We were never hoping for the hoverboard out of the 80s movies Transformers or Back to the Future, but somehow the Lexus creation is a teensy weensy bit of a disappointment.
The whole thing began when Lexus started a marketing campaign called Amazing in Motion to promote its cars, one project of which was to create ‘one of the most advanced hoverboards the world has seen’. After a few teaser videos we can finally see it in action.
It shows the hoverboard hovering above the ground, emitting liquid nitrogen used to cool superconductors and permanent magnets to minus 197°C. Said magnets effectively push it away from the metallic floor of a purpose-built skate park near Barcelona, Spain.
Professional skateboarder Ross McGouran was ushered in to demonstrate what the board can do around the 200 metres of magnetic track laid below the surface of the floor. Magnetic levitation (maglev for short) specialist Evico built the board.
Dr Oliver de Hass of Evico explained: “The magnetic field from the track is effectively ‘frozen’ into the superconductors in the board, maintaining the distance between the board and track – essentially keeping the board in a hover. The force is strong enough that the rider can stand and even jump on the board.”
We must admit, the design of the 20lb hoverboard is appealing and to see it levitating is impressive, but then it moves and the illusion is broken. Apart from being incredibly hard to ride, it is unable to be steered (wheels are great for that) and spends a lot of time dragging along the floor.
Admittedly, the board has to be quite small and so creating the forces necessary to carry a human down a ramp was never going to be child’s play, but half the time it seems to end up spending more acting like a conventional four-wheeler – not what you want when it would cost US$10,000 to buy on top of a lot of copper and a specially built area necessary to use it.
At least the clips where you can see the hoverboard – which can hover for up to 20 minutes before more liquid nitrogen is needed – cruise over the surface of water are impressive, even if the presence of a rider causes it to nosedive.
It seems our disappoint is shared by some of the Internet. One YouTube commenter said: “It’s not really a hover board because of all the magnets and stuff under the skate park. A true hover board is independent of a special track. Lame.”
Another added: “You can’t turn on this thing or stop, you can only ride it in a straight line-since it has no wheels and coasts on magnetism. Meh gimmick, plus when the liquid N2 boils off, need to reload more.”
One commenter, meanwhile, pointed out the fact it’s actually an old technology: “Lexus admitted the ‘hoverpark’ has a metallic surface just underneath what you can see. It’s basically the same as the Hendo Hoverboard from last year, they just built a bigger park.”
Not everyone has been as negative, however. “History in the making – glad I was here,” said one YouTuber. Another added: “Great tech ─ but a crap skateboard.”
Lexus sure has some convincing to do if people are to look past the publicity stunt, but we must admit any progress towards an actual hoverboard should be applauded.