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.
Jeremy Hsu has been working as a science and technology journalist in New York City since 2008. He has written on subjects as diverse as supercomputing and wearable electronics for IEEE Spectrum. When he’s not trying to wrap his head around the latest quantum computing news for Spectrum, he also contributes to a variety of publications such as Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science, and others. He is a graduate of New York University’s Science, Health & Environmental Reporting Program.