Marbel Board: Is this the world's lightest electric vehicle?
By Nick Lavars
May 22, 2014
Electric skateboards are certainly building up some momentum as a form of urban transport, and they seem to just keep getting lighter and lighter. Florida-based start-up Marbel is the latest to set its wheels in motion, this week launching a crowdfunding campaign for what it claims to be the world's lightest electric vehicle – the 9.9 lb (4.5 kg) Marbel.
To put that number into perspective, the Evolve electric skateboard we took for a spin last year weighs in at 19.6 lb (8.9 kg). Back in 2012, Boosted Boards raised a few eyebrows (and a boatload of Kickstarter funds) with its 12-lb (5.5 kg) motorized longboard. If the appeal of an electric skateboard lies in convenience for those hopping off buses and making that last-mile trip, then trimming off some of the fat could be as important a factor as any.
"Our main focus was user experience," Matt Belcher, founder of Marbel, tells Gizmag. "Weight was the big choice for making it easier for people to carry and use everyday."
It's one thing to identify this as a design focus, but bringing the weight of the Marbel board to under ten pounds involved some rather advanced technology.
"The main reason we were able to keep the weight so low was by utilizing very specific carbon fiber in combination with Kevlar in the composite deck," explains Marbel. "The second reason is the battery cells we are using. They are the latest in lithium-ion battery technology and very similar to what you will find in a Tesla Model S".
The light build of the Marbel board doesn't appear to have come at a cost. The 165 Wh lithium battery powers a 2,000 W (2.68 hp) brushless DC motor for a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h), both of which are sealed for protection on the bottom side of the deck. The battery can be fully charged in 90 minutes, which according to Marbel should be good for a range of 10 mile (16 km). This puts it well ahead of the Boosted Board's range of 6 mi (9.6 km), but short of Yuneec's E-Go Cruiser at 18 mi (30 km). This was necessary, Belcher claims, to maintain the weight of the board.
"For range, we worked long and hard on this and 10 to 11 miles seemed to be the sweet spot for most of our test riders," he says. "We have the ability to add more range down the road if customers really ask for it, but if we do add more range it would mean sacrificing on weight."
Users control the Marbel Board using a wireless handheld controller, which sports a thumb slider that is slid forward to accelerate or back to trigger the regenerative braking. In addition, the board has a built-in Wi-Fi module which allows for more advanced control via a companion smartphone app, compatible with both iOS and Android.
Within the app, users can control the throttle in real time or access a dashboard to customize their ride. It comes configured with low power Starter Mode, energy-saving Eco Mode and no holds-barred Sport Mode. Alternatively, users can dive into custom mode to adjust the top speed and rate of acceleration.
Marbel runs on 50 degree 180 mm longboard trucks and 76 mm wheels with ABEC 9 bearings. Measuring 38 in (96.5 cm) long and 10 in (25 cm) wide, the company says Marbel should have no trouble tackling hills of a 15 percent grade incline.
The team is looking to raise US$90,000 on Kickstarter. Having kicked off the campaign this week, it appears well on its way to achieving that goal, having already attracted over $40,00 in pledges as of this writing. An early pledge of $1,099 will put you in line for one of the e-boards, the company planning to ship in November if everything falls into place.
But is this the world's lightest electric vehicle? We're hard pressed to find anything lighter, but we'd be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments section.
You can hear from Belcher and see Marbel taken for a ride in the video below.