For years, designers and startups have been attempting to mimic fiction and create a hoverboard like the one famously piloted by Marty McFly in Back to the Future II. Those efforts have only accelerated now that it’s 2015, the year in the “future” that the famous hoverboard scene was set. We never expected a luxury automaker to throw its hat into the hoverboard ring, but today (that’s June 24, not April 1), that’s exactly what Lexus did.
The hoverboard arena has traditionally been dominated by disappointing hardware, unlikely designs and outright hoaxes, but a design from the world’s largest automaker brings a bit of hope. It also brings a lot of questions. Is Lexus for real? Is it just a clever ad campaign to create buzz? Will the first convincing hoverboard really come from a major global automaker, as opposed to a determined inventor or purpose-formed start-up?
Lexus’ announcement is frustratingly lacking in detail, and the company has been nearly as stingy with details when speaking to the media. It does explain that it’s been working with leading super conductive technology experts in developing a board that uses a combination of liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and permanent magnets to levitate just above the ground below. Lexus fancies the board one of the most advanced hoverboards to date, and given that it has the muscle of one of the world’s largest, most profitable companies behind it, the claim doesn’t seem so farfetched.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll be carving air outside of your Lexus dealership anytime soon. Gizmodo confirmed that, like the Hendo hoverboard, the Lexus effort relies on a metallic surface below, so it can’t just propel you over the types of ground that actually exist out in the world. What looks like concrete in the teaser video is actually a specially prepared metallic surface.
The other bad news is that you won’t be able to buy the Lexus hoverboard – like, ever. The automaker is clear that the board is a prototype that will not be offered for sale. It prepared it as part of its “Amazing in Motion” ad campaign.
“At Lexus, we constantly challenge ourselves and our partners to push the boundaries of what is possible,” explains Mark Templin, executive vice president, Lexus International. “That determination, combined with our passion and expertise for design and innovation, is what led us to take on the Hoverboard project. It’s the perfect example of the amazing things that can be achieved when you combine technology, design and imagination.”
In place of the 80s neon deck work made famous in Back to the Future II, the Lexus board features more understated styling that shows hints of Lexus’ automotive design language. It is shaped like the spindle grille that’s become a cornerstone of Lexus styling and features a deck crafted from the bamboo that’s used in Lexus interiors. It’s not overheating in the photos – that’s fog from the liquid nitrogen, making the design look that much cooler and more sinister.
Lexus plans to test the board in Barcelona in the coming weeks, and it has vowed to release updates about the project for the hoverboard-hungry world to devour. You can follow it on Twitter using the hashtags #LexusHover and #AmazinginMotion.