I've always been fascinated by electric vehicles— fast and torquey for their size, they seem like the best way to solve the first-mile/last-mile problem of public transit. After moving to the south part of San Francisco, I now have about a ten- to fifteen-minute walk on each side of BART: the perfect use case for an electric scooter or skateboard. I didn't want to drop $1000+ on a Boosted Board without testing it, but got the chance to try one out for a week when my friend Jared took a two-week trip to Hawaii.
The Boosted Boards Dual+ is built around a bamboo deck from Loaded, a well-regarded high-end longboard company. A quick glance doesn't give away that it's anything different than a normal longboard, but stare a little longer and you can make out the black bulges of the battery pack, controller, and drivetrain, split into two sections to let the deck still flex in the middle and retain a traditional longboard feel.
Tolerances are tight, the skate hardware is premium, and the whole thing just feels solid. Boosted is the Apple of electric skateboards; there are other ones out there with more power, more range, and more customizability (more on that later), but everything about the Boosted is a tight, integrated package with a lot of thought put into it.
Nit: The remote's build quality is not up to the same level as the rest of the package. It's plasticky, and while the controls make sense, the throttle wheel isn't comfortable for extended rides and doesn't have enough play or feel.
The first thing you notice about riding a Boosted is the torque. Gas vehicles take some time to hit peak torque— it's usually two-thirds to three-quarters up the rev range— but electric vehicles make all of it from the start.
In a Tesla with nicely bolstered seats, going full-throttle from a stop will just pin you in your chair and elicit a few expletives. On an electric skateboard with only grip tape holding your feet on, you'll fall on your butt unless you're very careful (note: the boosted does come with a torque-limiting "beginner" setting to help with this).
So turn on the board, turn on the bluetooth remote, engage the trigger, and slowly (slowly!) start to turn the throttle wheel. And glide.
Riding the Boosted is magic. Power is endless, up or down any hill. It carves like a longboard, and you can push into the deck and feel it flex back at you. When I first picked it up in NOPA, I rode down the panhandle, up Stanyan, and down the wiggle to the Castro, a stupid grin plastered on my face, not believing how fast these tiny motors were taking me or how smooth and natural it felt.
The braking is great too— just hold the trigger and it will use your downward momentum to recharge the battery, slowing you in the process. A lack of a good braking system is the main reason I don't skateboard, and Boosted completely solves it. Supposedly braking downhill on a full battery presents some problems, but I never ran into issues on going down moderate hills immediately post-charge— that said, RTFM and probably avoid carving Lombard street right after you've topped the thing off.
Coming from a bicycle background, I was worried about the small wheels handling the rough and varied pavement of San Francisco's streets. Thankfully my fears were mostly misguided; the 75mm Orangatang In Heat wheels aren't a replacement for pneumatic bike tires, but they're in a different class than normal tiny skateboard wheels, and manage small pavement irregularities just fine. To be specific: manhole covers, curb ramps, and slightly choppy asphalt are all fine as long as you have a little momentum. Stay away from potholes, don't go over non-ramped curbs, and where possible, take smooth-pavement routes, as the rough stuff creates some tiring vibration in your legs.
Nit: Riding in the street is great, but the deck is too long to easily make 90-degree sidewalk turns, so there's some occasional awkward picking-up-and-turning action. I'd love a version of this based around Loaded's Poke deck, which is a bit shorter and has a kicktail.
As a commuter
I tested the board on this route, a short BART ride with a half-mile hilly walk on each side. I found it shaved ~10-15m off the total trip compared to walking, and was about the same as using a bicycle. It's faster and easier up the hills, slower going down, and makes me more conservative around rough pavement and tight turns. On the other hand, it's much easier to handle through turnstiles, on elevators, and in crowded subway cars.
Weight is about 15lb, a bit too heavy to always carry one-handed, but fine to double-hand behind the back or rest on a shoulder. It stands up easily against a wall without rolling away— nice design touch there.
Storing the board while doing errands can be problematic.
- Grocery store: put it in the cart; it seems to fit in the bottom section of most.
- Gym: it barely (barely) fits in the 24h Fitness lockers, but YMMW based on your gym. I don't think it fits in the ones at Mission Cliffs.
- Elsewhere: there's no good way to lock it, so you basically need to bring it in with you. That's easy for a workplace, cafe, or a friend's house, but annoying at restaurants, bars, etc. I walk or take my bicycle if I'm going one of these places.
Range is supposedly in the 6-mile range, shorter if it's all uphill, a bit longer if you have downhills in there to work the regen braking. My commuting round-trip was <2 miles total, so I never got a chance to test working range. But the charger's tiny and light, so even with a long commute to work, you should be able to charge it there.
There are a few other electric skateboards in production or development, each with quirks of their own:
- Evolve (In production, $1249-$1999): pneumatic tires (yay!), better trucks, and longer range. But heavier (23lbs+), comparably priced, and only a single motor. Probably better for long commutes but less ideal for first/last mile.
- Yuunec E-Go (In production, $699): Half the price, a bit lighter (13.5lb), and better range. But only a single-sided motor, lower build quality, and much slower (~15mph top speed).
- Marbel (In development, $1299) : Supposedly lighter (10lb), faster (25mph), cheaper, and longer-range than the boosted, though the single motor gives me concerns about the braking performance. And like any kickstarter project, take availability estimates with a grain of salt.
- Inboard Monolith (In development, $1199): Innovative concept with the motors inside the wheels, creating a streamlined, stealthy shape, less rolling resistance, and hopefully all the benefits of dual-motor acceleration and braking. No reviews yet, and I don't believe the September 2015 release target, but could be a game-changer.
The Boosted Dual+ feels like the future of skateboarding, and unlocks endless longboard sessions that don't care whether you're facing up a hill or down one. It's still a bit large and expensive for a bicycle replacement, but I'm really happy to see the first serious entrant in this field deliver such a high-quality product.