After 18 months of painstaking research, hundreds of hours of testing and experiencing countless scrapes and bruises while figuring out how to ride the prototype in Dresden, Germany, Lexus has finally unveiled an actual real life hoverboard in Barcelona, Spain.
Of all the ‘in the future’ high-tech gadgets we’ve seen Hollywood create for the silver screen, the most memorable was probably the wheel-less hoverboard from the “Back to the Future” franchise (Parts II & III) that was piloted by the film’s hero Marty McFly portrayed by the actor Michael J. Fox.
Back to the Future Part 2 (3/12) Movie CLIP – Hover Board Chase (1989) HD.
Okay, that hoverboard was pure science fiction, but after that science tried to imitate art in 2001 with something that was codenamed “Ginger”. That however, was not even a hoverboard; it turned out to be the two-wheeled, battery powered Segway Human Transporter.
Next up circa 2004 – 2005, a couple of TV gadget show guys tried to make a wooden board and a surfboard hover above ground by means of a leaf blower! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess how that turned out.
Then in 2011 a French artist figured out how to create a hovering board that was capable of carrying a load, by means of magnetic repulsion. Later that year, French engineers at the Université Paris Diderot presented a hovering device that they called “Mag Surf”. It was a superconducting device that was capable of hovering some three inches above a pair of magnetized repulsing floor rails while carrying a load of 100 kilograms (220.5 pounds).
“Mag Surf” Breakthrough!
This was followed by a publicity stunt in 2014, in which a hover board of sorts that was based on the principle of maglev* trains, which is a train that is levitated by magnets, actually did work. *Magnetic levitation is a method by which an object is suspended or levitated above the ground with no support other than by opposing magnetic fields.
Then it May of 2015, Guinness World records announced that a new world record for continuous travel (275.9 meters or 905.5 feet)) was set by a hoverboard whose lift was generated by propellers.
Then the following month in June of 2015, Lexus released a video showing what they claimed to be a “real hoverboard” that worked by using liquid-nitrogen-cooled superconductors and permanent magnets.
Skeptics however, immediately dismissed the Lexus hoverboard as a fake and a marketing stunt. But Lexus said, no really, we did it, we’ll show you proof.
The Lexus Hoverboard: Testing
This month Lexus has indeed provided the world with proof that they really weren’t kidding, as the Lexus “Slide” as the hoverboard has been named is the subject of some pretty unforgettable video taken at a custom built skate park in Spain. The video shows a skateboard like hoverboard levitating just a few inches above the ground and incredibly floating just above the water’s surface!
The Lexus hoverboard isn’t so much a case of reinventing the wheel as the basic concept of magnetic repulsion and supercooled conductors behind the Slide has been around for a while. Essentially, the Lexus hoverboard team just reinvented how to use the existing technology to create a super cool ride.
In order to make a hoverboard hover, designers had to strike the perfect balance between an anti-gravity device comprised of magnets, superconductors and liquid nitrogen that are powerful enough, and yet at the same time small enough to fit on something that is the same size as a wheel-less skateboard.
The hoverboard relies on superconductors that are kept super cool with liquid nitrogen to work against gravity and lift the board and its rider above the ground. I don’t really understand it either, but all that steam coming off the hoverboard is caused by the liquid nitrogen doing its job of keeping the superconductors cooled down to 321 degree Fahrenheit or 160.5 Celsius, which the guys in the white lab coats say is the temperature at which they become superconducting.
When at the correct temperature, the superconductors are raised up by a series of thousands of magnets which have been embedded into the concrete of the Slide’s custom made skate park.
According to professional skate boarder Ross McGouran, the future is hard, as he had more than his share of spills before he was able to master even the Slide’s most basic maneuvers. Much of the difficulty in learning how to master the hoverboard is due to the fact that it does not come into contact with the ground and is whisper quiet.
Without the normal friction created by a skateboards wheels rumbling against the ground, the rider is deprived of the normal vibration and sounds that help him or her know precisely when it is time to zig or when it was time to zag. Regardless of the hoverboard rider’s skill level, he or she is forced to forget what they know, and learn an entirely new set of skills that are better suited to a hoverboard from which you feel or hear, well … nothing.
Unfortunately, the Lexus Slide is not without some faults as it can only be ridden at the hugely expensive magnet laced skate park in Barcelona. It also has a tendency to drag on the ground if a rider is too heavy, and the liquid nitrogen needs to be changed just about every ten minutes.
The Slide isn’t Marty McFly’s hoverboard, but the effect of watching the thing float across both land and water is amazingly awesome. Riding the Slide was described as “unbelievably difficult yet at the same time unbelievably cool.”
Although the Lexus slide promises to deliver the future today, you can forget about buying one, because the Slide is probably the most expensive vehicle Lexus has ever made, and oh yeah, the only reason for the Slide to exist is to help market and promote the Lexus brand name.
The Lexus Hoverboard: It’s here