November 15, 2007 The electric skateboard is a bit of an oddity – it’s a logical step forward from a technology point of view, it’s a high-efficiency mode of transport, handy for short commutes, quiet, light, storable and probably quite a bit of fun. The latest to come to our attention is the Metroboard - capable of 15mph (26kmh) and controlled by a nifty infra-red handheld remote control, it’s one of the lightest units on the market.
Designer Ilan Sabar’s Metroboard looks pretty much like a regular skateboard with a brick bolted underneath it. The brick, however, is in this case a 450 Watt (0.6 horsepower) electric motor capable of whizzing the board along at up to 15mph.
You control the Metroboard via a 6-button infrared remote. Three buttons on the left set your speed/power level – slow, medium and top speed – two on the right are held down to activate soft or hard regenerative braking back through the engine. Sabar advises “extreme caution” when using top speed or heavy braking as it’s probably not difficult to fall off. The final black button activates a beeping bell to part the red sea of pedestrians, and combinations of buttons can be used to check the remaining battery life.
Different battery pack options on the short and long deck versions of the Metroboard will get you different range capabilities between 4 miles and about 10 miles under optimal conditions. So, not much. Charging takes around 4 hours, but if the board runs out of puff while you’re out, it’s geared low enough to be able to kick it along too. It’s also one of the lightest electric boards out there at only 18lbs (8kg) for the lightest version and 31lbs (14kg) for the heaviest – so it’s not such a pain to carry.
Metroboard’s selling it as a fun toy and alternative commuter option, but it’s hard to see exactly where it will fit in the market. If you’re able to ride a skateboard, you’ll probably think it’s a daggy idea to glide around on a board that requires no kicking, can’t be flipped around as you cruise, and can’t be used for tricks or grinds due to the battery pack, thus robbing it both of its exercise potential and hooligan fun. And if you’re not a skater, you’ll probably find it fairly difficult to handle. The potential for embarrassment is fairly high.
Then there’s the pricing, which starts at USD$399 and goes up to USD$575 – understandable given the componentry but a fair slug for a skateboard. Still, in certain low mileage lifestyles, there’s no doubt a place for such a compact and simple form of transport. And the company’s more than willing to let you take one out for a test ride to see if it’s for you. See the Metroboard website for full specs, instructions and video footage of the board in action.