Why a Back to the Future hoverboard never took off

Why a Back to the Future hoverboard never took off

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Why a Back to the Future hoverboard never took off

We were promised hoverboards. And if you’re angry because we don’t have them, the movie that planted the dream might also be to blame. When it came out in 1989, Back to the Future II suggested we would be bouncing off walls and racing cars while floating above the ground, all with the ease of a skateboard. 

Our futuristic and really fun transportation device would surely arrive. There are many reasons that we don’t yet have hoverboards. Actual designs, which have emerged in recent years, are far more rudimentary than the model used by Marty McFly in the movie. Philippe Maalouf, 39, the co-founder and chief executive of the Montreal-based company Omni Hoverboards, said that the visuals of the movie, how it looks, held back the hoverboard industry. 

“We’ve noticed that with the design of other hoverboards that have been done so far by Lexus and Hendo, they’ve created a hoverboard that looks exactly like the one in the movie,” he continued. “But when it comes to usability, it doesn’t work like the one in the movie. It’s like a banana peel.” 

Jill Henderson, 51, a co-founder of the company Arx Pax, which owns Hendo, says that “the Hendo Hoverboard is a proof of concept designed to capture the imagination”. She added that the company’s boards are a work in progress, and that a new beta version of the product — Hendo 2.0 — has “adopted a more true-to-skateboard-like design for usability purposes”. That model made its public debut recently. 

The Omni Hoverboard does not closely resemble the models from the film. The board uses propellers, and an early model was powered by a battery. But problems with the weight and capacity of current battery technology led Omni back to a more faithful standby: fuel. 

The other two prominent hoverboards use electromagnetic technology. Hendo, which Henderson said allows for about 15 minutes of hover time, can stay aloft over metals that do not contain iron, but will fall flat over other surfaces. The Lexus model uses superconductors cooled by liquid nitrogen, but also fails if the surface below it is not embedded with magnets. Even skeptics like Maalouf and his co-founder, Alexandru Duru, have paid tribute to the film in their own way. They had a working prototype in 2013, but waited to start the company.

“We said, let’s wait until the year 2015, until we found the company, just so that it overlaps with what we saw in the movie Back to the Future II, just as a symbol,” Maalouf said.

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