No one wants to drive a hovercraft.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with hovercrafts. I mean, it was this vehicle that could go over any terrain, floating on a cushion of air. I dreamed of being an adult in the future, with everyone driving these around. In my head, this was the future. In the back of comic books back in the day, there were always these little ads, and there would always be an ad for this ready-to-run remote controlled toy hovercraft.
I wanted that thing so badly. One day, my best friend told me he got that hovercraft. I was so excited to go over his house and see this magnificent vehicle. But it wasn’t magnificent at all. It was really…cheap. First off, it was made of a really thin, low density polypropylene, or maybe styrene. I’m sure this was done to make the vehicle as light as possible. After all, it was hovering on a cushion of air coming from a fan that was powered by two D batteries. The batteries were housed in the remote control unit [can't have them on the vehicle, way too heavy], which was physically wired to the hovercraft by a two or three foot flexible wire. The hovercraft worked…it hovered. Barely. I imagined it going over any flat surface with ease, nothing would stand in the hovercraft’s way. In reality, plush carpet bogged it down. What do you expect for something that costs under $5 found in the back of an old comic book?
Wired Autopia recently posted this piece on the Mercier-Jones Hovercraft. Michael Mercier has a project on Indiegogo to raise money so he can create and start producing a hybrid-powered personal hovercraft. As soon as I read this I thought of another personal watercraft vehicle that was Flawesome.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to create a new personal recreational vehicle. We have ATVs and jetskis, there’s clearly a market for recreational vehicles. But a hovercraft? The hovercraft, just like communism, is great…in theory. It rides on a cushion of air. It can go over various terrain. That’s awesome. But because it runs on a cushion of air, that means you need a lot of air. A lot of air means big fans. Big fans mean lots of noise. Hovercrafts are loud. Check out this video of an existing personal hovercraft [skip to the 2:00 minute mark to see and hear it start up].
Also, did you notice how well it turned? Hovercrafts are a pain in the ass to maneuver. Since you’re hovering on a cushion of air, not touching the ground, the only way to maneuver is to blow air in the opposite direction of where you want to go. And of course, because of our friend inertia, you might just end up spinning in that direction even after you’ve stopped trying to turn. That’s what happens when you’re floating on a virtually frictionless cushion of air. Because of the noise, lack of maneuverability, and overall inefficiency, hovercrafts—despite being super cool—have never taken off as a mode of transportation.
Michael Mercier, however, wants to change that.
“The problem with hovercraft available in that market currently, is that the design language doesn’t excite and engage prospective customers the way that it could,” Mercier said. “The Mercier-Jones hovercraft is here to change that trend.”
What he’s basically saying is that people aren’t buying hovercrafts because the designs are not engaging. Really? That’s the only reason people aren’t buying personal hovercrafts? No, people aren’t buying hovercrafts because a) they’re expensive b) they’re inefficient as vehicles, in terms of getting from point a to point b and c) they’re cumbersome to maneuver. I mean, if someone really wanted a hovercraft, they could buy one right now. Just go to Hammacher Schlemmer.
There you go. It’s $20,000. But remember, it can only hold up to 400 pounds. Also, it can’t go on steep inclines, and any surface you travel on must be somewhat smooth and flat. If you’re lucky enough to have a smooth, flat route to travel, you *might* get up to 60 mph. I will agree with Mercier that this hovercraft looks…dorky. It does not look like a cool sports car. But really, does he think that the reason people aren’t buying this is because of the way it looks? People aren’t buying this because it sucks as a vehicle. For $20,000, I can buy a pretty decent car, that can go anywhere there are roads, and can travel at speeds in excess of 60 mph. It can also hold more than 400 pounds. And did I mention that a car can drive on roads? Because last I heard, hovercrafts are not street legal vehicles. If you want to get anywhere in a hovercraft, make sure your take the back roads, and make sure those back roads have a flat surface, and don’t have steep inclines of any sort.
Don’t get me wrong, the Mercier-Jones hovercraft has a really nice looking design, according to these computer renders. But as I always say, that’s usually a tip-off that overall, the design is Flawesome. You can make it look as beautiful as the latest exotic supercars, but the fact is, hovercrafts are not a viable form of transportation. There, I said it. And this is coming from a guy who grew up thinking hovercrafts were the future form of transportation. I still think they’re cool, but…no. Let’s just keep hovercrafts as a novelty vehicle, or as toys advertised in the back of comic books.