John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The "world's lightest electric vehicle" has the backing of Stanford engineers. But is it really skating?
I would love to hear what actual skaters think of this electric-powered longboard designed by Stanford grads in Palo Alto, California.
The engineers of the "Boosted Board," which could retail for $1,299 or more, paint the prototype vehicle as the second greatest thing to Marty McFly's hoverboard. On their Kickstarter page, where fans have kicked some $306,000 toward the $100,000 financing goal (with three weeks still to go!), they write: "You can do your favorite downhill tricks… going uphill. Or carve and carve… without ever pushing. More time riding and practicing, less time pushing and walking."
At 12 pounds in its current iteration, the board is the "world's lightest electric vehicle," they say, able to travel 6 miles on a single charge at a respectable speed of 20 m.p.h. Making short trips around town on a self-propelled board seems convenient, and the alleged $5 electricity bill for the device's daily use is kind on the wallet. Despite these advantages, though, riding this contraption might make you look like a butthead.
Please note that I'm no skateboard rider, and if I tried I would probably chip at least five teeth in the first minute. But nothing about this gadget says "skateboard" to me. I'd put it more into the family of Segways or electric unicycles – gimmicks for the well-salaried who don't like doing the physical work of peddling a bicycle or pushing a board. And compared to rocketing off down a half-pipe with one powerful leg-thrust, using a "handheld remote" to activate a throttle just to get moving seems desperately lame.
Longboarding is nice because any kid who's saved their allowance can buy a board, take it to the streets and start to learn how to sidewalk surf. Walking up hills is just part of the bargain. The Boosted Board is training people to helm a totally different machine. Maybe that's my problem with it, and one that a simple change in name could fix. How about the "Urban Electric Convenience Platform"?
Top image courtesy of Boosted Boards on Kickstarter.