You’ve probably heard of the Bugatti Veyron. You know, that lean, mean speed machine that holds the Guinness world record for fastest production car and sadly ended its production this year? The Veyron Super Sport is a mighty 1,200-horsepower beast (note the use of present tense), capable of reaching 267.8 mph — but there’s one thing it cannot do: hover. The 2015 $75,000 Mercier-Jones Supercraft does, and at a top speed of around 80 mph, the Chicago-based company claims. It might not sound fast. But in the hovercrafting world, it’s a record. (The current hovercraft speed record is 56.25 mph.)
Aiming to be “the Veyron of air-cushion vehicles,” according to Road & Track, Mercier-Jones burst — no, propelled — onto the supercar scene last year, and it’s been thrusting ahead ever since. The 2015 Supercraft has been called “agile, fast and easy to pilot,” and its revolutionary propulsion system and hybrid drive train have made it capable of traveling over “land, water and a variety of terrain in between.” At a more conservative speed of 40 mph, the Supercraft has a range of 120 miles with a hover height of seven inches off the ground. The modern design takes cues from supercar greats like the Bugatti Veyron, Maserati GranTurismo and Audi R8, but still has its own style with a low-profile body, aggressive front end and powerful side thrust ports.
Mind blown. Clearly, our ideas of transportation are about to be disrupted if CEO and co-founder Michael Mercier has his way. We recently spoke to him about the Supercraft, his passion for hovercrafting and where he sees the air-cushion movement heading in the future.
Michael Mercier When I was 13 years old, I ordered plans for an “air car” from the back of a Boy’s Life magazine. From those plans, I built a very basic hovercraft, using a vacuum cleaner motor, some plywood and a shower curtain. I was amazed at the ability of this small vehicle to hover me around the garage — I was hooked! Since then, I have been dreaming of and designing ways to make hovercrafts better.
Previews Inside Out How did you first develop the technologies that made your hovercrafts possible? Did it take a long time?
Michael Mercier The first step was having a vision for a hovercraft that had the looks, maneuverability and sexiness that the technology deserves. From there, I experimented with body designs and propulsion ideas that could blend beautiful form with advanced function. Building and testing of prototypes has been going on for the last four years, and only in the last six months did we get all of the systems to work together the way I’ve wanted.
Previews Inside Out Can you tell us, in layman’s terms, how it works?
Michael Mercier A hovercraft is like an air hockey puck in reverse. An airflow is generated below the craft and spills out evenly from its perimeter. The craft is pushed up by this air and hovers right above the surface. Since there is almost no friction between the hovercraft and the surface below, it is easy to propel. The patented Mercier-Jones directional control system puts complete control in the hands of the pilot, so simply steering the wheel and pressing the pedals move the Supercraft similarly to driving a boat or a car— including moving in reverse.
The Supercraft is also a hybrid. A gas engine generates electricity to keep a lithium ion battery pack charged, and electric motors turn the fans for lift and thrust air.
Previews Inside Out And it’s not just for water, correct? It can also speed over land, ice and sand?
Michael Mercier The Supercraft can travel over any relatively flat terrain, both on and off the water. You can easily drive off the lake and up onto the shoreline while waving at your friends docking their boats as you pass them by.
Previews Inside Out The 2015 Mercier-Jones Supercraft has been called the “Veyron of air-cushion vehicles.” What do you think of this description? Is it a fair comparison?
Michael Mercier The Veyron did offer some inspiration for the design of the body, and Mercier-Jones is introducing the first luxury hovercraft, so the comparison is close to fair. When the Supercraft becomes the fastest personal hovercraft in the world, we’ll feel better about it.
Previews Inside Out The idea that the Supercraft is “revolutionizing personal transportation” is interesting — what’s your vision for hovercrafts in the future?
Michael Mercier One of the most frequent questions I receive is if the Supercraft is street legal. It isn’t yet ready for the roads and traffic signals, but we have made a huge leap toward that possibility. Mercier-Jones plans to introduce a roadworthy hover vehicle by 2025. We also have some other very exciting concepts in our sketch pads, but the Supercraft needs to get off the ground before we pursue those.
Previews Inside Out Have you succeeded in breaking the current 56.25-mph hovercraft land-speed record yet?
Michael Mercier Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to run the Supercraft to its limits just yet. As I mentioned, we only got our systems to where we wanted them a few months ago. Sadly, hovercrafts are not immune to the challenges of funding a startup. The good news is, it’s only money standing in the way of our goals — our technology is ready.
Previews Inside Out Have you sold the 10 Collector’s Edition vehicles that were released last spring?
Michael Mercier The 10 are not all allocated yet, but there is a long and growing waiting list to purchase a Supercraft. A deposit can still secure your Collector’s Edition.
Previews Inside Out Are there other versions available to purchase?
Michael Mercier General production Supercrafts can be secured by a refundable deposit.
Previews Inside Out How does one go about purchasing one of these Supercrafts?
Michael Mercier You start the process by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your intent to purchase and providing contact information. We will get back to you right away and discuss your needs. If you are committed to purchasing a Supercraft, a refundable deposit of $8,500 is required to secure your spot in the production line and begin the customization process.
Previews Inside Out I understand that you can customize the Supercrafts — can you walk us through this process a bit? How long does it take? What are some examples of specifications someone might ask you for?
Michael Mercier Once your deposit is in, we begin the bespoke process with you to select body color, trim type and any other options you desire, such as a particular sound system or water-illuminating lighting. We work hand in hand to create a Supercraft that is uniquely yours. Our designers will send renderings along the way, and we will have face-to-face meetings when possible. The design phase can be anywhere from one to three months. Once all of your specifications are decided, the build price and delivery date are set and a 40% progress payment is made to start your build. Three to six months from then, the balance is paid, and your Supercraft is delivered to you. Flying tips and hands-on training are provided if desired.
Previews Inside Out Which countries or places have you seen the most interest so far?
Michael Mercier The website has been visited by people from over 150 countries, so we are happy to see such global interest. The United States and United Arab Emirates top the list for contact from potential customers.
Previews Inside Out Since you’ve debuted on the market, what has been the most surprising thing that has happened?
Michael Mercier Mercier-Jones set out to disrupt the longstanding status quo of hovercrafts designed with a rear fan, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when other hovercraft companies lashed out and told us our design wasn’t going to work, but I was. Now that we have honed the new technology and proven them wrong, it won’t be long before they see it for themselves.
Mercier-Jones is a passionate, innovative and trailblazing startup with big visions and the expertise to execute them. My love of hovercrafts has been with me since I was a kid, along with the need to build and create new things and experiences for our world. This spirit has driven me to change hovercrafts for the better and will translate into great new things to come. Mercier-Jones is making the future of transportation a reality.