The concept of a driverless car navigating without human aid on actual roadways is no longer foreign. The technology has been in use for years now, and nearly every major auto manufacturer is working on a self-driving vehicle of some kind. Of course, there aren’t any consumer-owned vehicles that can do this yet, unless you consider various features like self-parking which some cars can do without a driver.
The technology has been known for a while, so it’s lost most of its shock factor. However, what if we started talking about a vehicle that could hover just above the ground and travel at high speeds? You’d probably think we were crazy.
The first thing that comes to mind when you talk of technology like this is the fictional hoverboards featured in “Back to the Future II.”
Believe it or not, there’s a designer who has proposed this exact concept.
What Is the Hover Car Concept?
The vehicle has actually been dubbed the Elektrogliss, and it uses compressed air to slide above the pavement. Better yet, it’s electric and uses a 225 kw hydrogen fuel cell for energy instead of gasoline. This means it is both environmentally friendly and energy efficient, something every new vehicle could use these days.
The concept is an idea from designer Charles Bombardier, who is responsible for the creation of more than 150 vehicle concepts of varying styles and technologies. As for the visual renderings and concept art, it was created by Abhishek Roy, the owner of the Indian design firm Lunatic Koncepts.
The Elektrogliss does not have any wheels, at least not in the traditional sense. It is propelled by four lateral seated fans, which pump air underneath the frame of the vehicle to create something of a bubble. When the vehicle is moving, the fans also help the Elektrogliss adjust movement and direction similar to thrusters on a ship.
The compressed air will escape from both side skirts and rear-facing vents. The rear vents can pivot left and right to help shift direction, as well. Appearance wise, they resemble exhaust pipes on a traditional vehicle.
Obviously, this is nothing more than a concept at this point and it’s not indicative of actual working technology – not yet, anyway. It’s not all smooth sailing, though, as there are some factors which Bombardier believes could cause some issues.
Drawbacks on the Drawing Board
First, the cost of such a vehicle would be immense, if not outright ridiculous – and that’s not including the time and research it would take to build a working prototype.
Perhaps worst of all is the fact that the fans on such a vehicle would undoubtedly be loud. Driving a vehicle that creates an inordinate amount of noise could be an issue in certain areas.
Finally, the overall costs and maintenance of the compressed air system is questionable. 76 percent of compressed air costs – or the lifetime cost of an air compressor – is from electricity. That’s not necessarily an issue with the operation of an electric vehicle, but consider that it would need to be charged frequently. That need to be constantly recharged could very well offset the environmental benefits it has in the first place. It’s especially true if the vehicle is being charged via the traditional electric grid, which is powered primarily by fossil fuels.
Since the cost of operation is sure to be high on its own, that doesn’t bode well for the added cost of maintenance and repairs which would surely be expensive. Air leaks, piping issues, filter changes, unpredictable temperatures and hardware replacements are all common problems associated with industrial compressed air systems. It’s not unreasonable to assume a vehicle like the Elektrogliss – which is powered by compressed air – would see the same patterns and problems.
Still, there’s no denying the promise behind the concept. We can all agree that hovering transportation of any kind is decidedly remarkable. Maybe in a few years time, there will be a more viable solution for some of the drawbacks listed here and this tech will actually be ready for primetime – or maybe it will remain a concept. Only time will tell.
Kayla Mathews is a writer and blogger with a passion for technology and gadgets. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter to get updates on all of her latest posts.