Evolve Carbon GT Review: Polished electric skateboard eats rough terrain for breakfast
When we road tested Evolve's Carbon Series electric skateboard last year we were pretty reluctant to hand it back. Responsive, fast, and whole lot of fun to burn around on, it quickly became the company's hottest seller. So what happens when you take an already killer design and up the power by around 10 times? We tightened up our helmets and jumped aboard the souped-up Carbon GT to find out.
Since releasing its debut model in 2012, Australian company Evolve has been refining its minimalist electric board design through a series of models that seem to be getting better at hiding away clunky components. Many early electric skateboards, and even today's less thoughtful designs, simply have bulky batteries slapped onto the bottom – sure, they are out of the way for the rider, but make the boards awkward to carry once you hop off.
But with its battery packed away inside the deck, the Carbon Series impressed us with a form factor that is a little easier to slide under your arm and lug around. The updated Carbon GT stays true to this with a lithium battery integrated into the deck, while also retaining another of the original's defining features: the ability to switch between street and all-terrain wheels.
The street wheels can be swapped over for off-road tires when the rider is headed for rougher terrain, but this time around Evolve has made that process a little easier. It mightn't sound like much, but both types of wheel work with the same trucks, or hangers, meaning you won't need to swap those over in addition to the wheels and belt. All up, a tire-change pitstop took us under 10 minutes.
With the street wheels attached, the GT not only goes faster, handles better and just feels smoother to ride, it will also go much further with each charge. The production model's range is listed as 50 km (31 mi), which is mammoth for an electric skateboard. Boosted Board's models will travel 11.2 or 12.9 km (7 or 8 mi), the long-awaited Marbel board has a range of 16 km (10 mi) and the original Carbon Series has a range of 30 km (18 mi).
You'll need some fairly smooth surfaces to really enjoy what the street wheels have to offer. This is no different to any other longboard, we guess, and it is nice to have the option, but the all-terrain tires are absolutely where it's at for us. We spent almost all of our time with the GT setup on all-terrain wheels and we simply could not get enough of it. The tires are not so big that they turn the thing into tractor, but they're meaty enough to handle sticks, stones and just about anything the streets will throw at you.
This means you can glide over all kinds of road surfaces with supreme confidence that some pesky, unsighted trap isn't going to catch your wheel and send you flying over the front. The compromise in handling, range (it drops to 30 km (18 mi) in all-terrain mode) and speed are well worthwhile, (it goes faster than we are entirely comfortable with anyway).
We were big fans of the Carbon Series with its single 350 W motor, but the one knock we did have was that it is relatively weak off the mark. It did have a top speed of 21.7 mph (35 km/h), but took its sweet time getting there. The GT model takes these reservations and unceremoniously crushes them beneath the grunt of two brushless outrunner motors pumping 3 kW through the rear wheels.
The monstrous Epic Dominator Pro we reviewed last year is slightly more powerful at 3.2 kW, but it also weighs a hefty 31.4 kg (70 lb) and was pretty much impossible to carry. The Carbon GT tips the scales at just 7.9 kg (17.4 lb), or 9.5 kg (21 lb) with all-terrain tires attached, making for a power-to-weight ratio that is unmatched in the world of electric skateboards.
The sheer force makes for nothing short of a thrilling ride, but you'll need to be careful. The acceleration is touchy and will take some getting used to. Evolve has configured four seperate speed modes that allow riders to ease into things, but we found our initial tentativeness was quickly forgotten after a few jaunts in eco, slow and fast modes. It wasn't long until we locked the board into high-powered GT mode and left it there while tearing around the city streets.
The board uses a Bluetooth throttle controller for accelerating and braking, which features a nicely lit LCD display to show your speed and battery levels. The controller is comfortable in hand and the connection is rock solid, but as mentioned, a conservative approach with the trigger is definitely advised. Once you develop a feel for it, however, the hyper-sensitive throttle quickly goes from a fearsome design flaw to your adrenaline-fueling best friend.
It may still threaten to throw you off the back every now and then if you re ill-prepared, but for the stop-start nature of city riding it is the perfect tool for an impatient rider itching to get back up to speed. Where the original Carbon Series took quite a while to hit its maximum, the GT comes to the party in a matter of seconds. The top speed is listed as 43 km/h (26.7 mph) on street wheels and though we didn't quite reach that mark on either setup, the board took us to around the 35 km/h mark (21.7 mph) with consummate ease.
After a quick trip up the road our resident automotive writer Scott Collie says it may well be the Tesla of the electric skateboard world. His tendency to liken everything in life to cars aside, it is kind of an apt comparison. If you've ever taken a ride in one of Elon Musk's dream machines you've likely been wowed by the thrust that seems to defy its near-silent movement. The precariousness of trying to balance on a high-powered longboard at high-speed may be a contributing factor here, but the GT offers a similar sensation.
The 30 km range offered with the all-terrain wheels attached gives you plenty of room to carve it up without worrying about your battery levels. And the battery percentage indicator on the controller display is a very welcome addition, making it easier to know ahead of time when you're close to depleted. We did find this to be mostly reliable, though it could fluctuate pretty wildly when riding at full throttle. It would dip from 70 percent to 50 percent while we were hammering along, but then return to normal once you came to a stop. Still, it's better than nothing.
The GT will take four to five hours to charge, or three hours with an optional fast charger, so refueling to go again shouldn't be too much hassle with a bit of forward planning.
We had a ball just ripping around the back streets of our neighborhood on the GT, but off the beaten track is where it really goes to work. After feeling its power in the street it wasn't much of a surprise to find it took rough slopes and tree root-littered paths in its stride. We spent an afternoon shooting around some local parklands and the nonchalance with which you can go from paved pathways to rugged, uncompromising trails makes for a hell of a time.
Furthermore, the board's ability to devour steep hills at speed is something to behold. Evolve says it can climb slopes of 25 degrees and though we didn't get the protractor out, it powered up some pretty steep inclines that would have a regular cyclist panting (we're speaking from experience, here).
Solidly built, immensely powerful and straight-up awesome fun to ride, it was hard for us to fault the Carbon GT. Until we get to the price, that is. At US$1,950 it is a mightily expensive toy, a pretty expensive commuting option, or reasonably priced view into the future of personal transport, depending on how you look at it. Many will find it hard to justify that expense, but the fact is that no electric skateboards worth their salt come cheap, and when it comes to value for money the GT is right up there with the best of 'em.
The Carbon GT will be available from Evolve's website from May 25, with shipping to kick off in June.
You can check out our video below to see it in action.
Company page: Evolve Skateboards