Since our last update, our beta testers have ridden hundreds of miles across cities all over Calfifornia. Below we’ll go through the steady stream of data and feedback we’ve received from our riders: some good, some expected, and some surprising.
Along with the beta testing, this update will detail our trip to China. After hearing some of the beta feedback and taking a long look at our component mix, we decided to visit our suppliers in China to closer analyze some of the sticking points.
What We’ve Learned from our Beta Riders:
Riders Love the Deck, Trucks, Bushings, Wheels, and Bearings
Obviously, a great electric skateboard it starts with great components. Our decks came out fantastic, especially the Pearl decks. The feedback on our trucks and bushings was also very positive. Many of our past customers felt that the original ZBoard's steering was too tight so we focused on improving the ride, balance and control of the Z2. The bushings are soft but with strong rebound, and the ABEC-9 bearings make cruising smoother than ever. Its fantastic to hear that our riders are liking it.
We’re more confident than ever that this board feels great under your feet.
Riders Love the Footpads
The ZBoard 2’s “kidney bean” shaped footpads are wider and more sensitive than those on the original ZBoard. Our beta riders immediately recognized the increased control and ease of use – especially when turning.
Also, the Z2’s footpads are slightly closer together than on the Z1, making it easier for riders to find both footpads without looking down or significantly moving their feet. Finding an ideal spacing for riders of all sizes took lots of tweaking but our beta testers (5’4’’ – 6’3’’) have all approved of our final layout decision.
Riders Love the Lights
Over half our riders have sent us a picture or video of them riding at low light, while taking advantage of the bright headlights, in both solid and flashing modes. Some have commented that they feel safer with the blinking lights on, making them as visible as possible to pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.
Our Beta Riders are Keeping Track
We have been in consistent communication with our beta riders and have been using the apps Endomondo and Strava to track their boards’ performance. Range per charge is good and top speed is plentiful.
Riders Have Noticed Occasional Jerkiness
During certain scenarios our firmware has not been able to properly filter inputs, resulting in occasional jerking of the board during the ride. This is something we’ve previously noticed and have been working hard to solve. We are using the additional data provided by the Beta riders to find a solution as soon as possible. This has been one factor in delaying our final development, and we still need to make additional adjustments to the firmware to perfect it for full production.
After long discussions with our motor suppliers and firmware engineers, we have identified the core of the issue as occasionally faulty data that comes out of the motor position sensors (Hall sensors) and feeds into the controller’s software. These sensors track the changing magnetic fields in the motor as it spins, and allows the controller to precisely adjust output in a closed-loop feedback system. We chose this "sensored" design over the "sensorless" design some competitors use because it gives us better efficiency, a smoother ride on start up, and more dynamic control than simpler RC-style brushless motors. The tradeoff is that proper design, component selection, positioning, tuning, and adjustment are much more difficult, but the end result will give you a much better overall experience.
With these factors in mind, we opted to visit several motor suppliers in China to test pre-production motors alongside them nail down the best solution. Our trip to China is detailed below.
Riders have Noticed Certain Components Reaching High Temperatures
After long rides up hills, or long periods of braking down a hill, our riders have noticed that certain types of motors have become too hot to comfortably touch. We are shifting away from the motor designs that have not been able to cool down reliably.
Overall Takeaways from Beta Testing So Far:
Our riders are loving their boards and its so awesome to be getting outside feedback! Many have comically groaned when we’ve asked for them back to make changes and several of our riders email us nearly every day with additional thoughts on their Z2.
Thanks to this feedback we now have a much better idea of which component mix is the most robust and enjoyable to ride (along with the the smoothest and coolest running). We also recognized early in the beta testing process that it was important for us to visit our motor manufacturers to help expedite the final round of adjustments.
Beta testing is still ongoing and we will keep you updated with the progress.
Our Trip to China
Recognizing that correct Hall sensor data from our motors and occasional overheating were a critical path issues, we decided to visit each of the Chinese motor manufacturers we have been communicating with over the past two years to walk them through our recommended solutions.
Our trip to China was a whirlwind 10 days visiting different potential production suppliers nearly every day. It was incredibly valuable to get a behind the scenes look at how our manufacturers lay out their assembly lines and quality control measures.
Check out a recap of our trip:
Overall, our trip was incredibly non-stop and busy, but we did take some time to ride around. Riding in China is bizarre because the roads can go from pristine, glassy, and smooth, to completely torn up and un-rideable from one block to the next. Dodging rickshaws, hordes of electric bikes, and traffic signals that many drivers often deemed optional also added to the "fun."
We wish we could share more of what we saw and learned but unfortunately we don’t have too many pictures or videos from inside our suppliers’ facilities – they had very strict photography rules and some made us leave our phones and cameras outside the assembly lines. We did see this sign that comically explained this. I asked nicely to take a picture of it and they obliged.
Other Happenings Around the Shop:
We've shifted our laser cut parts (our belt covers are pictures) to an outside manufacturer. Initially we were planning on laser cutting these parts ourselves but we found a shop that can deliver better pricing and speed. Check out how little wasted material is between each cover!
We have finalized the front and rear LED spacers and lenses. With added time from the delays we were able to make the lenses clearer and stronger. These models are 3D printed, but we'll be receiving injection molded parts soon.
More decks have arrived!
Electric skateboards will be legal in California starting on January 1st, 2016! On October 11th Governor Jerry Brown signed AB604, check out details from the Wall Street Journal article here.
Summary and Schedule Moving Forward
Many of you have asked for the delivery timetable, but unfortunately we can’t announce one with 100% confidence at this time. We are doing everything we can to deliver the Indiegogo-backed boards before Christmas, but we will only be able to hit that timeline if we do not hit any additional delays - even minor ones. We think a pre-Christmas delivery date is still possible, but unlikely when we take an honest look at the delays over the past years and the potential for another small delay over the next few weeks.
New orders from this point forward will not ship til next year and our Indiegogo page now reflects this.
We’re working around the clock to ensure a quality product that you can ride for years. The boards are fast and fun, we're just laser focused on making sure they'll be able to take thousands of miles of pounding for years to come under your feet.
Once again we greatly appreciate your patience and support. Without you there would be no ZBoard. Have a great week and we can't wait to get you riding.