ZBoarding into 2016
What a crazy year! From the highs of watching Michael Strahan ride the Z2 on live TV to the lows of the extended delays, this year has run the entire gamut. There have been some major wins and also some long frustrating nights and we truly appreciate everyone who has supported us through it all. On your first ride of the Z2 we're confident you'll feel the wait was worth it.
December and January have been busy and we're excited to share our latest progress on our motor, motor controller, our projected manufacturing schedule and a discounted offer for current customers.
After extended discussions with over a dozen motor suppliers and several rounds of revisions (a few of which are included above) we have now selected our new motor! We're pursuing intellectual property with some of the enhancements we've made so we can't give you too many details yet but we can emphatically say that this motor blows away previous motors we've tested. Along with overcoming the magnetic field interference issues we've discussed previously, the new motors have significantly more power meaning faster acceleration, stronger hill climbing, and more precise braking. The new, premium motor comes with a premium price point - more on this later in this update.
Some of the elements of the motor we've spent the last six weeks refining include:
Identifying the Ideal Motor KV
A motor's "KV" stands for revolutions per minute (RPM), per volt supplier to it. For example, a 150KV motor in a 36v system will have a peak, no-load RPM of 5400 (150 * 36 = 5400). With load from the drive train and additional mass of a skateboard and rider, max RPM decreases.
If you compare two motors with identical power rating, the motor with higher KV will spin faster, while the lower KV motor - in theory - will have more torque. KV also has an impact on heat exchange, since higher RPM will naturally have more friction in the motor, so determining the ideal KV that offered a fast top speed, strong hill climbing, and acceptable temperatures required many samples and hours of testing for each one we tried. We have sourced the motors seen above, plus several more, many in multiple KV windings. Though they may have looked identical their performance varied greatly.
Refining Gear Ratios
There are tons of positives that come with the added power from the new motor but it also brought a slight concern - that the belt could potentially skip during extreme acceleration or braking. To counter this we re-examined our pulleys and belts. More teeth on the motor pulley meant more surface area to interface with the belt, reducing the chances of belt slippage, but it also increased the overall top speed while reducing torque so adjustments needed to be done delicately. Along with tooth count we prototyped for several different pulley and belt widths.
Identifying the best combination of motor style + KV + pulley tooth count/width + belt length/width meant extensive testing as there were so many variables in play. In the end we're excited about the combination we've selected and the initial production orders are in to our suppliers.
Motor Production Timeline
Our manufacturing and delivery timeline moving forward will be heavily based on our motor manufacturer's ability to produce motors quickly. They have let us know that they can build and ship the first small batch of motors before Chinese New Year (Febuary 8th). Upon their return from Chinese New Year in the third week of February they will continue production.
New Motor Controller Firmware
Our new motor's hall sensor layout combined with our firmware's noise suppression scheme have together overcome the magnetic field interference issues we were facing last year. This was a massive breakthrough for us that required hundreds of hours of work and thousands of lines of code! The requirements of the new firmware and the increased motor power require several hardware improvements to our motor controller. These modifications have increased the overall price of our motor controller noticeably but we are committed to providing you with the best hardware we can.
We have finalized our controller and have submitted our first production order.
New Pricing in 2016
Due to the additional costs for our motor procurement and control, in 2016 we will be raising the retail price of the Z2 Blue to $1299 (from $1099) and Z2 Pearl to $1499 (from $1299).
If you’ve already placed your order, don’t worry, all purchases made prior to 2/10/16 are locked in at their price. However, pre-orders placed after 2/1/16 will increase to the new price.
If you (or your spouse, friend, kid, father-in-law, boss, uncle, co-worker, grandma, employee, etc) are interested in purchasing an additional Z2 be sure to do so through our web store before 2/10/16 to save $200 and to ensure your order is in Manufacturing Run #1 as explained below.
We are well underway building out trucks, decks, and battery boxes. This head start will allow us to quickly ramp up production once we begin receiving motors and motor controllers.
Pre-Production Manufacturing Run: February 2016
Our first 100 motors and motor controllers are in production now and are scheduled to arrive in mid February. These first 100 boards are scheduled to be built and shipped by the end of February. Please refrain from emailing us asking if you are in this Pre-Production Manufacturing Run. We will be reaching out to you to verify your order and shipping address. Note - we will be shipping the boards in order of their purchase, without exceptions.
To clarify, these boards are much improved from those included in our initial Beta Testing Run in October, where we shipped out boards with the goal of receiving outside feedback on it's ride quality and component mix.
During this Pre-Production Manufacturing Run we will be producing boards that include the finalized part mix. We do not foresee any issues with these boards but to be cautious we are limiting it to 100 units.
Manufacturing Run #1 : March - May 2016
This first complete manufacturing run is scheduled for late Q1, starting at the beginning of March. All boards ordered to date are in Manufacturing Run #1 and will be shipped in order of purchase. Earlier orders will be shipped earlier in this timeframe. We only have a few more boards left in this first batch and you can secure your Batch #1 board and $200 off the retail price here.
We will be closing Batch #1 on 2/1/16, unless it sells out first.
Manufacturing Run #2: June - July 2016
We have started conversations with our component suppliers about orders for Manufacturing Run #2, which will occur Summer 2016.
Adjusting Your Order
Many of you have asked about adjusting the contents or address of your order. If you want to change your address we will be handling that at a later date, before your fulfillment. Every customer will have the opportunity to refine their address before the items ship.
If you'd like to add additional wheels, shirts, or accessories to your order, you will have the opportunity when we reach out to verify your address.
If you'd like to upgrade from a ZBoard 2 Blue to a ZBoard 2 Pearl, please sign up to be notified of that possibility here. Signing up for this list is not binding. We may be able to offer this option you are willing to slightly delay shipment of your board. We'll be sending details to those on this list.
Around the Shop
In the days since our last update we've been focusing on preparing for the Beta Manufacturing Run.
Deck prep consists of installing the power button, securing threaded inserts, and adhering the deck foam.
The power button lets you turn the board on, cycle your LEDs, and your current battery status.
The deck foam helps keep dirt, dust, and water out of the battery box, while reducing vibration.
Both of these processes are pretty quick but with hundreds of decks its quite the project.
Overall every time we look at the decks - especially the Pearls - we're blown away with how well they came out.
We have received the production orders of LED spacers, clear acrylic lenses, and LED printed circuit boards and begun testing and production.
Earlier this month we launched our new site. In the coming weeks we'll be instructing you how to use the site to verify your address and the contents of your order.
If you've been following our updates closely much of the site will look familiar. Be sure to check out two of our favorite sections: How it's Built and History of the ZBoard.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on the site, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.
Monday Website Chat
If you have questions about the delivery schedule, changing your order, our Co-Founder Ben will be chatting on our site from 10am-4pm PST on Monday 1/18. To chat, click over to our site and click the "Have questions? We're here to help!" tab in the bottom right corner.
From the Founders
Maybe I'm just feeling sentimental after the holidays but I was looking through photos and stumbled upon a few oldies-but-goodies.
Four years ago this month we were at our booth for our first ever unveiling of the original ZBoard at the CES trade show in January 2012. I remember how incredibly driven and passionate we felt about bringing the ZBoard into the world. Back then we had just two working boards in existence, no customers, and full time jobs so we could only work on the Z in the evenings.
The pulse in our shop these days is so exciting right now that it reminds me of 2012 as we can't wait to get the Z2 under your feet! Looking back at this photo also reminds me how important our customers are to our business. Your patience and support have allowed us to take our garage project and turn it into our jobs (which we love), and its allowed us to take the ZBoard from this (first ever prototype in 2009)...
As always, thanks for your patience and support. Without you there would be no ZBoard.
Ben, Geoff, and the ZBoard Team