Inboard Action Sports uses Onshape to build the first electric skateboard with motors inside the wheels
California-based Inboard Action Sports is the creator of the M1, a powered skateboard that looks and feels like a traditional skateboard. Motors and batteries are hidden within the wheels and deck.
There’s not much of a learning curve here. If you know SolidWorks, you’ll know how to use it – Onshape is very intuitive. The videos helped me pick it up right away.
Theo Cerboneschi, Inboard Action Sports
It may sound strange, but you might consider the Inboard M1 skateboard to be an electric alternative to anti-perspirant.
Back when he was a mechanical engineering student at the University of Colorado, designer Theo Cerboneschi used to ride his skateboard to class. It was fun, quick and breezy, but there was also a noticeable downside: sweaty shirts.
So during his sophomore year in 2012, he mounted a motor on top of his skateboard and used belts to power the wheels. "I was getting lots of great feedback from everyone around me, but I wanted to take things to the next level," Cerboneschi recalls. "The problem with belts is that they break. They also need to be perfectly aligned to work well and they create significant drag, ruining the glide feeling of the longboard."
The quest for a drag-free, quieter transportation led Cerboneschi to co-found Inboard Action Sports, creator of the "World’s First Skateboard With In-Wheel Motors." In 2014, the California company developed its early prototypes of the M1 (then called the Monolith) and in early 2015, raised more than $400,000 with a Kickstarter campaign that initially aimed for $100K.
The M1 has no external motors or batteries attached to the underbelly of the board. It is the first electric skateboard to embed its motors and circuits within its wheels.
Inboard's Design Challenge
"We wanted to keep pretty standard sized wheels, so it means we needed to improve the motor performance without increasing the size of it," says Cerboneschi. "It was very difficult to get everything compact enough to fit inside that wheel because we needed to have an encoder in there, too."
"Our deck is not standard either because it needs to be hollow to carry all the electronics and batteries," he adds. "This has never been done before."
Claiming to "transform the everyday commute into an experience worthy of anticipation," the M1 travels up to 24 miles per hour and can handle riders up to 250 pounds. A wireless remote controls acceleration and braking. The M1 glides like a traditional skateboard because of its free-floating motor assembly, which contains no gears. The only connection between the wheels and the motors are free-spinning bearings.
"It’s actually easier to ride than a regular skateboard because you don’t have to shift your weight or keep pushing off your feet. You just put your feet on the board and you don’t have to move it anymore," Cerboneschi says.
"We’ve taken some people who have never skated before with terrible balance and put them on the board," adds Nate Appel, Inboard’s marketing director. "And they’re riding on their own comfortably after five minutes. It’s very predictable, very smooth, and there are no unexpected jolts, stops, cutouts."
The M1, which retails for $1,399, has attracted some early praise from the gadget reviewers at Gizmodo.com. "I've ridden more than a few electric skateboards in my time, but they all have the same problems: they all feel too electric and not enough skateboard," writes Sean Buckley. "They're often too thick to accommodate batteries and motors, and too heavy to push if the battery dies. Can't we do better? … Wheel-housed motors solve a lot of the problems I have with electric skateboards."
Simultaneous CAD Collaboration
To design the M1 longboard, Inboard Action Sports chose Onshape, the only full-cloud CAD system that enables multiple people to work on the same model at the same time.
"The old way was to email files back and forth, but right now I can modify something and it shows up instantly on my colleague’s computer," Cerboneschi says. "It’s pretty amazing."
"I’m originally from France and I go back there quite often. It’s pretty convenient for me to still be able to work with the team even though I’m not back at the office," he adds.
"Sharing models is also simpler with Onshape – much easier than using Dropbox or any other cloud storage services. I especially find it useful that you can share a file and decide what you want the person to be able to do with it. Sometimes I don't want someone to share the design or even edit it and I now have the option to control their level of access."
Works Seamlessly With Other CAD Systems
"First of all, I had no reason not to try it because you can start for free," he says. "There’s not much of a learning curve here. If you know SolidWorks, you’ll know how to use it – Onshape is very intuitive. The videos helped me pick it up right away."
Because Onshape’s Professional Plan is a flat $125 a month per user (billed annually), Cerboneschi notes he can add new design team members to a project anytime without the hassles of restrictive licenses or upgrade fees. The company does still use one seat of SolidWorks for a few complex parts that require finite element analysis (FEA).
"We prefer to do the complete assemblies of our longboards in Onshape because it is more intuitive and everybody on the team can use it to show 3D renders of the product if needed," he says. "Transferring parts in between Onshape and SolidWorks is very easy and works great with standard formats such as STEP and IGES."
Designing on the Go
While his company aims to bring convenient, lightweight transportation to the masses, Cerboneschi says he appreciates the flexibility of Onshape Mobile to let him design on the go.
Not just a viewer, Onshape Mobile offers the full CAD system’s functionality on a phone or tablet.
"I’ve been using it on my iPhone," he says. "I was not convinced at first because CAD modeling can be a bit tricky and you might want to use something more accurate than your finger. But it works extremely well. Even though it’s not as fast as it would be if you were sitting at your computer, you can still do things in random places. I recently was able to work while I was waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. That’s pretty cool!"
According to Inboard Action Sports, the majority of its customers so far are urban males who are looking for a way to do their everyday errands without a car. Many are not traditional skateboard enthusiasts and see the M1 as an alternative to an electric bike or scooter.
Pragmatism aside, marketing director Nate Appel expects the "cool factor" to carry significant weight in purchasing decisions.
"The M1 has the opportunity to take away the stigma of powered skateboarding," he says. "Before, many of the electric boards looked kind of like a science project. Just haphazardly pieced together with the motor and batteries on the board with wires everywhere. With our board, all that clutter is taken away."
"We’re bringing a whole new aesthetic and style element to this market that was missing before. I think we can bridge the gap between all the engineers and tech types who have powered electric skateboards now and all the really hardcore skateboarders who are thinking "Oh, that looks lame" or "I’ll never try that!"
"A lot of us come from action sports backgrounds," Appel adds. "People are getting really stoked on not only the feel, but the look of our skateboard – and are excited about all the ways they can integrate it into their everyday lives."