Leif electric skateboard carves on the asphalt like it's on snow
By C.C. Weiss
August 25, 2014
Since we began covering new technology and hardware in 2002, one of the most prevailing trends in sports has been the skateboard that rides more like a snowboard/surfboard. Apparently no one has gotten it quite right (or there's a good deal of money to be made), because it pops up again and again, going back so far as the StreetCarver from none other than BMW, right through recent designs like Swing Blade and Lean Board. Another major skateboard trend during that time has been the electrified skateboard, exemplified by products like the Marbel Board and Yuneec E-Go. The all-new Leif skateboard digs a niche between those two categories by offering a snowboard-inspired ride that's sharpened by an electric driveline. Call it an electric snowboard for the streets.
The Leif board is not the first electric skateboard to boast about a snowboard-like ride – the Onewheel from earlier this year had some of that same hype. However, the Leif was designed by a pair of passionate snowboarders and looks like it could be the most snowboard-like skateboard we've seen yet. Its unique hardware appears to create a ride that's about as fast and flowy as you can have while standing up on hot asphalt.
The ride is based around a unique wheel layout that starts with wide trucks in front and back. Just center-side of each truck is a narrow caster wheel that's set on a rotating plate and powered by a dedicated 2,000-watt brushless electric motor. This third wheel is capable of spinning 360 degrees, sharpening the board's turning capabilities with omnidirectional driven power. This 360-degree power allows the board to mimic the floaty, low-friction turning power that a snowboard has courtesy of the snow underneath its waxy base.
The current Leif prototype includes front and rear foot holds, helping the rider to control the board. The hardware stops short of locking the feet in, à la snowboard bindings, maintaining the rider's freedom to quickly step off.
"Every snowboarder knows the pain of taking that last run – having to wait until the next vacation or season to ride again," the Leif team explains on Kickstarter. "At Leif, we dreamed of a future where snowboarding was not confined to the snow and mountains, but accessible to everyone, anywhere."
A look at the video footage shows that the Leif set-up frees the rider to create quick, sharp cuts all the way into snowboard-like perpendicular stops. It also supports fast, swooping carves and seamless spins, both reminiscent of snowboarding. The design even allows the board to move slowly when pointed perpendicular to the direction of travel, similar to how a snowboard can slowly edge its way down a steep hill, even when it's cut across the fall line in stopped position.
Thanks to its powered design, the Leif board offers an advantage that the snowboard can't, at least without a separate power system like the DreamScience electric thruster or Skizee. The board is capable of riding up hills on its own – no chairlift or gondola required.
The rider controls the Leif board via a thumb slider on the simple wireless controller. The board can hit speeds up to 20 mph (32.1 km/h) and run for up to 8 miles (12.9 km) on a single charge of its lithium-phosphate battery pack. That battery pack recharges in an hour. The Leif's 15-lb (6.8-kg) curb weight puts it out of the running for world's lightest electric skateboard, but it's comfortably in line with other electric boards we've covered. Helping to keep the weight down is the board's snowboard-like stopping capability, which eliminates the need for mechanical brakes.
Usually when we see "snowboard-style" skateboards, there's some glaring problem or red flag. Maybe the board doesn't look convincingly snowboard-like; it might have awkward-looking hardware that seems counter-intuitive; it could be overly large or oddly shaped, etc. The Leif board, on the other hand, looks to be all-out fun, getting the skateboarder about as close to the feel snowboarding as we imagine is possible on hot, hard ground. And even if it doesn't have the perfect feel of being on a snow-covered mountain, it looks pretty fun in its own right.
Leif's founding team includes two New York transplants and snowboard enthusiasts. Aaron Aders is a digital marketer and entrepreneur pursuing his lifelong dream of a year-round street snowboard with the help of Daniel Seagren, a Columbia graduate and mechanical engineer.
The duo is raising funds on Kickstarter to pursue production of the Leif. At around a third of the way to a US$90K goal with less than week left to go, a successful campaign finish appears unlikely. The board itself is available at a $1,299 pledge price with free US shipping ($100 shipping fee outside the States). Leif offers a number of lower pledge ranges for those that might want to help out without dropping four figures.
The first video below shows the Leif in action, as well as giving a visual as to why a snowboard-like skateboard is a goal worth pursuing in the form of some nice powder footage. The second video flips the board over for a closer look at the wheel hardware.
Source: Leif Technologies