States? There are two reasons.

Why don’t we have maglev trains in the US?

magnetic levitation train from China | Getty

First, we already have a large, well-established rail network. Cost is the other. Estimates for a US-based maglev system would easily exceed a minimum of $100 million per mile to be built. And there is no guarantee that it would be profitable in these amounts.

Shanghai’s Chinese line loses more than $100 million a year. Japan’s maglev trains are heavily subsidized by the government despite being privately owned. So these factors, and probably others, mean we’re not going to see maglev in the US

It is unclear whether these same costs would apply to an interstate system for cars. But it’s interesting to speculate how alternative transportation, combined with electric vehicles, might paint a very different picture of personal travel in the not-too-distant future.

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