Using the repulsive force of two opposing magnetic field to move an object is nothing new. There are a few gadgets you can buy for entertaining friends in your living room showing a ball hovering -magically- in space. Industrial applications, involving heavy objects are trickier and far more expensive.
I had the opportunity of using the Maglev train connecting the Shanghai Airport (Pudong) to the outskirt of the city and I was surprised by the silent journey at 400+ kmh. It was also interesting to notice that the full speed was only for those trains running during peak hours, off peak the speed was decreased to 300 kmh to save on electricity cost. This is important because it shows that Maglev does not come cheap in operation terms.
Theoretically, moving an object by having it floating over a magnetic cushion decreases the drag so it requires lower power. However, in practice, the powering of the magnets is power hungry. Technology is still evolving and there is a tradeoff between the cost of the infrastructure and the operation efficiency.
Now a news from China is reporting on an experiment to show the possibility of a maglev car. TheMaglev car was a prototype (using a commercial car appropriately modified) developed by the Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, China. Of course a Maglev car won’t do anything unless it has an infrastructure it can “float” on. They created a 7.9 km lane on a local highway, embedding the magnets in the tarmac. The cost has not been published but I would expect it was not peanuts. However, being an experiment that was not the issue.
The car managed to reach 230 kmh, not as fast as the Shanghai Maglev train but quite impressive. In the photo is shown floating one inch above the highway.
The long term objective is to find ways to save on power (because of the decreased drag of the wheels) but it is a really long term goal. Also, one should consider that at high speed most of the drag comes from the air and not from the wheels.
To me this is more about testing a technology than looking for a real future product.