Lexus has at last unveiled its prototype hoverboard, inviting press to experience the future (maybe) at a beachside event in Barcelona this week.
To catch you up, here’s the skinny: Lexus first revealed plans for an advanced concept in June, promising its board – in development for 18 months – would take the technology well beyond anything revealed so far. Which, apart from last year’s Hendo board, isn’t much.
The company later detailed the basics of the hoverboard’s technology, which centres on liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors kept at a chill -197°C the whole time.
All of this allows the board to straight-up levitate over the surface of a purpose-built skate park.
“The force is strong enough that the rider can stand and even jump on the board,” said Dr Oliver de Haas, chief executive of Evico, the German company that worked with Lexus on the concept.
Early images and clips revealed what appeared to be a conventional cement park no different to any you’d find here in Australia, although Lexus revealed that it had embedded a special magnetised metallic layer beneath the surface to repel the supercooled superconductors.
It also turns out that the skate park is of a wooden design, painted and rendered for a more traditional cement appearance. But, hey, we won’t judge. Necessity and all that.
So, of course, the board only works at this specialised park. Maybe also above tram tracks if you’ve come suitably prepared.
And, as sweet as the general concept is, there’s another issue: run time. Lexus admits that its hoverboard can only deliver around 10 to 20 minutes of bodacious buoyancy before a refill of precious liquid nitrogen is required.
Even for official Lexus hoverpilot and skate pro Ross McGouran, there’s more than a little work involved in keeping the floating fun factory on the move.
“I’ve spent 20 years skateboarding, but without friction it feels like I’ve had to learn a whole new skill, particularly in the stance and balance you need to ride the hoverboard,” he said.
On the bright side, Lexus has disproven at least one famous fictional fact: hoverboards do work on water.
Unger: “Hey McFly, you bojo! Hoverboards don’t work on water!”
Nogura: “Unless you’ve got POWER!”
– Back to the Future II, 1989