Four-wheel drive electric BajaBoard dares you to ride
By Paul Ridden
April 22, 2014
Though the only range problems a leg-powered skateboard suffers are to do with the fitness of its rider, electric skateboards do offer the thrill of being able to take on a Corvette without the aid of bionic limbs, zip over dirt, grass or road without running out of puff, or even just get the adrenalin pumping on the way to work. For the last 3 years, an Australian design team has been working on a multi-purpose powered board called the BajaBoard, which boasts 12 kW (16 hp) of 4WD electric grunt, adjustable independent suspension and LED lighting at the front and back. The project has now headed to Kickstarter for the final push toward production.
Creating the BajaBoard monster mountainboard started as a hobby project back in 2011, looking for a way to squeeze speed, stability, agility, versatility, toughness and compactness into one skateboard. Four major design changes and two prototypes later and the designers reckon that it's ready for public consumption.
Though final production specs may vary, the BajaBoard is currently shaping up with independent double wishbone suspension design with four mountain-bike-like shock absorbers and pneumatic all-terrain tires for top-notch stability, handling and traction. There's a 3 kW brushless electric motor at each wheel, adjustable independent front and rear steering, a removable Lithium battery and charger, and regen braking. It has a top speed of 50 km/h (31 mph), and the range between charges is 24 km (15 miles) at present, but the team is aiming for at least 30 km by the time it rolls into production.
The developers say that its Gen2 prototype (on which production specs are loosely based) could get a rider from a standstill up to 30 km/h (18 mph) in less than a second, though weight and skill would determine user results. The electric motors are also reported capable of handling any hill that an average road car can climb. In tests, the latest model towed loads in excess of 100 kg (220 lb) uphill without so much as a cough.
The BajaBoard, which grabbed the rosette for Best Alternative Electric Vehicle at Melbourne's EV Expo in February, has been designed for the kinds of jumps and drops that are usually the domain of snowboarders or mountain-bikers, and is equally at home on dirt, gravel, rocky mountain trails or tarmac. It's compact enough to fit in the trunk of a car, and the designers are aiming for a target production weight of less than 18 kg (40 lb).
Throttle and braking will be undertaken using a handheld wireless trigger controller, a custom master control unit with backlit LCD display to the front allows for adjustment of electric power to match riding style and capabilities, and riders will be able to drive the BajaBoard's front and rear wheels separately.
To get the imposing BajaBoard under the feet of adventurous riders, the team's George Li told us that the small startup "decided to run Kickstarter first so that we can maintain control over our directions, and so that our followers can have the opportunity to get a board without dealer mark-ups."
Skipping right past the supporter levels and into the pledges that will get you a BajaBoard if the Kickstarter campaign proves successful, there are 30 early bird base models up for grabs at AU$3,850 (US$3,600) each. These boards will come with a single throttle hand controller only, there'll be no LCD display and an absence of lights. But backers at this level will get the ride before anyone else, with an estimated shape date of December this year being given.
For just AU$150 more, backers can put their names against the early bird production model offering, with a dual throttle hand controller, LCD display on the master control unit and lighting front and rear. This one shows a shipping estimate of March 2015.
If you want to snag a production model plus the chance to spend 3 days with the development team, and choose custom colors and rims, you'll need to stump up at least AU$6,000 for an estimated April delivery.
Backers at all pledge levels are advised to check local regulations relating to electric vehicles before jumping in with a pledge. The BajaBoard founders have also announced that they'll host and run a special forum of peers to allow users to chat, swap tales of terror, get tips and tricks, and check for operating or maintenance info.
"If we don't make funding target, we'll seek out investors in order to complete the final design and set up facilities," Li added. "Then we would either launch another crowdfunding campaign or, more likely, simply sell through distributors and dealers."
The thrill ride of a pitch video is below.