BBC Autos

The Roundabout Blog

Hovercraft meets sports car in the radical Supercraft

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.

 

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Freeway packed? Just take the river. Such is the promise of a rather audacious new concept from Chicago-based startup Mercier-Jones. The Supercraft is an unusual vision of the car of the future, a rakishly styled gasoline-electric hybrid sports car that eschews wheels for wind.

About as long end-to-end as a Range Rover Evoque and as tall as a Ferrari 458 Italia, the Supercraft wears body panels crafted of carbon fibre composite and affixed to a stiff chromium alloy frame. The open cockpit features two seats in tandem, à la the Toyota i-Road city car. The driver faces an instrument panel powered by Google’s Android operating system, complete with Bluetooth and on-board wi-fi connectivity. GPS navigation, an audio system and heated seats are optional. Wood-inlayed side decks look suitably nautical and provide extra seating in a pinch, says Mercier-Jones. Try that in a Lamborghini.

The Supercraft’s rear-mounted 60-horsepower gasoline engine acts as a generator, delivering juice to a lithium-ion battery pack and a pair of 42hp electric motors, which spin two six-blade fans. These blowers fill a fabric skirt, which lifts the Supercraft on a 7-inch pillow of air, no matter what lies below — mud, grass, gravel, swamp, river, ocean, you name it. (Asphalt is on the list, too, though Mercier-Jones admits the Supercraft hasn’t achieved street-legal status – yet.) A vectored-thrust directional control system offers precise maneuverability – forward, backward and sideways. Performance is respectable for a hovercraft, somewhat less so for a sports car: the Supercraft will cruise at 40mph, with a range of 120 miles. Controls are designed to mimic those of a traditional car, giving the Supercraft a relatively gentle learning curve for landlubbers. 

And Mercier-Jones insists that despite its Popular Science looks, the Supercraft is no mere flight of fancy. The company plans to offer an initial run of 10 "cars" on 15 May, priced at $75,000 and secured with a $7,500 deposit. Production continues in October with a second run of 50 cars.