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Elon Musk wants to make the Tesla Roadster a hover car, but reality may get in the way

Tesla Model S
(Image credit: Tesla)

Elon Musk wants a future Tesla Roadster to hover “like a meter above the ground” according to comments he made on the Joe Rogan Experience.

Musk let the idea slip during his third appearance on the hugely popular podcast, which is hosted by the comedian Joe Rogan. The billionaire and Tesla CEO is one of the show’s most popular guests, with his appearances becoming internet meme gold mines, like in 2018 when Musk smoked a joint during the recording.

While Musk was cagey on the details of how his hover car would work, he did explain why he thought a meter would be a suitable hovering height: "Maybe it can hover like a meter above the ground, or something like that,” he told Rogan. “If you plummet, it'll blow out the suspension, but you're not gonna die."

This follows previous claims from Musk that the second-generation Roadster could have rocket-like thrusters that use pressurized air to aid acceleration, deceleration, and handling. So are Musk’s plans actually feasible? 

Could the Tesla Roadster hover? 

It sounds like Elon Musk is envisioning something akin to a Star Wars speeder, the hovering vehicles used by Luke Skywalker and others to race around their planets, though the concept would be hard to pull off using existing technology.

One option could be to use something like magnetic levitation, and indeed a patent for a maglev car already exists. Much like a maglev train, powerful magnets in both the car and road would repel each other, causing levitation, and using alternating polarities to generate forward movement. 

However, unless Musk intends to conduct an overhaul of public infrastructure everywhere he wants to sell the Roadster, this isn’t a viable choice as roads aren’t outfitted for maglev yet.

Alternatively, the Roadster could work more like the flying bikes and taxis that are already operating in some cities are employing, though they operate more like drones or helicopters with their rotating blades. Musk’s comments give the impression that he wants hovering to be an optional feature in the Roadster, and some of these flying cars don’t look road-safe or don’t have wheels.

Tesla would also likely run into problems if it opted for a more traditional hovercraft design. Even using lightweight materials, hovercraft don’t float more than a few inches into the air, and the Tesla Roadster will probably be heavier than a traditional hovercraft; so unless the design is tweaked considerably, we can’t see it being able to take off any time soon.

We’ve reached out to Tesla to see if it has anything to add to Musk’s remarks, and we’ll update this piece with their response if we get one.