While skateboarding is most popular with teenage males, improvements in compact electric motors and batteries has seen the emergence of electric skateboards that appeal to a much wider demographic, including those of us that are literally a wider demographic than we were in our teenage years. Battling it out with the likes of the Fiik, the ZBoard and Boosted Boards on the streets is Evolve Skateboards. Gizmag recently got to jump on a deck from the Australian company.
We tried the Evolve Electric Pintail, which is Evolve's entry-level board that features a conventional longboard design. It weighs 8.9 kg (19.6 lb), measures 105 cm (41.5 in) long and has a 66 cm (26 in) wheelbase. Evolve also offers a Snubnose deck that weighs 8 kg (17.6 lb), measures 90 cm (35.5 in) long, with a wheelbase of 61 cm (24 in). The Snubnose can accommodate larger wheels and make sharper turns, while the Pintail is intended as a cruiser.
Both boards feature a 6-ply bamboo vertically laminated deck with a 200 W, 5,500 rpm three-phase custom brushless motor driving the wheels – or rather the wheel, as just one of the rear wheels is used to transfer the power to the ground. The motor is powered by a 36-volt, 7 Ah lithium polymer battery that Evolve claims provides up to two hours of riding time, takes up to four hours to recharge, and should be good for around 1,000 recharge cycles.
Getting ready to roll
Turning on the board is as simple as pressing a button on the underside of the board and turning on the pistol-grip controller. One of our only criticisms about the board is the remote. While it's comfortable to hold and responsive, it fails the no-manual test because there's no labels indicating what the two buttons on the rear of the remote and the three lights on the side are for. For this, you'll have to consult the included manual, which provides straightforward instructions.
The remote pairs automatically with the board via Bluetooth with a press of the power button, which is also used to switch between slow and fast speed settings. While switching between slow and fast speed can be done on the move, it's not something you'll likely be doing (and Evolve advises against it) as the full speed range of each setting is available via altering the amount you pull on the trigger.
The low speed is intended for beginners getting to grips with the board before graduating to the high speed setting rather than as a gear that must be progressed through before shifting into fast. A second button is used change into reverse, which can only be done when stationary. The indicator lights on the side of the remote tell you which gear you're in.
Getting up to speed – and learning to stop
One you've familiarized yourself with the remote it's simply a case of jumping on the board and pulling the trigger. As with most electric vehicles, full torque is available straight away, so you'll want to ease the trigger rather than ramming it down when setting off lest the board take off and leave you behind.
I should mention that it's been a while between drinks for those of us putting the Evolve board through its paces. That said, it was only a matter of minutes before we were cruising along at a decent clip. In fact, it was so easy to focus on getting moving that it's easy to forget you'll have to stop at some point until presented with the need to do so – a rapidly approaching wall or intersection, for example.
The first time you need to pull up in a hurry, it's almost impossible to resist slamming on the brakes, which is accomplished by pushing the remote's trigger forward. While the ABS brakes won't bring the board to a screeching halt, they will pull you up quick enough to throw you off the front of the board. This will likely be the result on your first few rides until you learn to slowly apply the brakes while shifting your weight to the back of the board.
Our field testing showed it took around 17 m (55 ft) to go from top speed to full stop once the brakes were applied. But this was without putting a foot on the ground to assist the braking process, which allows you to pull up much sooner. After just a brief time on the board, even novice electric skateboarders like the Gizmag team were able to combine the brakes with putting a foot down to come to a complete stop in well under 10 m (32 ft) after moving at full speed.
It should also be noted that even at top speed, it's possible to jump off the board and run without coming to grief, but we wouldn't guarantee an injury-free dismount every time. And the board will usually continue rolling down the street if you jump off at full speed, which is obviously not something you'd want heading into an intersection.
Carving it up
Being a longboard, turning is accomplished by shifting your weight to either side rather than tic tacing, which is pretty much impossible due to the weight of the board anyway. Evolve has created its own custom trucks that have a double joints and adjustable bushings that allow riders to fine tune their ride and are designed to allow the board to carve like a surfboard or snow board.
Despite this, we found ourselves riding in a pretty straight line for the most part, only resorting to carving to tackle steeper hills. While the board will get you up some decent slopes in a straight line, performance and battery life will take a pretty serious hit. If you do run out of juice, it is possible to ride it like an unpowered longboard and propel it with good ol' leg power. But you will notice some extra resistance not found on a regular skateboard.
Evolve's claims of around two hours of battery life on the flat were consistent with our experience, but that was going nonstop at top speed. Real world use will give much greater range taking into account stops and starts and traveling up and down hills. Evolve's claims of a 36 km/h (22 mph) top speed was also consistent with our time on the board, which might not sound that quick, but sure feels it. While such speeds are easily achievable on a bike, reaching them on a skateboard results in a little more adrenalin due to a combination of factors, including being closer to the ground and the difference in stopping distance of both vehicles.
The ride itself was fairly smooth, even on rougher asphalt. This is presumably thanks in large part to the flexibility of the bamboo deck, which has a fair degree of flex. But for those showing signs of middle age spread, Evolve recommends a load of up to 100 kg (220 lb) lest the flex becomes a fracture.
Evolve's founder Jeff Anning told us that most buyers of its boards are males in the 25 to 55 age bracket who don't necessarily have a skateboarding background, but are purchasing the board for recreational purposed and/or as an alternative form of transport.
We can certainly understand the attraction of the electric skateboard for either application. As a form of recreation it's great fun and doesn't require any additional equipment. Although a helmet, gloves and knee-pads might be a good idea depending on how far you like to push things.
And as a last mile transport option it's hard to fault. It's small and light enough to be easily carried on a train or bus, can be hidden in a corner at work while it recharges, gets you from A to B with little physical effort and is a lot of fun. In fact, it's so much fun to ride, you might consider it more of a last-10-mile transport option as you'll probably be tempted to get off a few stops early to maximize your time on the board.
Where can I get one?
Although Anning started Evolve in the Gold Coast, Australia, and delivered its first boards to customers in mid-2012, the company now has distributors in Asia, North America and Europe, each of which assembles and tests their own boards in their respective countries. The Pintail retails for US$1,199 in the US, although prices vary slightly between distributors.
To sum up, the Evolve electric skateboard was the most fun we've had on four wheels in a long time and we can recommend it to anyone looking for a fun way to spend a few hours on the weekend or someone looking for a convenient last-mile transport option during the week.
Anyway, it's better to show than to tell, so check out our video review of the Evolve Pintail electric skateboard below.
Product page: Evolve Skateboards
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