A highway that charges your car
A highway that charges your car
This concept sketch illustrates the highway-to-car electric charge. The actual electric field is invisible.

Even if battery power improves to the point that vehicles could travel from Boston to Washington on a single charge, a critical problem remains: charging up electric vehicles takes forever. After a battery is exhausted, it can take more than 10 hours to fully charge a car. That's no comparison with the 3 minutes it takes to fill your car's gas tank.

What if your car could charge on the go? That wild idea is already being lab-tested.

Engineers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed technology for embedding in a highway electric coils that transfer powerto similar coils that could be built under cars. Passing over a single coil at 60 miles per hour won't amount to much, but a long stretch of them could give a car battery significant juice.

The technology doesn't come cheap: The bill could top $10 million per mile. The project envisions starting with specially marked "charging lanes" on small stretches of road. But the engineers suspect that price will come down significantly, especially if the coils become widespread enough to create competition in the market. That could make charging your car easier than going to the gas station -- you'd never have to stop. -David Goldman

@CNNMoneyTech - Last updated April 17 2012: 12:26 PM ET
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