Heroes

They're called 'electric highways,' and they might change everything about how we drive.

Charge-as-you-go technology could revolutionize the automotive industry.

Later this year, English engineers will begin testing a project that could revolutionize how we fuel our cars.

Called "electric highways," the technology is pretty much what it sounds like: roads that can power electric vehicles on the go.

If you've ever played the classic Super Nintendo game "F-Zero" ... yeah, it's kinda like that.


GIF comes from "F-Zero."

The project is an ambitious attempt by the U.K.'s government to tackle two of the biggest complaints about electric vehicles.

The biggest problems facing owners of electric cars (and what's possibly preventing others making the jump from gas) are the cars' limited range and the inconvenience of finding scarce charging stations.

The 2015 Nissan Leaf can travel 84 miles on a single charge. The Tesla Model S (with 70 kWh battery) can travel 230 miles. But with charging stations so few and far between — especially when compared to gas stations — electric cars still aren't a great fit for long-distance trips.

A Tesla Model S being charged at a car dealership. Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images.

Here's what the engineers at Highways England will be testing.

Along the road will be a series of power converters and stations connected to power transfer loops built into the left lane. If all goes according to plan, vehicles fitted with wireless charging technology will be able to stay charged as they drive in the powered lane.


Photo from Highways England.

But why invest so much time and money into a project that's only going to affect a fraction of the world's cars?

Because it has the potential to change the future of the automotive industry.

As is the case with most technology, advances come in stages. As breakthroughs happen in the electric vehicle market, demand for them will rise and more people will shift to the newer, lower-emission technology.

In Highways England's technology road map, informed by the Automotive Council,the prediction is that by 2050, nearly every vehicle purchased in the U.K. will be an electric car or other ultra-low-emissions vehicle (ULEV).

Image from Highways England.

This is just part of England's long-term plan to build the infrastructure needed for electric vehicles to thrive.

They'll also be adding charging stations.

The British government's Road Investment Strategy outlines plans to install charging stations every 20 miles along highways. Their government's commitment to automotive innovation seems pretty far ahead of the U.S. government's. Hopefully, if the numbers continue to point toward a ULEV future, the U.S. will follow the U.K.'s lead.

Image from Highways England.