John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The weight-sensitive ZBoard 2 can dawdle or zoom at 20 mph, depending on your foot pressure.
California might still have a ban on electric skateboards, thanks to a 1970s law against their motorized, emissions-spewing granddaddies. But with one state legislator moving to legalize e-boards, engineers are already rolling out prototypes—such as the Zboard 2, a battery-charged person-mover that gets up to a wind-rustling-in-the-hair 20 mph.
The market for the $949 Zboard 2, made by UCLA grads based in Hermosa Beach, certainly seems primed: the vehicle has almost quadrupled its funding goal on Indiegogo. Perhaps that's because it's being pitched not so much to skateboarders but to a general audience who might just want an easy way to scoot to work or the store. Write its inventors:
Even if you've never ridden a skateboard before you'll be ZBoarding within minutes with our easy to learn, weight-sensing control scheme. To accelerate you simply lean forward on the front footpad. Speed control is completely variable so you an lean forward a little bit to go walking speed, or lean forward more to hit the top speed of 20 miles per hour.
Leaning back kicks in regenerative braking, meaning you can safely descend hills while also recharging the battery.
No previous skateboarding experience is required. We have hundreds of ZBoard riders who had never stepped on a skateboard before their ZBoard, who are now seasoned pros.
The board has its pluses and minuses. The single-charge range of 16 to 24 miles (depending on the model) is admirable, and the built-in carrying handle is a neat touch. The LED head-and-brake lights are a welcome feature for night riders who'd rather not mount a flasher on their butt. It's also cheaper and less ridiculous-looking than some other e-boards out there.
But the charging time of 90 minutes to 2.5 hours seems lethargic, and at 16 pounds it's definitely a weight-lifter's dream. Add 10 more pounds and you might as well be lugging around a bike.
Yet maybe it's worth it to see the facial expressions of people at the skate park when you whir silently past. Have a look: