One standard of the utopian vision for civilization's future is clean, low-impact, personal transportation. The Segway scooter seemed to embody much of that vision, but with a price starting at $5,000, the geeky looking gyro-balanced scooter hasn't quite taken the nation's sidewalks by storm.
The Segway's limited success hasn't stopped other companies from pursuing different transportation solutions that embody the vision. What you're looking at here is the E-Bikeboard. It's an adult-sized, high-tech, electrified scooter.
The E-Bikeboard is certainly more complex than a typical foot-powered scooter, and its starting price of $2,000 hints at what's packed into this three-wheeled device. Designed in Switzerland, the E-Bikeboards are now being manufactured in the U.S.
The basic layout of every E-Bikeboard model is the same; there's a large front wheel (18-inches) with an in-wheel electric motor, upright handlebars with integral telescopic front suspension, mechanical front disc brake, dual hydraulic rear disc brakes, a matched pair of lithium polymer batteries, a sturdy passenger platform (with optional seat), and dual rear wheels with integral spring suspension augmented with rubber dampers.
The E-Bikeboard can be outfitted with an optional trunk, seat, and even a caddy to hold a golf bag. Additionally, the handlebar post folds, as does the riding platform, making a compact package that can fit in the cargo area of a small SUV. With batteries, the units weight about 80 pounds.
The model we test-rode for a week was the on/off-road capable K-1000. The in-wheel motor for the K-1000 is a 53-volt, 1000-watt version that pulls the E-Bikeboard up to a comfortable 20+ mph on paved surfaces. (Less-powerful 500-watt motors power other models that are slower, but have 50-percent more range.) During a weekend of riding to the neighborhood coffee shop, drug store, and general sightseeing along Lake St. Clair (north of Detroit), we cruised about 20 miles and still had charge left over. The manufacturer claims 22+ miles on a single charge.
Riding the E-Bikeboard is simple. First, you switch on the batteries (that are locked into the frame due to their significant expense--perhaps as much as half the cost of the unit). Then using the provided key fob, you wake up the powertrain. Then the E-Bikeboard is ready to go. Everybody understands handlebars, and that's all there is to the steering. There are brake levers in front of each grip (left is for the front disc, the right lever is for the rear). A twist throttle is incorporated into the right grip somewhat like a motorcycle. A throttle lock/cruise control is standard.
While the K-1000's motor puts out some good torque, the power delivery from a rest is smooth. Acceleration builds quickly, but is not scary fast. The telescopic front and coil-sprung rear suspension do a good job of filtering most minor road imperfections, so the ride is acceptable. You'll feel bigger bumps, and will want to steer around the biggest pot holes, but even when we hit the rough stuff, the K-1000 never threatened to tip or flip. Even at full speed, the rider's platform is stable, plus it's wide enough to vary your foot position.
Leaning into corners is the quickest way to carve an arc, plus it helps with stability. We did several panic stops (as a test, not out of necessity). The K-1000 remains stable and tracks straight. Shifting body weight rearward and down helps improve stability and shorten stopping distances.
The K-1000 has a raised rider platform that is about five inches above the other E-Bikeboard models, so it has ground clearance for jumping curbs, running through fields, and traversing trails. The model also has on/off-road tires with better grip than the models designed for use in factories or straight commuting. We can see how this device would make a great substitute for a golf cart.
The K-1000 has plenty of power for light off-road duty. The manufacturer claims the K-1000 can climb a 13-percent grade, but we couldn't find anything that steep in our neighborhood, so we settled for testing on grades about half that. The K-1000 ascended those without slowing measurably.
Charging time for the batteries takes about 4.5 hours for the pair, and the batteries are designed to provide accept 300 full-cycle charges, and then degrade mildly after that. In practice, the pair should provide years of service life.
Overall, riding the E-Bikeboard is fun. Owning one could make a lot of sense for people in planned communities who need to cover shorter distances (under 10 miles one way) at limited speeds. Compared to the cost of a conventional golf car or neighborhood electric vehicle, the E-Bikeboard could turn out to be a much better value.
The complete line of E-Bikeboards can be seen at www.bikeboard.com.