Inner city transportation has become an emergent concern within the population as our cities continue to grow. While the main mode of transportation is still by car, the use of public transportation is increasing in popularity as the space for and price of using personal vehicles have become more of a burden than a benefit in the lives of commuters. With people turning to the public transportation system the question remains, “How do I make it the last few miles?” Public transportation does its part by getting you to close to your destination, but it cannot bring you right to the door.
On campuses like UW-Madison, the public transportation system is used to its fullest. I have observed buses carrying more students than seemingly capable as well as students resorting to alternate forms of transportation that fit into the light weight vehicle category: mopeds, bicycles, skateboards and even rollerblades. While this seems to subdue the “last mile” problem, it does come with its own downfalls. Moped riders and bicyclists are still fighting for a space to stow their vehicle during class periods, while skaters of all varieties exert a great deal of physical energy between each stop. It was time for a new innovation to come into play combining the efficiency of a motorized vehicle with the portability of something as practical as a skateboard. That is exactly what Sanjay Dastoor, Matthew Tran and John Ulmen did when they gave birth to the world’s lightest electric vehicle, the Boosted Board.
Boosted Boards recently revolutionized transportation by creating a new electric longboard. Electrically powered longboards are not new to the world, but Boosted Boards went above and beyond by creating a longboard that currently stands as the lightest electric vehicle in the world. The board only weighs about 12 pounds and the lithium battery at full charge allows for six miles of continuous travel. Conveniently, the battery charger is similar to that of a laptop, and it takes less than two hours to fully recharge. When adding it all up, the cost of electricity is less than five dollars per year for over 2000 miles of use.
The company is based out of Palo Alto, California. The founder, Sanjay Dastoor, and his engineering team met at Stanford University where the idea was developed. The Boosted Boards project was presented to Kickstarter, an upcoming investment company, early in 2012. After their first few months of prototyping they gained over 400 million dollars in support. Kickstarter helped promote the product with advertising and demos along the west coast where they had their largest potential buyers’ market. Their purpose is to help college students “kickstart” their careers and make their ideas become reality. This enables the ingenuity of young scholars to be rewarded for their efforts.
The initial goal of the team was to develop an enhanced electric longboard to complement public transportation. Essentially, it is meant to be utilized on the “last mile” of the trip, whether it may be to and from work, to a friend’s house or anywhere else in between. To start from scratch and create a new longboard seemed unnecessary for the team, especially since well-engineered longboards were already out on the market. Thus, Boosted Boards teamed up with the popular company Loaded Longboards and simply built their product in a setup of a Loaded Vanguard, Bear Grizzly 852s, Orangatang 80A In Heats and Jehu bearings, creating a well built longboard.
So far, the board seems impressive, but how does it run? To begin, the 2.6 horsepower motor allows for a top speed of 20 miles per hour. Accelerating and braking control is given to the rider by a small handheld remote that also tells the rider how much battery remains. The braking system is regenerative, meaning that the kinetic energy from decelerating is converted into stored energy which gives the battery extra juice in order to make it as efficient as possible. Just in case the battery does die, the Boosted Board operates like a regular longboard with a minimal amount of drag, comparable to a longboard with a poor set of bearings.
Boosted Boards recently revolutionized transportation by creating a new electric longboard
While longboarding itself is a mode of “last mile” transportation, the great part about this board is that it addresses aspects of longboarding that have been considered downsides. One major downside is continuously pushing for propulsion (using one foot to push off the ground and accelerate) and climbing hills. Kevin Kousha, president of the UW-Madison Longboarding Club, uses his longboard for both transportation and recreation. “I use it in lieu of a bike for shorter distance travel, and will occasionally go on distance pushes upwards of ten miles,” says Kousha. For transportation purposes this is inconvenient because you cannot travel ten miles without tiring yourself out. Also, longboarders often encounter steep hills and climbing them can interfere with overall efficiency and enjoyment. Whether you enjoy it or not, you will get tired longboarding. While avid boarders like Kousha love the exercise and enjoy “sitting in lecture waiting for it to start and being out of breath,” Boosted Boards give an option to young professionals who enjoy longboarding and can now show up to work without having pit-stains in their dress shirts.
As enjoyable as the sport is, another major downside is plainly put by Kousha, “Longboarding hurts.” From experience, the hardest part of longboarding is coming to a stop. There are two typical ways to slow down and stop on a longboard – foot-braking and executing power slides. Foot-braking is when you drag one foot on the ground to slow down while still maintaining balance on the board. This “simple” way of braking is still very difficult and is nearly impossible to do at high speeds. Basically, once an amateur longboarder hits a particular speed heading downhill, it is inevitable that he or she will fall unless the rider does a power slide. Power slides take months, sometimes years to execute with ease and control. This is when longboarders put their hands on the ground (with sliding gloves protecting their hands) and sharply turn their board sideways creating friction between the ground and the wheels which in turn stops the longboard. The technique is similar to the way snowboarders slow down. Boosted Boards’ braking system eliminates the difficult task of slowing down (although this does not mean you should not longboard without a helmet, sliding gloves and other protective gear).
In many aspects, Boosted Boards has made a noteworthy accomplishment. Energy and transportation will forever be a topic of interest in all aspects of society. It is always remarkable what an engineering milestone, big or small, can lead to in the future. In one case, Boosted Boards revolutionized transportation by creating a small, lightweight, electric vehicle. In another case, Boosted Board’s accomplishment helps eliminate the problems with longboarding and could lead to people considering the dual sport and mode of transportation. The “last mile” is becoming reasonable to cope with. In the future, we can expect to see public transportation being utilized much more often which will help conserve energy and make for a greener world.