Hoverboards of ‘Back to the Future’ now a reality

Video rental stores nationwide—all six of them—were jam-packed as people celebrated “Back to the Future” day, Oct. 21, 2015, the day to which Marty McFly travels in the future in “Back to the Future Part II.”

Rest assured, people aren’t rewatching the six-hour trilogy to follow the plot—mental suicide, given its complexity—but to confirm just how wrong the ‘future’ of 1989 was. While director Robert Zemeckis was wrong about the Cubs ever winning the World Series and people in 2015 wearing zany plastic hats and having their pockets inside-out, he was right about one thing: hoverboards.

Well…kind of.

People aren’t yet flying around on little pink hoverboards as their main mode of transportation, but if you’re willing to wait until these models get released to the public and willing to spend a little money—$10,000 or so—then there are a few options on the market for you.

Apparently Lexus has expanded its production to hoverboards as well as cars. In the promotional video for the Lexus hoverboard, skaters are seen doing all sorts of tricks on it at a skate park, including riding it over a pond of water, dispelling the immortal statement of Griff Tannen, “Everyone knows hoverboards don’t work on water…unless you got power!”

The hoverboard escape scene from "Back to the Future II," courtesy of Universal Studios.

The hoverboard escape scene from “Back to the Future II,” courtesy of Universal Studios.

And to add to the futuristic effect of it all, there is even liquid nitrogen steam pouring out of the sides at all times, which is used to cool the superconducting circuits. There is also an obvious downside to that, as it necessitates a constant supply of liquid nitrogen.

The video also doesn’t betray the fact that it only works for seven minutes and that, in order for any of it to be possible, there has to be a conductive metal surface spreading under the entirety of the skate park to react with the board’s electromagnets, even under the water.

The video for the start-up Hendo hoverboard doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it only works on metal, or that it’s considerably different from riding a skateboard, even for Tony Hawk, who is shown struggling to get the thing off the ground, no pun intended. It’s basically the same thing as the Lexus model, but a little bigger and without the liquid nitrogen.

The closest thing to achieving the hoverboard we were promised in “Back to the Future” is the Omni hoverboard, which looks more like a flattened helicopter with two rotors to stand on than a wheel-less skateboard. With the Omni you get the true hoverboard that can fly on any surface, even if for only two minutes due to battery constraints.

So what is the current state of the hoverboard? Two of them fly only over metal, one requiring a steady supply of liquid nitrogen to prevent overheating and one running for 120 seconds before falling to the ground and chopping off the head of anyone standing beneath it.

And did I mention that all three of these models cost upwards of $10,000?

Perhaps we haven’t yet reached the future as promised to us by Steven Spielberg, but we can still get one of those ‘hoverboard scooters’ that everyone’s talking about these days, even if they don’t actually hover.

–Ari Freedman