Secrets Of The Lexus Hoverboard Revealed

Auto site [Jalopnik] got some hands-on (or rather feet-on) time with the Lexus hoverboard that was built for an advert for the luxury car brand, and their video reveals a few secrets about how this interesting device works. It is definitely real: the Jalopnik writer got to ride it himself, and described it as “Unbelievably difficult yet at the same time unbelievably cool, both because you’re levitating and because the board is filled with magnets more than 300 degrees below zero“. But a look behind the scenes reveals that it is another tease.

The device looks like it is a real hoverboard, floating several inches above the surface and even traveling over water, a feat that Marty McFly couldn’t do. But, as usual, there is a little more going on than meets the eye. The device is built around superconducting magnets cooled by liquid nitrogen, so it only works for about 10 minutes. After that, you have to refill the device with liquid nitrogen. The surface that the board is floating over also has what the Jalopnik writer describes as having “several hundred thousand dollars worth of magnets built in“. Try this on a non-magnetic surface and you’ll come to a grinding halt. If you watch the video of the hoverboard serenely gliding over the water from another angle, you can see a magnetic track just under the surface. If you run off this track, you’ll end up with wet feet.

Is it a neat hack? Yes. Is it cool? Yes. Is it the future of transportation? No: it is a cool hack put together for a car advert with a big budget. Kudos to Lexus for spending the cash to do it properly, but once again, our dreams of hoverboards are dashed in the cold, hard light of reality. Darn.

 

60 thoughts on “Secrets Of The Lexus Hoverboard Revealed

  1. I thought this had been well known when it surfaced. I don’t get the Lexus praise. They didn’t come up with anything new. They just threw a ton of money at simple science.

    1. “They just threw a ton of money at simple science.”

      And that’s why they deserve the praise. Every technology needs someone willing to develop it for it to evolve, even if it is all based on simple physics.

      1. Develop? There is absolutely nothing new or innovative about this; superconductors aren’t exactly cutting edge science anymore. It’s nothing but a publicity stunt that anyone could do with enough cash. It’d be completely different story if they were showing off a prototype cryocooler they were integrating into a superconducting electrodynamic suspension or something.

        1. And just such a publicity stunt may be exactly what is needed to bring this sort of technology into the public consciousness, and therefor make it a feasible product: One that corporations, investors, and everyday people are willing to throw money into.
          What will come of this? Who knows? But there’s nothing wrong with Lexus’ methods. They did a good thing here.

          1. It’ll never be a feasible product while it’s filled with liquid nitrogen. That stuff’s dangerous! In something like skateboarding, where DVDs are sold of gruesome injuries and uncanny stunt failures, it’s either gonna be a source of new videos or kill somebody. Or both.

            LN2 is cheap to buy but there’s no easy distribution network, even if it wasn’t a deathtrap. This will never sell. It’s not a practical hoverboard, it’s just an example of spending a shitload of money on a TV ad.

            If somebody invented a hoverboard that didn’t require horribly expensive tracks to run on, and was safe, then that would be a breakthrough, this isn’t.

            Demos of superconductors floating over magnets have been around since the 1970s at least. That’s all this is.

          2. @Greenaum I disagree. Lexus could have achieved the same advertising outcome with a bit of CG. The part where they threw real money at it is commendable. Petrol, diesel and LPG are all pretty nasty things, and yet we drive around with them in our cars every day. Every technology has got to start somewhere, this one started in a lab in the 70’s as you say, Lexus has taken it outside and gotten someone to stand on it, who knows what potentially is around the corner. I can think of worse things to spend research money on.

          3. Matt, if they’d CGIed it, it’d just be one more wanky CGI car advert. We wouldn’t be talking about it here, or anywhere. Making a real, utterly impractical hoverboard has got them masses of publicity, which is what advertising’s for. You might not remember the car but you remember Lexus. Hoverboards are a geek holy grail. Ordinary people don’t realise how impractical it is, to them it looks like genius and the beginning of hoverboards for everyone, but for we who know how it works, it’s not.

            While petrol is dangerous, you can spill it on your hand with no chance at all of losing fingers. It’s only dangerous when it’s on fire, and so are most things.

            This isn’t research. No new knowledge was unearthed, and it will never ever lead to a practical hoverboard. It’s just a massively impractical application of old knowledge to get people’s attention. It’s an advertising breakthrough but that’s all.

    2. HaD have plenty of case mod or copy/paste other people’s hack that do not make anything new either. So at least praise them for the engineering work/workmanship to put this together in something that looks nice. Afterall it is a marketing move, not a claim of new scientific discovery.

    1. We already know, theres video on youtube of TonyHawk using one (yes its real). Just google it.

      Basically it needs a copper surface, but it still seems far more practical then this one.
      Basic innovation there, unlike here, is theres no need for magnetics on both sides – their set up exploits a mechanism using eddy currents that lets a rotating magnetic field repeal itself from a highly ferris material.

      I dont know the details, and I am sure its long been scientifically established, but to my knowledge no one has used it for levitation before.

    1. A skate park like that would draw in the order of 100s of kW, not exactly cheap to run…
      Also, copper is not as cheap as we would like, so the skate park would be very expensive :(

  2. it barely levitates, its got about 1inch of clearance, put too much weight on it and it will grind, in fact, the rail grind stunt they did was exactly that, grinding, not hovering.

    1. There are two schools of thought regarding measurement: Belonging to one school of thought are those that think anything other than the Metric System is stupid. Belonging to the other are those that can think easily in both Metric and Imperial, and convert easily between the two.

      1. That’s what the people working on the Mars Climate Orbiter said as well, it just had a rather tighter orbit than anticipated, right? Kersploosh!
        It’s not important which system of measures is ‘better’, just that a system is adopted and stuck to.

          1. Better? Nonsense, it’s just what has been more widely accepted. It is less precise and is loaded with limitations. Heck, you can’t even deal with simple fractions. Please tell me how to accurately represent 1/3 of a meter in base 10…

          2. Since when are non-decimal fractions a precision measurement? How exactly is the metric system less precise? A meter is a meter, a kilogram is a kilogram…Need precision? Keep moving the decimal point or change the prefix…

            btw the imperial standards are referenced off of the metric system :P

            p.s. how many inches is a 1/5 of a foot? How many feet is a 1/3 of a mile? I fail to see the logic in your argument…

          3. I grew up with the imperial system, it was reduced in prominence on joining the EU, and now I think in metric. I’m happy to not use a temperature scale that was created using the most common easily found substance around at the time rat blood, freezes at 0 Fahrenheit and is normally at 100 Fahrenheit inside the body of a live rat.

        1. The Mars mess was from degrees vs. radians, the press couldn’t relate to radians. They made it metric instead.
          Who really wants to mess with fractions? That was from a time when manual everything ruled. The pocket calculator is a tool. Head done accounting is a joke. Measurement: accuracy is only needed to be just a little better than the real world dictates. For the theoretical the supercomputer awaits. Progress is great, if we are ever going back it will be all the way back. For a survivalist, sourcing gunpowder will be more important than how to partition a dozen eggs.

    1. They would repell but normal magnets wouldn’t be strong enough to make you levitate. You need extremly strong (neodym) magnets to levitate even small items or electromagnets that use a lot of power. Only superconducting electromagnets can produce these kind of strong magnetic fields without without burning up because of the tremendous power you need to go through the electromagnetic coil

    2. Regular (ie room temperature magnets) would still repel the hoverboard away from the track, however in order to get the amount of force needed to lift a person riding the hoverboard, you need a lot stronger magnetic field than what a regular magnet can provide.

      That’s where the super-cooling comes in: you can get crazy strong magnetic fields out of a superconducting magnet, but in order to be superconductive they need to be cooled down below their critical temperature (something near 77 K)

      More info here:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_magnet

      Maybe you can update the wiki article’s ‘Uses’ section to include hoverboards :)

    3. The board is using an effect called quantum locking, this is basically where the superconducting material grabs onto the magnetic flux lines that are passing through it and doesn’t move from that situation.

      1. That’s a distinct effect from that which superconducting electromagnets make use of. In the case of superconducting electromagnets the zero resistance of the electromagnet would be used to force a very large voltage through, however in that case it’s basically the same as flying, and you need to provide enough power through the electromagnet to counter the force of gravity. That is a similar power supply problem as you’d face with a personal jet pack.

  3. Is it a ground breaking new aplication of sience: No
    Is it something no one ever came up with before: No

    But so wasn’t Arduino when it came out, 3D-Printing when it got cheap or the cars that Tesla builds today.
    It’s not about being new – it’s about everyone being aware that it is possible and starting to think out of the box what else could be done with it

    1. Yeah but Arduinos and 3D printing use existing widespread technology. Plastic, motors, and microchips are all over the place. Superconductors and dangerous cryonics aren’t. Til the room-temperature superconductor arrives, this will go nowhere. And if it does arrive, making things hover is an obvious use. This is purely an invention in advertising.

    1. Spilling a bit of liquid nitrogen on your hand, even if you dont have gloves on, is not a big deal, as the leidenfrost effect will stop any from actually touching your hand. Even if you dip your hand in a tank of it (for a very short amount of time), youll still have a perfectly fine hand.

      1. During my freshman year, a woman got mild frostbite on a finger because she was wearing thick, fibrous gloves, and some liquid nitrogen wicked into the fibers. The glove held the nitrogen against her finger while it evaporated, instead of being Leidenfrosted away. Gloves make it safer when dealing with solids (tongs, pipes, etc.) that have been chilled by liquid nitrogen, not the liquid itself.

  4. A much more interesting technology that I recently saw (on HaD?) are “programmable magnets” that could possibly be used for this. They can be programmed to be frictionless gears or to “lock” a certain distance from each other.
    Had Lexus tried to get this tech into a hoverboard, that would’ve been cool, even though it would still need a park made of the programmed opposites.
    Quantum levitation is a cool science exhibit, but not useful.

  5. Sounds like Hondas one is a lot more workable.
    That one “only” demanded a copper surface. I could at least see that useful in themeparks, or maybe even warehouses where omni-directional frictionalesss movement could be useful to move stuff).

    Whats the *advantage* of this one?

  6. correct me if I’m wrong but if anything where under -300 degrees celsius it would be past the absolute zero theory which is nothing can be below 0 degrees kelvin (0 degrees celsius is 273 degrees kelvin), maybe you said it to be smart but, just a heads up of something you should know

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