The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Lexus Builds Hoverboard to Go 'Back to the Future'

Toyota's Lexus brand has built a functional hoverboard prototype based on superconductors and magnets

2 min read
Lexus Builds Hoverboard to Go 'Back to the Future'
Photo: Lexus

A Lexus-branded hoverboard could help you go back to the future in more style than Marty McFly. The Toyota luxury car brand has created a working prototype of a hoverboard in honor of the “Back to the Future” franchise prediction that such futuristic technologies would exist by 2015.

The hoverboard achieves its hovering capability by combining liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and permanent magnets, according to a Lexus blog post. Such technology probably won’t be enough to pull off all of the cool hoverboard tricks in the chase scene from the 1989 film “Back to the Future 2,” but it does appear to provide for a smooth, frictionless ride on level surfaces.

“It’s the perfect example of the amazing things that can be achieved when you combine technology, design and imagination,” said Mark Templin, executive vice president at Lexus International, in a statement.

Tinkering with hoverboard technology isn’t just purely for show, even if it represents part of a Lexus brand campaign called “Amazing in Motion.” Toyota previously revealed that it has been experimenting with a similar idea for hover cars during the Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit in June 2014, according to Bloomberg News. An experimental Japanese Maglev train that has been setting new world records runs on a similar principle.

Several other companies have also eyed hoverboard technology. The U.S. startup Arx Pax has turned to the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to raise money for its own Hendo Hoverboard technology. Even the Google X Lab briefly considered developing hoverboards, but abandoned the idea because it couldn’t figure out a good use for them, according to a New York Times article from November 2014.

Lexus has already clarified to the Los Angeles Times that its hoverboard is more about trying to capture the “cool” factor rather than aiming for a serious commercial product. So people hoping for a rocket-powered hoverboard will have to keep rewatching the chase scene from “Back to the Future 2” for now.

The Conversation (0)

Spector's sandbox

1 min read

We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

Keep Reading ↓Show less