Mobility used to mean cars, trains and bikes. Ryan Evans wants to change that – with an electric skateboard. The CEO and co-founder of Inboard Technology wants to bring electromobility to the sidewalk. This week at the house of smart in Austin, he previews the impact of electric rideables on urban mobility.
What is your mission with Inboard?
Ryan Evans: Our mission is to empower people to have the freedom of mobility at any time. In an urban area, that’s very important. With our lightweight electric rideable, the M1, you have the ability and freedom of movement whenever you need it.
Where do you see the biggest impact potential of your product?
Ryan Evans: In a large city, you have two main transportation options. On one hand, the public transportation system – which is pretty slow and inefficient. On the other hand, your car. With the M1, we created intermodal transportation. With this super lightweight skateboard, we provide a valuable, efficient solution that gives you a more personal way of getting around the city – it connects you to all available transportation methods.
Please explain this concept of connecting!
Ryan Evans: The rideable becomes the connector and expands your reach – whether you want to catch a train, a bus or go to a carsharing ride parked a few blocks away. It puts you in touch with all these conventional transportation systems. This is the special sauce. Lightweight is the way to go: A bike would be too large or too heavy. We made the electric rideable compact and portable. Think iPod: great design with huge impact – and you can carry it with you. Only this product enables you to commute with 20 miles per hour in the city. This makes a difference.
You could also easily combine it with the smart fortwo or smart forfour?
Ryan Evans: The smart is a very interesting car. It’s small and you can find parking space much easier. It gives you more options. Imagine you have a meeting in the financial district and it’s 10 am on a Tuesday morning. There is no parking space and it’s incredibly expensive. But now, you could just park five blocks away and grab your rideable from the trunk to get to your destination. Once you have one of these in the back of your smart, you become invincible. It adds another tool to your urban tool box.
What’s so unique about the M1?
Ryan Evans: We try to focus on making something which really fits into someone’s life. When you think of electric vehicles – whether it’s a car or a skateboard – range is an important factor. Our rideable offers you up to 16 kilometers with one battery pack – you can swap battery packs in seconds to double your range. The in-wheel motor gives you a much smoother ride. We designed our electric motors from scratch so they fit inside the rear wheels of the M1. This technology means there are no belts or gears to break down, and no drag on the wheel when riding, resulting in a longer-lasting and more efficient product. It’s very intuitive, well-built with smooth acceleration, it’s simple and robust.
What are the parallels between an electric rideable and an electric car such as the new smart electric drive?
Ryan Evans: It’s a crossover. All electric vehicles share a common core which can be developed in many different ways. For example, our electric skateboard has a built-in function for regenerative braking. It lets you recharge the battery while you are going downhill. A similar recuperation process is being used in the smart electric drive.
With all this built-in tech – how was the feedback from the skateboard scene?
Ryan Evans: From the beginning, we have worked with professional skateboarders. One of them is Liam Morgan, one of the best downhill skateboarders in the world. Liam’s input was critical to our deck design. We talked to many other skateboarders and once they got on the board, they instantly loved it. We respected the design, the style and the feeling of a real skateboard. That was important to us.
You are based in Santa Cruz, California, the heartland of modern skateboarding. Is Inboard a skateboard company?
Ryan Evans: We are very much a technology company, but action sports is at our core. Our entire team comes from backgrounds in action sports; kiting, surfing, snowboarding, and skating. That’s what makes us different. We apply our passion to our product, making it unlike anything else on the market.
Skateboarding represents an experimental, fun way for rediscovering the city.
Ryan Evans: Exactly! Skateboarders experience urbanity from a different perspective. On a skateboard, you really discover things you would have never seen otherwise. You get to interact with your city on a different level. It’s way more engaging. Electric rideables can help spark this thought: How can urban mobility become better and more intuitive for everyone?
What can cities do to adapt to this trend?
Ryan Evans: In America, we built our cities around fitting the car. We think the future should be focused on humans. Humans need the ability to get more access to public space. A city needs to embrace its people. Let’s build more parks, let’s build more bike lanes. You have to give a lot more space back to people. Instead, we need intelligent and electric cars. This way, we can build people-friendly cities with a more efficient infrastructure.