How do you group the ever-expanding market of electric skateboards into categories or classes? Why would you even want to?
The first reason is because to compare a Meepo Classic to a Kaly XL 2.0 would be grossly unfair. These are two completely different boards for two completely different markets. On Top Gear/The Grand Tour, they don't compare the latest Toyota Corolla to the latest Koenigsegg and then call the Corolla "crap" because it's not as good as the Koenigsegg. That sort of approach isn't helpful to anyone. You have to compare apples with apples. As a tester and reviewer this is very important. To say that every other board is crap due to the simple fact the LaCroix Nazare Lonestar exists is an issue of category error.
The solution? Well, let's define the categories.
What follows below is simply my model. I'm not saying it needs to be fully adopted in its unaltered form by planet Earth. You can take it or leave it. If it goes no further than me I'm cool with it, but I thought it was worth sharing all the same.
From where I'm standing, I think we're seeing the emergence of at least five distinct categories or classes of e-skate. I've structured my categories around price. As you'll see, price is usually (but not always) fairly commensurate with performance, so I think it works out quite well, with perhaps one or two exceptions that I'll discuss in the notes section.
The list below is not exhaustive. I've simply chosen the most well-known brands/boards to use as examples for each category and based their position on their current pricing (June 2019).
The categories/classes below also don't take into account niche boards. In other words, to keep things simple I focused on longboards only, as these are usually the flagship products of any manufacturer. So, you won't find any short boards or drives/boosters listed. Although, I'm pretty sure they could be listed in the exact same way and in the exact same categories, but again, I wanted to keep this list simple, not exhaustive.
So, the categories/classes are budget, mid-tier, premium, performance and race.
Budget boards, e.g. boards $499 USD and under:
Mid-tier boards, e.g. boards between $500 and $1199 USD:
Premium boards, e.g. boards between $1200 and $2299 USD:
Performance boards, e.g. boards $2300 USD and over:
The budget board category is full of boards that essentially all have the same 90mm 250W hub motors, the same three speed Hobbywing ESC (except the Meepo V3) and all run the same 10s2p 20R 18650 battery pack as standard (but with different upgrades available). The differences between them usually come down to things like different enclosures, trucks and decks.
When we reach the mid-tier we see the listed boards start to become a little different from one to the next. Everything becomes a little less "off-the-shelf" and a little more proprietary and bespoke. Specs or features (or in some cases both) start to increase in this category. It's worth noting that all listed boards for this category use a custom Hobbywing ESC.
Premium is probably the most popular category of e-skate. In this category we're usually talking about boards that are mass-produced, high-quality, high-performing and unique. Almost everything should be custom/proprietary/bespoke; down to little or no off-the-shelf parts. At the very least, we're now far and away removed from off-the-shelf, pre-programmed ESC's. Every board in this category uses its own proprietary ESC or uses a VESC-based ESC.
Performance (which I sometimes also call "hyper performance" just to drive home the idea of this category) is a category reserved for "next level" boards. In this category we usually move away from mass-production and move towards more small-batch production or hand-built, made-to-order boards. These boards are expensive and their specs are through the roof!
Exceptions: I look at the positioning of Hoyt St under the Premium category and the Metroboard-X under the Performance category and I wonder if they should be swapped? Their pricing structures dictate where they are, but the Metroboard-X will probably have a higher rate of production than Hoyt St, and it would certainly look neater to position the Metroboard-X with the rest of the Metroboard's and Hoyt St with the likes of Ollin, but their prices tell a different story, as do their listed specs. The Metroboard-X out-specs the Hoyt St DV8, so based on pricing and specs both boards are exactly where they should be, but this was never going to be an exact science. I think it may be fair to say that perhaps both the Metroboard-X and the Hoyt St DV8 straddle the mystical like between Premium and Performance, but each for different reasons.
If there was a "next-next level" category of boards, this would have to be for Stooge Raceboards. Is the Race category the next e-skate category to explode with options as more and more race meets are held around the world each year? I guess only time will tell.
So, there's my thoughts on the matter of e-skate categories or classes. The thing to take away from this is the idea of "category error." To say to someone who's trying to choose between a Toyota Corolla and a Ford Focus that they should get a Bugatti Veyron is a classic case of category error. So is saying to someone who's trying to choose between a Meepo NLS Pro and an Ownboard W2 that they should get a Bio Board.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments section of wherever you're reading this.
I ride and write about electric skateboards for one reason and one reason only - the love of it!