Electric cars currently in the market are limited by their range and charging times. It’s a well-known shortcoming of electric cars that they can only be driven short distances of the range of 50 miles per single charge. It would be much better either if the car could go longer without needing to stop, or if it could somehow be recharged mid-flight, like a long-haul military plane. And, in fact, the second possibility may not be as fanciful as you might think.

Dynamic Charging Electric Race Car Powered by On-Track RF ChargerNow researchers at Toyota Central R&D Labs and Toyohashi University of Technology think they may have come up with a solution that will allow electric cars to drive unlimited distances with electrified roadways.

Under the still-experimental system, electrified metal plates are buried under roads, which “up-convert” energy via a radio frequency to a steel belt inside a car’s tires, as well as to a plate sitting above the tire. Although testing of the system has only involved low voltages so far, the researchers say the system could allow to electric cars to be far lighter than they are today. The electric cars would need smaller battery packs, as they would only need to to get and from the electrified highways.

While the idea of electrifying roadways has been mulled for decades — previous efforts have included attempts to charge coils attached to a car through electrified coils placed on the road — this technology would allow energy to enter a car through its tires (which makes far more sense considering it’s unreasonable to expect coils in a moving car to perfectly align. Tires, on the other hand, have direct contact with the road).

There are obvious concerns about dangers to the public from stepping on an electrified metal strip, and some question the viability of digging up large stretches of road to install the infrastructure. But the idea does have precedents. Boston’s Logan Airport, for example, has ordered 60 “Online Electric Vehicles” that operate under a similar principle, and were developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.