2017 is the year of electric skateboard crowdfunding. Around 34 products were crowdfunded in either Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
However, there is a saying – Back an Eskate crowdfunding campaign only if you believe in Unicorn.
The pessimism is warranted as crowdfunding campaigns for electric skateboards have always been ridden with problems. For starters, delays are the rule rather than the exception while overstating the performance is just too common. As if that is not bad enough, there were outright scams! Anyone remembers Tinboard?
Here are the most common problems in Eskate crowd fundings.
Delays are the rules rather than the exception when it comes to eskate crowdfunding. 20 out of 30 boards had their delivery delayed for more than 1 month. That is 66%! And if you counted out 4 of those boards which were existing products (Ivory, Nuff, Maxfind C, Backfire G2), the statistic of delays would be 19 out of 26 boards, 73%! If you are not willing to wait an extra 6 months, don’t back an eskate crowdfunding campaign.
Offenders: Most of the campaigns.
Overstating the performance
Eskate crowdfunding campaign is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.
The price is too good, you think. This must be due to an early bird discount, you think.
But more likely it is because the board is just a POS and the marketed specs straight-up lies.
Influencers may be influenced or did not give the board a rigorous test. Even if they did, what’s stopping the company to produce something weaker than the prototypes?
Electric skateboards are very difficult to ship mainly due to the batteries they carry.
A lot of campaigners underestimated the difficulty when it comes to getting their products to the customer’s doorstep. There are delivery companies that failed to deliver, or outright refuse to deliver the electric skateboards, which in turns leads to an unexpected increase in both the delivery cost and the duration it takes.
Be extra wary if you are not from the States because international delivery are often problematics.
Besides underestimating the complexity of delivering the board, many campaigners underestimated the import tax or shipping cost. They either end up requiring the backers to shell out extra or leave the backer in shock when their custom inform them to pay a significant amount to have their board to have clearance.
Offenders: Acton Blinks, Walnutt Spectra ($19), Backfire G2 (Initially asked for it, then decided not to), Leafboard.
Did not deliver
Some campaigner straight up never delivers. Sometimes, some backer receives their boards while others did not. This might also be something to do with the delivery company.
Offenders: Longrunner, Leafboard, Kuickwheel (went missing before delivery).
Poor post-sale service
Nothing is going to stop a new company to just disappear after delivering the boards. They delivered the board as promised, and now there are nowhere to be found.
Luckily, not all of the offenders went MIA. Most just straight-up suck in post-sales service.
Spec changes are not always bad, but it is often unexpected. How do you feel if the board doesn’t come with the deck that you ordered? Or if the range was sacrificed in favor of more stable voltage output?
Design changes often come with good reason, but it might not be “your” reason.
Offenders: Acton Blink, Backfire G2.
The board that we chose to back is most often state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line new tech that came with an unbelievable price.
However, after waiting 4 months for the due date we were hit by another 3 months of delay. By the time the board reaches our hand, it has lost its edge in specs and pricing to the latest set of new boards in the market.
New boards are always better, and this industry moves fast.
Notable board coming out from Crowdfunding
With all that said. There are actually a few great electric skateboards that came out of 2017 crowdfunding campaigns.
Mellow only took almost 2 years and multiple design changes to finally deliver. Costing somewhere around $1800, Mellow is super pricey, but those who have it absolutely love it.
2 years back, Mellow is state of the art. By the time it delivers on 2017, the competition definitely has caught up.
In particular, Onan took the concept of the electric booster and ran with it. By the time Mellow was released, Onan was already in its third iteration. My review of Onan X2 is here.
Though as pessimistic as I may sound, the proud owners of Mellows are mostly very satisfied with their purchase. Why wouldn’t they, Mellow is powerful, packed with useful features and most important of all, of great quality.
For those who are flying with their boards, Mellow is also considered the best travel board ever, as you can just remove the battery and introduce it as your XXL power bank.
Arc Aileron is one of the few crowdfunding projects that delivers somewhat on time. It also marks the second time Arc team has successfully delivered Kickstarter project, both times with flying colors. (After their first project, Arc Board)
Arc Aileron made it on my list for being the best portable shortboard available. It only weighs 9.5lbs(4.3kg).
Equipped with VESC, the acceleration and deceleration on Arc Aileron are very smooth. It uses small 70mm wheels, so in exchange for a responsive and agile feel, the board has problems handling rough roads.
By the way, Arc team has just teased about their new project, Arc Finix.
Nothing much has been revealed about Finix yet but if they choose to go to Kickstarter with it again, I definitely feel safe recommending it.
It is an electric skateboard with a foldable deck. It also has a swappable <99wh battery. The combination of these 2 features makes Linky the most portable travel board on my list. Well, I just mentioned others say Mellow is the best travel board but well, I guess everyone has their own favorite. (Read: I am poor)
Anyways I digress. Linky is still new and not much user feedback has surfaced, so the quality and riding experiences are still largely unknown. Linky nonetheless brought a new concept to the electric skateboard market and wasn’t that the whole purpose of crowdfunding? To support innovation?
Leafboard was a Kickstarter darling when it launch. Cute size, good price and crazy powerful (marketing specs).
Well, not many people are still expecting Leafboard to deliver after they stop responding to Kickstarter comments and shut off their webpage. They were, however, still somewhat active in their Facebook group with updates now and then, and, finally, to most of our surprise, Leafboard delivered in September 2017.
Too bad the woes didn’t stop there. It starts with complaints of backer getting hit by surprised import charges. Then there were complaints of how the boards under-performs and felt cheap in quality. Well…What a shame.
Turns out Louboards are not a real deal. After a few months of delay, backers who received the boards were largely unimpressed.
The final product under-performs it’s marketing specs and break easily. There were also multiple complaints about SoFlow’s customer services.
Turns out a misogynistic company wasn’t that trustworthy after all. (Much like a misogynistic politician.)
Acton Blink Series
For Acton, the first clue of troubles was when the Indiegogo campaign ends with a 2651% funding. How are they going to produce that many boards?
Initially, I was one of those who applauded Acton for setting a new standard for affordable high performing electric skateboards. Their Indiegogo pricing for Blink S, S2 and Qu4tro all undercuts the competitions in value for price.
Then the Acton starts to announce delays, that was to be expected. What was not cool was how Acton straight up lie about the delivery dates.
It frustrated the backers when Acton told them that they are shipping the very next month -failed to do so, then proceed to give the same promised for the following month and then repeats.
International backers have it worse as they have to wait another few extra months (like 3 months) for the board to finally arrive. To add insult to injury, at one point Acton’s site listed Blink S as having ready stock for purchase while their international backers still waiting to receive their board.
Blink S and S2 are meant to be the best affordable boards. However, it took so long for Acton to deliver that, by the time they were out, better budget options like the Meepo and Backfire G2 were already roaming the streets.
It is even more disappointing if you consider that Acton already had a Kickstarter experience (which they somewhat screw up too) under their belt. Speaking of not learning from experience.
Backing a crowdfunding campaign can be a very tricky ordeal. Considering the risk mentioned above, most of the time, it is not worth the risk. However, a successful crowdfunding campaign usually has a few characteristic.
The company/ team had done it successfully before. Arc, Enertion
The founders are reputable in the Eskate community Enertion, Riptide
The product already somewhat exist. Backfire G2, All those Onan clones
I think you’ll agree with me that there are tons of cheap electric skateboards with weird or no brand name. We saw them in electric skateboard Facebook groups, on Amazon, Craigslist, Aliexpress, and of course on Alibaba.
So what is the story behind these China Boards?
I have researched 8 of the most famous Chinese Electric Skateboards in the market right now, and I am going to tell you everything about them.
What exactly are the China Boards?
When we say “China Boards”, we don’t mean electric skateboards that are made in China.
If that is what we meant, China Board would have included Enertion Raptors 2, Walnutt Spectra, Actons and Louboards (although things can become a bit gray with some of them, more on that later.)
So as you can see, that’s not quite what were referring to.
What we mean by “China Boards” is: Electric Skateboard made in China that are built with no investment on their brand and hence are often cloned, rebranded,or sold without brand at all; they are often poor in quality and with minimal or no customer service.
China boards are already amongst us.
If you are out of the loop, you might not know there are a few ‘scandals’ in the esk8 circle – companies are and have been rebranding China Boards to sell at Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
They claim they need funding for the development and innovation of a product, but what they did was just sending factory their logo to stamp on an existing China Board.
And of course, there are also companies that simply rebrand Chinese Electric Skateboards and market them as their own creation.
I guess not every board’s origin story is considered cool.
Acton Blink Lites, Elwing-E1, Atom is E-Wheelin I4!
Acton has gotten itself a bad reputation by repeatedly lying about the shipping date. There are also people who accuse Acton of not designing its own board and being ‘just a middle man’.
Well, the accusation is not unfounded. Take a look at Acton’s ‘world lightest electric skateboard’ the Blink Lite and the E-Wheelin I4.
They are really similar, even using the same remote, aren’t they?
Even their specs are similar.
Well, Acton did add the LED to Blink Lite, I guess that’s what they mean when they claim that they engineered the board, right?
Bolt is I-Wonder SK-A
Bolt is another “world smallest electric skateboard”, that launched an Indiegogo campaign back in May 2015.
It received $211,950 in funding.
With a closer examination, we can see that Bolt is probably a rebranded I-Wonder SK-A.
Lorenzo claimed he created Bolt. I think what he meant was, he created Bolt from I-Wonder SK-A.
And I wonder where Bolt gets its marketing photo ideas from. (See what I did there?)
Haloboard, Tinboard(dead) are WINboard GT-M6
Haloboard is a very well loved Electric Skateboard; it ranked no.2 in Slant’s most recommended Electric Skateboard List. (Which I think is a shit lis, as it ranked Mellow as no.1. I am not saying that Mellow is bad or anything, it is just that by the time that it ranked, Mellow wasn’t even available yet!)
However, I wonder if any of the buyers know that Haloboard is basically WINboard GT-M6 with 2 times the price.
It may not really matter that Haloboard is WINboard GT-M6; they are proven to be quality boards (‘China Boards’ are often but not always poor quality) and Halo Board provides customer service to their customer, in a way China based WINboard are unable to do, hence, this just might justify the premium.
But it does make me question the integrity of THIS statement:
By the way, the now dead Tinboard went to Indiegogo campaign with the exact WINboard GT-M6 too.
Tinboard is the worst example of how low a company can get when rebranding electric skateboard. They didn’t get consent from Winboard, lied about the spec of the board, and lied about the features of the board; they even made up a fake team.
There is no WINboard GT-M7 on WINboard’s official site. Did WINboard skip GT-M7 and go straight to GT-M8 from M6?
What is the real story?
Word in the street is, Louboard bought the exclusivity of WINboard GT-M7, added some design changes and went to Kickstarter with it.
I suppose we should give Lou the benefit of a doubt. They may very well have put in efforts and gave the board some upgrades.
Too bad, we will never know.
Enough for the rebranding, who exactly are the China Boards?
Ah, where are my manners? I haven’t introduced the players that I’ve been rambling about.
Chinese Electric Skateboard scene is a messy place, but there are a few of major players that are more recognizable.
These are the names that you will come across again and again when navigating the China Board market.
Koowheel/ Genesis Hellfire/ Magneto
Koowheel is a brand under Shenzhen JOMO Technology Co., Ltd. The company has been in the electric mobility business for quite some time now. Besides electric skateboard, Koowheel also sells Hoverboards and Electric Scooters.
It has branches around the world. (China, US, Europe, Singapore?)
Koowheel D3M Electric Longboard is one of the most known China Board in the market. It has been rebranded multiple times and was sold as Genesis Hellfire & Magneto and other brands.
For a long long time, Koowheel D3M is the first choice when it comes to cheap and powerful electric skateboard that one can buy on Amazon.
And the reason is obvious:
Koowheel’s specs are incredible!
It has 2 hub motors to handle most hills. It has more speed than most people need.
And although the marketed range (25miles) are HUGELY exaggerated (10miles are what most people get), most people are good with 10 miles.
Plus, it is somewhat water resistant and has SWAPPABLE BATTERY!
The downside of Koowheel is the quality of the board. It is very hit-or-miss. You can ride your Koowheel to the office every day of a year with no problem, or the board can fail you the second week you get it.
Remote disconnection, loose trucks, locked up wheels, battery problem, and various other issues have been noted.
Koowheel was said to have fixed most of their quality issues early 2017, but problems continue to pop up here and there.
The same story goes with the customer services. Some customers received good help from Koowheel but more complaints about poor after-sale service. A number of customers have had their board vanish after they sent it back to Koowheel for repair.
Koowheel D3M might have been a good buy years-ago.
However, with the choices that we have today in the Eskate market, you shouldn’t have to buy a $600 Koowheel anymore.
Backfire has been around for some time, since 2012 I suppose. Backfire board is manufactured by Shanghai So-Fun or Helloskate.
Being one of the more successful China Boards, it has a lot of clones including Falcon, Luuov, Melon, Lectric, and those unbranded generic electric skateboard that we saw in Facebook groups.
The quality of the board is good enough, but the advertised range is super inflated. As usual, don’t put too much expectation in the after sale service.
Backfire has been trying to get into the US market by setting up an office in Virginia.
It also has launched a Kickstarter campaign for its Backfire Gen2. Which is again most likely to be a marketing trick to sell an already available board through “Kickstarter funding” as opposed to getting funding to develop a new board.
All that being said, the early impression of Backfire G2 has actually been very positive. Good performing board, great specs, great riding feeling – all with a sub $500 price tag.
However, all this would mean nothing if the board has quality issues, something we will only know after the fact. During my research on Backfire II, I noticed a lot of inconsistencies in the marketing copy throughout different sites. Not exactly helping my confidence in the board.
Backfire is a budget board with great specs. The downside is the unreliability of the customer service and the quality of the board.
It feels like I am repeating myself here.
Update: I have got in touched with a representative from Backfire team. I was informed that they have put on effort trying to upgrade their after-sale service. They have set up a service center in Richmond, USA and Hamburger, Germany to take care of customer service in the US and Europe. Repairs and service do not need to be done in China anymore. For international buyers, Backfire China will still be handling all the services. This could really help, i’ll be watching.
ONAN is a brand by a group of companies including Guangzhou ONAN Electronics Co., LTD.
People accuse ONAN of being a copy of Mellow Drive, and I would have to agree.
But Mellow is too expensive for most of us anyway…
So, what about this ONAN guy?
ONAN is probably the most bought electric skateboard drive train at this moment (as Mellow has just begun to ship).
It has been rebranded by a lot of resellers. ONAN has been sold as Griffin Boards, Ivory Boards, Nuffboards, and Flight Mode.
Griffin Boards particularly have been doing a good job in communicating with customers – testing the ONANs before they commit into reselling, providing after-sale services, giving feedback to the manufacturer for issues and for improvements.
Anyways, up to the time of this writing, ONAN has 3 different electric skateboard drive that you can buy. ONAN X1, X2 and X3.
Basically, Onan X1 (launched in April 2016) is the entry level, beginner level drive train; cheap but slow. Reviews show that it has been reliable, yet unexciting. It has now been discontinued by Onan as they feel that the performance couldn’t satisfy the market.
Onan X2 (launched in Oct 2016) is the most powerful out of the three. It has been ridden with issues early after release but Onan seems to have fixed them, and now X2 wouldn’t just die within 1 week of riding anymore.
Onan X3 (launched in April 2017) performed somewhere in between X1 and X3. So far, not much quality complaints have been heard.
X1/X2/X3 battery pack have two option:
X-BP10 battery pack with 90WH battery cell (making it flight compatible) the marketed range is 7.5-9 miles (12-15km)
X-BP20 battery pack with 158.4WH, the marketed range is 15.5-17 miles (25-28km)
While I wouldn’t say Onan is exemplary in the quality department, the after-sale service seems to be pretty good. Onan has been doing a good job fulfilling their warranty promise and their reseller is doing an equally good, if not better. Good for them.
At the end of the day, being $1000 cheaper than the Mellow Drive, while still having features such as swappable battery and being waterproof, Onan is undeniably attractive.
I especially like the fact that the drive train doesn’t need a big package box and can be shipped internationally easier and cheaper.
So, if you can find yourself a reliable reseller nearby and think that a drive train is a good idea, I wouldn’t deter you from getting an Onan.
Landwheel is produced by Shenzhen Landwheel Technology Co.,LTD. I couldn’t get much information on the company as their website is broken – just like their product.
So let’s just be quick.
Have you ever thought about buying a $800 $600 drive train that is fast, waterproof that breaks down on the first use? No?
Then I guess Landwheel isn’t for you then.
The board has just been released this month (July) and there are already multiple complaints of broken motor.
And it is not uncommon for Landwheel to break down just after the first 10 minutes of riding. Even if the motor survived, you will be dealing with broken screws, burnt battery, etc.
It’s just horrifying.
Landwheel is the worst example of Chinese electric skateboard- Not cheap yet not good! Granted, Landwheel is still new at this point but I seriously don’t know how they should redeem themselves in the future.
Although the latest version of Landwheel V4 seems to bring more durability while actually being able to deliver the promised performance, there are still accounts of it breaking down here and there.
I would only start to consider Landwheel if most of them start lasting over 1 year without issues.
For now and in the near future, just do yourself a favor and stay away from Landwheel.
WINboard Intelligent Technology Company has been winning in Electric Skateboard business since 2015. They are mainly a manufacturer for hub motor electric skateboards.
WINboard uses quality parts. As I mentioned, their WINboard GT-M6 has been rebranded into Haloboard and has been one of the best quality electric skateboards out there.
The upcoming Louboard was said to have bought the exclusive rights to produce WINboard GT-M7 as Lou boards, and from the marketing material it looks to be one hell of a board.
Too bad for us, WINboard only sells to distributors and not individuals (so don’t expect after-sales service directly from them). So unless you are ordering in bulk, you probably couldn’t get a board directly from WINboard.
See, these are the products from WINboard and they all look good:
Let me know if you are making a bulk order on Winboard GT-M6, because Haloboard is seriously … too expensive.
Update Jan 2018: I’ve dropped the quality of Winboard from “Great” to “Fair” as some of the complaints on Winboard surfaced. The quality of Winboard seems to be inconsistent and it is usually up to the company using Winboard as OEM to ascertain the quality. Moreover, as they’re more focus on being an OEM, their customer service to individual buyers is quite bad.
So, Should I buy a China Board?
For those of us who are ‘international customer’, sometimes it is just easier to get a China Board than something like a Boosted board. Aliexpress, unlike Amazon, usually ships internationally.
If you actually find Chinese Electric Skateboard that calls to you, you still need to observe the first and here is the only principle for buying an electric skateboard:
Always go for a quality. A poor quality board that breaks down after 1 week aren’t worth a dime.
Why does this matter?
The truth is, poor quality boards can’t be upgraded one piece at a time even if you are good at tinkering. If the ESC blows, you may not find a good quality ESC that fits the space. If the motor blows, you may have to stick with a small motor that will blow again because the motor mount wasn’t designed for larger motors. (words from evoheyax)
You want a portable vehicle NOT a toy, right?
With that being said, I felt ONANs, I-Wonders, and WINboards are worth buying.
Where could I buy a China Board?
Amazon, Aliexpress, and from the Resellers of course.
Aliexpress is cheaper and often ships internationally. Amazon is more familiar to most of us and has its own return policy to protect buyer. The price is usually cheapest in Aliexpress, follow by from reseller’s site and the highest on Amazon.