We have had a very busy few weeks of both struggles and breakthroughs. Here are some detailed updates of our recent activities, and how they affect us both:
We now expect to begin shipping ZBoards in mid-August – below we go into detail why. We recognize that this is considerably later than we wrote in the Kickstarter project and subsequent updates, but please do not read this as a lack of urgency. We’ve cleared our schedules and are 100% committed to delivering these boards as fast as possible.
As we’ve discussed with some of you individually, we’ve run into some unforeseen delays in the building and delivery of our new ZBoard Pro battery packs. The lithium-ion (LiFePO4) packs we have designed are tailored to the ZBoard’s needs, which means they have a different voltage and capacity than off-the-shelf options. We’ve already done the R&D work, but using our own unique design presents several logistical challenges.
Shipping batteries like these internationally requires UN hazardous materials certification (UN 38.3) that can only be obtained from one of six approved facilities in China before anything can leave the country. All of these facilities have an immense backlog, and we’ve been told it will take 60 more days to get them. However, the process is already under way, and we are expediting it daily with the help of a sourcing expert. Shipping by air is even more heavily regulated for cargo of this kind, ruling it out as an option.
In our last update, we wrote that we felt we had overcome the shipping red tape. This was true as far as we knew at the time– we’d determined that our manufacturer could obtain the correct paperwork and had sent them to get it. So far we’ve conquered design, development and testing, language barriers, and contract negotiations. Shipping freight and the necessary insurance bonds are lined up. We’ve visited and audited the factory, and after two years and at least 13 different lithium-ion manufacturers in three countries (check out the samples we have on-hand to the right), we've finally built up enough rapport with a quality supplier to power your ZBoard at a uniquely affordable price. Your batteries are now paid for and under production.
To speed things up, we've also had extensive conversations with almost every major domestic battery supplier and found one in particular may be able to rush order limited quantities of comparable LiFePO4 packs on very short notice. We’ve ordered samples to thoroughly test within the next two weeks, and if everything works, Geoff and I will foot the bill to accelerate delivery until the rest arrive. We’ll keep you updated on this possibility as it unfolds.
Trucks / Wheels / Motors
Similar to the battery situation, our negotiations with our truck manufacturer took longer than expected, but are fortunately done for now. We finalized the contract and purchased the first 1000 sets of trucks, wheels, and motors several weeks ago, which are currently under production. We expect the factory to complete them in 10 days, then they will be assembled and packaged for their three week journey to us in California. We will update you with pictures of them as progress is made.
Deck production is nearly complete. We plan to go down to SoCal in the next week to pick them up and bring haul them back to our facility.
While not discussed extensively in previous updates, the motor speed controller is a critical part of the ZBoard. The controller reads and interprets inputs from the footpads and dictates the speed of the motor accordingly. Previous prototypes you’ve seen have been propelled by a combination of methods involving off-the-shelf electrical components modified and programmed to work together. All the while, we have been developing and fine-tuning our own motor controller from the ground up. We aren’t stamping out cheap Chinese electronics or “piggy-backing” somebody else’s system; our controllers are designed and built here in the US.
Benefits will include better response, maximized range per charge, easy plug-and-play connectivity of wiring connections for maintenance and future upgrades, and true coast mode to dramatically ease your ability to “push” the board like a traditional skateboard when you want to. Check out this video to see a better explanation of this coast functionality:
We’ve also added a heat sync that allows the ZBoard to climb hills more effectively than before, dispersing heat across the large surface area of the aluminum battery box rather than internally.
Last week we hooked up power and lighting. We also connected air lines above each work station.
We’ve developed a near final prototype of our packaging. This will protect your ZBoard on its way to your door, and will be an excellent way to travel with or ship it in the future.
Once again, thank you for your patience during this process. None of this would be possible without you. You are taking care of us and we can’t wait to return the favor.