Since our last update we have:
1) Shipped Beta Round 2 boards all over the US
2) Received valuable feedback from our Beta riders
3) Identified potential issues with our firmware and manufacturing process and begun exploring solutions
4) Continued discussions with international shipping partners
This update will detail items 1 and 2 above. Next week's update will go into 3 and 4, and discuss the schedule moving forward.
Beta Testing Round 2
Nearly 100 Beta boards with the updated features mentioned in our last update have now been shipped to customers in 21 states. Overall, feedback has been fantastic from both experts and first time riders.
The Positive Feedback:
Beginners appreciate the new Eco mode:
"I've never really ridden a skateboard at all.... Riding is very intuitive. I probably did a total of 6 miles today."
"Much less jerky (than Beta Round 1) and more smooth in eco and standard mode."
Beta Tester Angel riding in Torrance, California
Experienced riders are loving the Normal and Expert modes:
"Ok, the board is un-friken-believable. Great work."
"Super board for traveling, got the acceleration down in a jiff. Acceleration works fantastically and the combo of acceleration/coasting can really control speed in tight areas. Braking downhill is amazing."
"I’m riding in expert mode and loving every minute."
"EXPERT MODE - OMFG!!! What a ride on streets it's great, nimble, the instant electric torque is worth the price of admission. It takes a beating on rough as its a solid board!! I've ridden about 6 hours in 2 days...bravo!"
"3 words, a-ma-zing!"
AJ's quiver of ZBoards in Santa Monica, CA
Areas Still Needing Improvement
Testers have reported some bugs tuning mode switching back to Eco mode:
"The mode always starts off in Eco mode. So even though I ride in expert mode sometimes, when I turn it on and then later turn it on it would always start in Eco mode."
"Is it just me or does my board keep resetting to easy/eco?"
Cole unboxing his Z2 in Rancho Santa Margarita, California
The battery meter does not always calibrate properly:
"I only receive flashing blue before the board dies. Also the board dies at 10-12 mile range rather than the 16 advertised."
"The battery indicator only flashed blue when it died. Never red."
Adam Livingston's custom made ZBoard motorcylce mount in Suwanee, Georgia
Braking needs to be more consistent:
"In beginner mode braking is a bit jerky"
"A softer, more predictable brake would be preferable and safer in all modes"
"I like the speed of expert mode but the braking of the normal mode"
Jen going for a sunset ride in Seattle, Washington
Some riders have reported occasional drivetrain squeaking, clicks and added friction:
"There is drag in the board when shifting from acceleration to coasting for a limited time, then there is more of a free wheel situation with far less drag."
"It squeals under load"
"There is a click sound that comes from the motor area - it comes in and out in various levels of db...."
Summary of Testing
Overall, test riders have done a great job identifying issues that we had not observed in our internal testing, and seem to have enjoyed themselves greatly while doing so. It has been extremely rewarding to see the first batch of Beta Round 2 riders enjoy themselves on their Z2s. We have been in close communication with these riders and will continue to be. All things considered though, we recognize that these riders represent only a small fraction of the overall backlog, and our focus remains on all backers.
Addressing The Issues
Our team has been working together closely on software design, and with the help of our motor supplier we are working out the final kinks that our testers have identified. We'll be going into more detail in Part 2 of this update next week.
While nearly all the first batch of motors passed our original unloaded bench testing, now that we've built out over 100 boards we’ve learned that motors that pass the bench test don't all necessarily pass the loaded riding test. While our tabletop dynamometer has been pivotal in designing robust motor control architecture, only real world ride testing can analyze feel, and we’ve found that it has not been as consistent from one motor to the next as we would like.
We have learned that the position of the Hall effect sensors, which read the position and speed of the motor, have varied slightly, resulting in unintended behavior at times. With our previous software, even a fraction of a degree off optimal alignment had the potential to cause confusion in the code. We've been improving the tune to adapt to varying Hall sensor placements, and have refined the motor assembly process with our supplier to greatly improve the precision and consistency of them.
Beta Round 2 Timeline
The motor adjustments, along with a batch of drive pulleys that did not meet our quality standards led us to pause production of the Beta Round 2 boards. We apologize to the handful of Beta Round 2 participants that have been affected by this. You will receive your ZBoard soon, with new adjustments and improvements that have since been added.
We are nearing completion of the next firmware build. This intermediate build addresses all the known bugs and any issues that have come to our attention during Beta Round 2, adds additional tuning parameters and flexibility, and improves ride quality and feel in all user modes. As this progresses next week we will be able to determine the schedule for the remaining Beta Round 2 boards.
Schedule Moving Forward
Beta Round 2 production is taking longer than anticipated but has been extremely valuable for both development and feedback. Once all Beta Round 2 boards have been shipped, and riders have had at least 2 weeks of riding, full production will begin promptly. However, at this time production been pushed back. In Part 2 of this update next week we plan to include the new updated schedule.
From the Founders
Thanks as always for your continued patience and support. We recognize that these continuous delays have been tough to wait though, but we remain committed to delivering a product that is fun, robust, and resilient that you can ride with a smile on your face for a long time.
Our noses are to the grindstone to work out the final issues, and we'll be sharing our latest progress in our update next week.
Ben, Geoff and the ZBoard Team
Beta Tester Drew's ZBoard 2 Pearl in Valley, Nebraska
Tony Ha and friends enjoying the Z2 Blue in San Jose, California
Brad changing modes on his Z2 Pearl in Germantown, Maryland