Recently, I’ve had the chance to interview the owner of Metroboard, Ilan Sabar, about electric skateboards and the industry as a whole. Metroboard was one of the first companies to make and sell electric skateboards (eboards). Given this, I was interested to learn his perspective on the beginnings of eboarding.
When Sabar started Metroboard, there were only two other major competitors, E-glide and Exhate. Eboards were over-built and used simple and reliable components. It wasn’t uncommon to find boards weighing over 50 pounds due in part to the use of sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries. This was a far cry from my 14-pound everyday ride which is nearly indistinguishable from a standard board at a glance.
Sabar immediately saw room for improvement, first moving from lead acids to nickel–metal hydride batteries and now to an exclusively lithium-ion product catalog. Today, Metroboard offers some of the most powerful, longest-lasting, and even shortest eboards on the market. Metroboard’s premium offering boasts a reported 40-mile range and a 3,000-Watt outrunner motor. These improvements are those that come with advancements in battery and electric motor technology over the course of a decade. Metroboard has also added a bit of innovation of their own, adding to something beyond what a DIYer could by simply wiring their own board.
In his own words, “We haven’t stopped there. Metroboard has modified these outrunner motors, which are typically used on R/C airplanes, to include external hall sensors to regulate power output for a smoother ride when starting from a resting position. Now, many companies that produce outrunner motors are responding to the burgeoning electric skateboard market and are finally beginning to include internal hall sensors into their motors.”
Sabar and I share the view that electric skateboards can be more than just a hobby, but also excellent way to get through the city. Not having to wait for the bus and zipping through crowds is more fun than public transit will ever be. Sabar sees the future of eboarding in this light as well. Making the ride a smoother, more comfortable experience is a big leap forward to get more people into the hobby.
Sabar sees refining the style of eboards as the next big leap. Many current boards take after their DIY predecessors. The individual components, the motor, the battery pack, the speed controller, are typically distinguishable and set eboards apart from their classic brethren. Sabar sees a future for eboards where hub motors and deck-integrated battery packs make eboards not only impressive but fashionable.
Throughout Sabar’s responses a theme appeared. He sees eboards differently than those who scoff and think they’re cheating. He said, “We don’t see electric boards as replacements for regular skateboards, but rather very compact 'cars' that solve a basic transportation need in an environmentally friendly way.” This vision for eboards is what drives Metroboard to make their premium boards. When asked for advice on how to start a technology hardware company, his only note was to look broadly at the market and see what elements can be borrowed to convince people to buy in and what elements cause them to stay away.
With regards to the number of start-ups that are quickly becoming fierce completion for him, Sabar says to respect DIY (it’s how he got started after all), but be prepared to back your product up with years of customer service. Sabar recognizes something unique in every new competitor, but highlights Metrboard’s eight year track record of reliably quality and excellent service.
My final question for Sabar was regarding what we could look forward to from Metroboard. He teased that there is one request he’s heard over and over again. He’s going to make this request a reality and in his eyes it will change the electric skateboarding game. With so much room left for improvement and creativity, I’m excited to see what he comes up with.
At the end of the day, Metroboard sets a great example for the eboarding industry and respects its roots. Sabar sees eboards as a means of transportation to work that double downs for play. Their wide variety for offerings of deck sizes, range, and wheels lets the customer decide what’s right for their eboarding needs. They even transform off-the-shelf decks into one-of-a-kind boards for anyone who requests it. Sabar seems like a guy who isn’t interested in dominating the market, and instead appreciated the uniqueness and creativity each new board brings to the market. Metroboard is clearly interested in keeping up with the community and I’m sure will continue to add to the market with innovation.
2015 - Fall - Issue 10