Invention is the fuel that keeps science on the move. Living in a rapidly changing world of amazing technology, we come across unbelievable discoveries and inventions each day. Although most of them are genuine, at least theoretically, we should accept the bitter truth that some are just hoaxes trying to exploit people’s capacity of imagination. Last June, such a controversial gadget emerged victorious at the year-long ‘The People’s Car’ Project conducted in China by Volkswagen. It was nothing other than a maglev car, that is, an automobile which utilizes the power of magnetism to hover above the ground.
Magnetic levitation, or maglev in short, is no longer a mere concept from science fiction books. Many countries have now implemented maglev trains for public transport. Even China has its own Shanghai Maglev Train, which has been running between Pudong International Airport and downtown Shanghai since 2004. The major difference between this and the proposed maglev car is that the former runs on specially designed magnetic rails, while the latter is supposed to hover above a plain old roadway. The inventor, a student named Wang Jia, claims that the car would utilize underground magnetic iron ore for facilitating the levitating effect.
The proposed disc-shaped hover car has two seats, and is powered by electricity. It can move several inches above ground without using any pneumatic propulsion like what is used in a typical hovercraft. Volkswagen has also released a video depicting the hover car driving around in Chengdu, Jia’s hometown, with his parents inside. Unfortunately they weren’t clever enough to conceal its fakery, although many enthusiasts were amazed upon seeing it. Nevertheless, the concept has given rise to various dreams like traffic-free roads with vehicles flying over each other, and a greener world free from vehicle emission.
In reality, maglev technology offers various benefits such as zero emission and energy efficiency through elimination of friction. If realized, the VW maglev car will certainly be several times more beneficial. Unfortunately, basic laws of science deny the mere existence of such a hover car. First, it’s nearly impossible to create a magnetic field strong enough to levitate a car just by relying on natural underground iron ore. On the other hand, seamless, high speed transit is the main motive of maglev, which is probably not practicable in case of a regular hovering automobile. Needless to say, a few inches’ levitation will have negligible effect on the existing levels of street traffic.
It’s true that optimists are intrigued by such novel ideas as the VW maglev car. However, if the idea is bound to remain on paper, there’s no use pursuing it. The existing constraints are too obvious to secure any hopes in favor of this seemingly brilliant concept. Nevertheless, if some really smart technician actually comes up with a working model of the VW maglev car, it would certainly be one of the greatest inventions of all times. The best thing we can do right now is keeping our fingers crossed, hoping that the miracle would happen within our lifetime.