Note: This article was first published on 15th September 2016.
You’ve seen them around — electric scooters, bikes, and unicycles, but an electric skateboard that’s made in Singapore? This I had to see for myself.
The Arc Board is billed as the world’s smallest and lightest electric skateboard, and it’s the creation of three enterprising Singaporeans, Ho Hung Yi, 31, Toh Wei De, 30, and Tan Yong Sheng, 29.
The Arc Board weighs in at 3.5kg, 56cm in length, goes up to 18km per charge with a top speed of 25km/h. It pairs with a remote control with a circular dial that you spin forward to go, and spin backward to break or reverse. The founders tell me that the Board is powerful enough to take one of its early testers up Mount Faber.
Hung Yi, whom I met last week together with Wei De, wrote his graduating thesis on the last mile problem — “last mile” is a way to describe the final move of a person or goods from a transportation hub (think MRT) to its destination (think HDB).
Two years ago, the Arc Board trio got together and decided to do something about the last mile in Singapore. Electric scooters were coming up at the time, so they decided to do something in the vein, settling on the skateboard as it’s more compact compared to most everything else.
Electric skateboards already exist on the market, but they’re massive. The Boosted Dual+ electric skateboard, for example, weighs 15 pounds (6.8kg) and is 38 inches (approx. 97cm) long. In contrast, the Arc Board founders wanted something small enough to carry onto a bus or train, and that set the premise for their project.
For two years, the trio kept their full-time jobs and worked on the Arc Board in the evenings and the weekends. The board went through six to seven iterations to the final prototype you see in our pictures.
When the board powers down, the wheels remain free. So even if the battery goes flat, you can use the Arc Board like a normal skateboarder. The Arc Board is compliant with Singapore’s guidelines for personal mobility devices (PMDs), so you should be able to buy and use one without problem. I ask why use a remote and not some sort of weight-sensing gyroscope to steer the board, they tell me that it would have increased the cost of the board and dragged on its development time.
Hung Yi tells me that there are already 20 pre-production Arc Boards running around Singapore, being used by early fans and adopters. The final production model was further refined based on the group’s feedback, and it’s now ready to go into production, which is why the team launched the Arc Board on Kickstarter last week.
The trio hope to raise S$100,000 to bring the Arc Board into production, at US$599 a board. The campaign ends on 7th October.
I had to try the Arc Board for myself, so I stepped onto their pre-production prototype. As you can see in our pictures, it’s a little banged up from all the testing it’s already been through.
I completely failed to get onto the Arc Board, falling off on the first acceleration, and it was all embarrassingly caught on video. Hung Yi and Wei De tell me that it takes about three to four hours for the average beginner to get comfortable with using the Arc Board. Unfortunately, it started to rain so I didn’t get the time to master the Board.
My video director, however, took to the Arc Board like a fish to water. He had zero problems getting on and then zipping about, but he did skateboard from when he was six to twelve years old. Apparently, skateboarding is like riding a bicycle, once you learn it, you don’t lose it.
One thing was clear, the Arc Board is not the electric ride for your elderly uncle or auntie; it’s something wilder and more exciting than a pedestrian scooter. The founders are well aware of that, telling me that they’re not going to the mass market with the Arc Board. Instead, it’s a board for people who love skateboarding or who have always wanted to skateboard.
Even then, the reception has been better than they expected. “The local community has been very supportive,” Hung Yi says, “We didn’t think there would be a big market for the Arc Board in Singapore, but every time we launched our pre-production boards, every time we put it out there for people to experience, the reception has been a lot better than we expected.”
When asked what success would mean for the founders, Hung Yi tells us that they would consider the Arc Board a success if the business becomes big enough for them to do it full-time. Find out more on the Arc Board website, and check out their Kickstarter here.