Jeff Anning was scoping out waves at his local surf spot back in 2008 when somebody buzzed past him on a motorized long board. In that moment the seed for what was to become Evolve Skateboards was planted. Since the launch of its own first generation Electric Pintail in 2012, Evolve has continued to refine its idea of what electric skateboards should be. This most recently culminated in the 2 in 1 Carbon Series, which has gone on to become the company's biggest seller by some margin. We have spent the last few weeks cruising the streets with this zippy little number, and apart from having a hell of a time, we found it to be a more than practical way of getting around.
"The inspiration was wanting an electric skateboard that doesn't look like an electric skateboard," explains Anning, a structural landscaper by trade. "We wanted something that was more stealthy than a typical electric skateboard, so you can ride it around and not be hassled on the street."
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This design philosophy is most evident in the way the 36 V, 10 Ah lithium polymer battery is built into the carbon/kevlar composite deck. Measuring 43 inches (111 cm) long, the board houses the electrics inside, with an approximately 0.2 inch (5 mm) overhang when you peer underneath. And when it comes to picking up all 10.5 kg (23 lb) of the skateboard, this slimline design certainly does make it easier to wrap your arm around.
Batteries for days
The battery is recharged via a regular wall outlet and takes around two hours. From here, you should be free to ride for 18 miles (30 km) until you need to plug in again. This mammoth range puts the Carbon Series well ahead of some competitors. The Marbel Board, for example, will travel 10 miles (16 km) on a single charge, while the latest models from Boosted Boards will travel 7 or 8 miles (11.2 or 12.9 km).
If you are using the board for commuting to work, or just taking it for a lengthy spin each day, this will probably be far more charge than you'll really need. But such a range does remove any anxiety about running out of puff when you're far from home. Throughout our testing, riding approximately 3 mile (5 km) round trips to the office and even longer journeys across town we were never once caught out with a flat battery, and we weren't exactly being conservative with the throttle either.
When less equals more
The Carbon Series runs on a single brushless 350 W motor. This is attached to one of the rear wheels. This means the board has less output than that afforded by some models available today, but Anning makes a solid case for how less can sometimes mean more.
"We went with a single wheel drive because it means better battery range, less noise and less moving parts," he says. "We don't feel the need for a two-wheel drive setup here."
At the other end of the spectrum, the Epic Skateboard Dominator Pro that we reviewed last month has a total power output of 3,200 W, while Boosted Boards' latest creations churn out between 1,000 and 2,000 W and the weight sensing skateboard from ZBoard is powered by a 500 W motor.
This minimal power output combined with the single wheel drive means that it will take a little while to get going. Again, to compare it to the all-wheel drive Dominator Pro where you so much as think about touching the throttle and you're already hurtling down the street, acceleration is not a strong point. But the Carbon Series is still perfectly capable of going fast, with a top speed of around 21.7 mph (35 km/h) and though it does take a little longer to reach these speeds, it certainly is no slouch.
What's it like to ride?
Evolve's overarching design principle, from when Anning first spotted that electric skateboard at the beach right up until when we spoke with him for this story, is creating a riding experience similar to what you'll get on a surfboard or snowboard. Its approach to replicating that carving sensation on concrete places emphasis on making a vehicle that looks and feels like a regular skateboard, rather than having the build dictated by the electrics.
The result is an electric skateboard that really is a joy to ride. It's a polished product right from the chrome trucks and sleek, lightweight deck to the minimal finger controller that fits snugly in-hand. Once you've built up some momentum, veering around corners and shifting your weight from left to right to make turns feels eerily similar to burning your way down long mountain slopes. While you won't be able to spray powder all over your friends, we reckon its about as close as you'll get on the city streets.
The 2 in 1 Carbon Series is named so for an extra set of trucks and wheels that come designed for the street. Out of the box it comes equipped with larger all-terrain tires. The tread on these isn't overly thick, but the size of the wheels means you'll have no trouble riding over rougher sections of pavement, or even dirt and rough grass.
The street setup can be swapped over in around 10 minutes. This process is a little more involved than we had anticipated, but Evolve has video tutorials on its site to guide you through (just be prepared to get your hands dirty). The street wheels will make for a smoother ride depending on the surface, while bumping the top speed up to around 23 mph (38 km/h). They will also tighten the turning circle and allow for sharper carving, but we mostly preferred the all-terrain variety for the assurance offered by the beefier wheels.
Is it worth it?
The 2 in 1 Carbon Series is priced at AU$1,949 (around US$1,500), so you probably wouldn't describe it as cheap. But for your outlay you'd be getting beautifully designed vehicle with consideration given to every nut, bolt and bearing. This attention to detail sees Evolve now up for a 2015 Good Design Award, which comes as no surprise to us after having spent a few weeks riding it around.
It might be hard to justify the cost if you're looking at the board purely for enjoyment, but the 2 in 1 Carbon Series is a perfectly capable commuter in its own right. It should be noted that this is still a relatively big, awkward skateboard, and isn't all that comfortable to carry. Short walks from the elevator to your desk will be fine, but if, like us, you become so attached to the board that you ride it to the supermarket to do some shopping or take it to the cinema, you might need to ask staff to keep an eye on it as you go about your business.
Still, as an urban transport option the 2 in 1 Carbon Series ticks off quite a few of the important criteria. It shaved several minutes off my 3 miles (5 km) commute to work, for which I usually rely on my trusty pushbike. This trip includes more than one pretty steep hill, and while we wouldn't say the board powered up them, it did get me to the top ahead of some out-of-breath cyclists. So for my set of circumstances, living a short distance from work with paved roads in between, it proved a very efficient way to get from point A to point B. And it just happens to be a whole lot more fun as well.
Anning tells us that he has another electric four-wheeler in the works, though he is tight-lipped on the details for now. But after getting to know the Carbon Series 2 in 1, we can say with some confidence that whatever direction electric vehicle technology does take in the future, Evolve Skateboards will be right there slashing at its edge.
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