Though we're not opposed to pounding a foot on pavement, we do find electric skateboards to be a whole lot of exhilarating fun. French startup Bird feels that the hand-held ride controllers that inevitably accompany the experience are cumbersome and unnecessary though. Its development team has created a board-based control system that makes use of feet, not hands, to control acceleration and braking.
The Bird electric board, which is currently the subject of a Kickstarter, was developed to offer the "jump on and ride" feeling of traditional longboards. The Birdtouch system at its heart combines a sensor strip running under the deck's grip, from rear trucks to the front of the board, a hot swap battery pack, in-wheel electric motors and a mobile app.
The sensors strip is especially pressure sensitive at foot positions and can be used to register speed, adjust acceleration and activate electronic braking. The rider does this by moving a foot forward on the front sensor zone to speed up and twisting the back foot on the rear sensor to slow down. All while trying to stay upright on a longboard zipping down the street at up to 30 km/h (18.6 mph).
Even though the fiberglass-reinforced deck includes visual markers to help riders with foot control, we imagine this high speed tap dance being a lot more difficult to master than simply using a wireless trigger or joystick remote – though we'll need to try it for ourselves before passing final judgement. The project team even recognizes that some riders may prefer to use a remote, so the Bird box will include a hand-held controller.
The electric in-wheel motors are powered by a 36 V LiFePo battery that clicks in and clicks out, and is reported good for up to 28 km (17.4 mi) between 90 minute charges. If the battery runs dry, the rider can freewheel home.
A Birdtouch companion app running on a smartphone connects to the board via Bluetooth, and allows riders to preset ride settings, such as selecting one of three preset levels (beginner/confirmed/eco), or custom tweak the sensor zones according to riding style, and setting min/max speed and braking power. The app will also track ride stats in real time and share adventures with the Bird community.
Bird says that the 98 cm (38.6 in) long, 23.5 cm (9.25 in) wide, 5.4 kg (11.9 lb) electric longboard supports a rider weight of up to 150 kg (330 lb) and benefits from a waterproof design with urethane impact shielding.
The development team has been designing and testing a number of prototypes since 2015, and the project has now reached pre-production and has launched on Kickstarter. Pledges start at €799 (US$870), and if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to kick off in October.
The pitch video below outlines the development and shows the board in action.