12. December 2016–
Sune Pedersen swerves through the Rainmaking Loft in Berlin, a co-working space on Charlottenstrasse. Underneath his feet is a black and neon green skateboard with four wheels.
The Dutch native and his team of four make up Faraday Motion and they set out to create a new type of skateboard. What makes it different? It is printable, electric and not just for skaters.
Devoted followers of the startup can even download a blueprint off of Github and if they have a 3D-printer, print the pieces out one by one. It takes about two hours to build the skateboard piece by piece.
Faraday Motion sends the software and electronic parts via mail. The startup also sells their eBoard pre-assembled for those who don’t own a printer.
Printing out transparent skateboards
True fans prefer to build the skateboard themselves. “There are people who experiment with engravings, colours and different materials at home,” Pedersen said. “We even had a customer that printed his skateboard in a transparent plastic that let you see through to the motor.”
In 2017 the new model, aka the Hyperboard, is supposed to be made available for customers.
“I can’t even skate,” said the skateboard’s creator laughing. “No one on our team can.” Instead of being a traditional piece of sports equipment, the Hyperboard is more of a means of transportation for the masses. “It is more like a small car,” Pedersen said.
Steering and speed is controlled either with a joystick or a smartphone that is connected via an app to the skateboard. Anyone can learn how to use it within three minutes, Pedersen reassured.
If the “driver” tilts the phone towards the floor during a drive, the board accelerates and as soon as finger contact with the screen is lost the board comes to a full stop.
A community that helps with development
The cost of the board ranges between 500 and 700 euros (529-742 USD) . The price depends on how much a customer prints and assembles on his own.
“It is like an Ikea closet,” Pedersen said. “Everyone can build it at home and that makes it less expensive.”
The board can also be customized. The standard speed of the electric motor is up to 30 kilometers per hour and the board can go 15 kilometres between charges. Those wanting to drive for further distances can add in additional batteries.
With extra motors, the Hyperboard can reach up to 90 kilometres per hour. “That would then become an extreme sport,” Pedersen said. “And a bit dangerous.”
In the future the startup wants to take advantage of their community’s creative intelligence. “About 20 per cent of our customers send us design plans or suggest alternative solutions,” Pedersen said. “For example, we had a problem with an overheating motor that we were able to fix with the help of our customers.”
Eventually the startup hopes to branch out into different sectors. Different models of the board could foreseeably be used in hospitals or as a transport vehicle in warehouses. “We are looking for niches based on the changes,” said Pedersen.
Faraday Motion is not the only startup that came up with the idea of an electronic skateboard. Acton, a California-based startup, is in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign for their own eSkateboard. While they cannot promise a 3D-printable model, they have already raised more than $900,000.
The missing piece? Street approval
Faraday Motion already has over 1,000 orders for the Hyperboard, in Germany, Finland and in Belarus, among other countries. But up until the now, the company has only produced 50 eBoards and has yet to turn a profit.
The team still prints all the parts with a small 3D-printer. The goal for 2017 is to save costs by becoming more professional and streamlining the process.
Not to mention the biggest and most obvious problem facing the startup: Driving a hyperboard on German streets is not legal. “In Finland there are no problems, in Germany they are very strict,” Pedersen said.
Driving self-accelerating skateboards in Copenhagen is also illegal, but “there the police will stop you for a different reason,” Pedersen said. “They always want to know they can buy their own skateboard.”
This article was originally published on NGIN Mobility (German).
Translated by Christine G. Coester