I ride a skateboard just about every day — to and from the subway going to work, and recreationally on the weekends. In an ideal world, I'd like to cruise all the way to work and not step foot on a train. But that's not quite possible without a motor giving me power to get up and down Broadway. I'm on the hunt to find the perfect electric skateboard — one that doesn't cost upward of $1,000, is lightweight, has a range of at least 10 miles, and can go at least 15MPH.
So each year I come to CES and find myself looking for the latest crop of electric skateboards. First was the Board of Awesomeness, and last year was the ZBoard. This year I rode two very different models— the Onewheel and the E-Go Cruiser, and they come closer to my ideal of an electric skateboard than anything else I've ever ridden.
Onewheel is a Kickstarter project that has already reached its $100,000 funding goal just days after launch. It’s not exactly a skateboard: as the name suggests, the Onewheel has but one wheel — a go-cart tire — and similar to a Segway, it manipulates a handful of internal sensors to coordinate balance and propel you forward. It’s a rectangle made of wood and metal with a spot for both of your feet and the wheel fixed in the middle.
The Onewheel doesn’t operate with a remote control like other electric skateboards — you just shift your weight forward to accelerate, and leaning back slows you down. The first time I attempted to ride the 25-pound beast, the sudden jerk from the motor torque threw me off the board. I hopped back on and very gently leaned forward, and I began to move.
Soon, I was cruising easily around the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot. The board really does all the work, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit like Marty McFly on a hoverboard. But there are some drawbacks: The Onewheel is bulky and unwieldy, the range on a single charge is only 4-6 miles, and top speed is only 12MPH. However, there’s an option on the company’s Kickstarter page to purchase a board with a high-speed charger that promises to recharge the battery in 20 minutes.
Lean forward to go, backward to stop
For $1,299, the Onewheel is an enthusiast’s expensive dream — and it’s a really interesting take on the electric skateboard. But at that price, weight, and limited range, I continued the never-ending search for my ideal board. On to something a little more traditional.
Yuneec, a little-known company that specializes in electric transportation vehicles, debuted the E-Go Cruiser at CES. It is simply a standard longboard with an electric motor attached. It’s controlled by a wireless remote or its iPhone app, and can also go just 12MPH. However, Yuneec claims the board has an impressive range of 18 miles on a single charge.
You make the board move forward by shifting the slider on the controller forward, and it even has a brake (you just shift the slider down) that works surprisingly well. Once you get the hang of it, you can come to a full stop from top speed within 15 feet. I basically had no trouble riding the board, even the very first time, because it really is just a longboard. Carving and snaking around CES bystanders came quickly and easily.
You can come to a full stop from top speed within 15 feet
Since it's just a longboard, the Cruiser is still completely useful even if the battery's dead. In fact, the company reps recommend that you push with your foot a few times before putting both feet on the board and letting it do the work for you. And at $700 — barely half the price of the Onewheel — it’s one of the least expensive electric skateboards you can buy.
But still, my hunt continues. It’s exciting to see companies refining and building on the idea of the perfect electric skateboard, and the Onewheel is a particularly novel product, but its impracticality sets me back. The E-Go Cruiser is closer to my dream board, but its top speed of 12MPH is just too slow for me. In the most ideal of worlds, I’d want something modular. Imagine snapping on a motor to your trucks, zipping to the skatepark, removing the motor, and shredding. Until that happens, I think I’ll stick with my analog skateboard. And the subway.