The Chic Pi is made of a bunch of modular parts and is almost completely wire-free.CHIC
If there's a single product that encapsulates the average westerner's feelings of Chinese tech, it's the hoverboard. When it debuted in 2014 in China, it drew plenty of intrigue from the west for its slightly dorky, but unique and innovative take on the personal transportation device. Of course, countless imitators, most cheaply and hastily made, were pumped out by Chinese companies within months, flooding the global market from suburban California to downtown London. By 2015 news headlines popped up around the globe of hoverboards catching fire, and viral videos flooded social media showing teens spinning out of control while on one.
Today, the general consensus of the hoverboard is that they're cheap, gimmicky and unsafe.
This doesn't sit well with Shenzhen-based Chic, the company behind the original hoverboard. (They have the patents to show for it.)
"We didn't even call it that when we patented the thing," laments Carlos Xie, product manager of Chic. "We called it a self-balancing scooter."
That name may not exactly roll off the tongue, but it's a far more accurate description than what Back to the Future-loving Americans came up with. Alas, the name has stuck.
Xie says most of the hoverboards that went up in flames were knock offs, though he admits that his company's own had issues because they were produced by various different factories around China.
Ever since that realization, Xie says the company has worked hard in producing a sequel: one that rides better, looks better, and most important of all -- won't explode.
The company spent two years developing the project and building up its own factory -- "we will not let third party factories manufacture our boards again," Xie says -- and today the finished product is here.
The Chic Pi.BEN SIN
Xie demoing the Pi in Shenzhen.BEN SIN
Officially named the Pi, this new hoverboard's superior build quality is apparent from the first look. While the hoverboards we're used to seeing are usually made of cheap plastic and feature two connecting parts (that creaks and breaks easily), the Pi is crafted out of an aluminum unibody and has quite a bit of heft to it -- 22lbs, to be exact.
So let's address the most important issue: Why is Pi more safe than the previous board?
The Pi's lithium battery is, essentially, wrapped twice over in aluminum for protection. The board's body is, as mentioned, one giant aluminum case, but the battery itself is wrapped inside another aluminum casing that Xie says is flame retardant.
It has also, according to Xie, passed the UL2272 test, which was created by an independent safety testing company specifically to test hoverboards.
In fact, Xie was so eager during our meeting, he took the board apart to show me its battery.
The lithium battery is inside a really hefty metal casing.BEN SIN
That casing is then stored inside another aluminum case.BEN SIN
Taking the Pi apart, and then putting it back together, is surprisingly easy, because the board was designed to be somewhat modular in mind. Xie says the wheels and battery are replaceable, and things like the foot pad can be swapped for a different color for customization.
While Xie took apart the Pi, he pointed out that the entire thing is almost wire free -- the only exception is the LED light panel -- which is an impressive feat of hoverboard hardware craftsmanship. Less wires means less ways to damage. I handled all the parts and they did feel very sturdy.
So aside from the supposedly "super safe" battery, the Pi has other advantages over its first gen counterpart: the foot pedal sensors have been improved to be more sensitive to subtle pressure. Xie says that picking up the board easier. The unibody design also makes the board a lot sturdier because there are no moving parts other than the wheels.
Xie took apart and put together the Pi in under 20 minutes.BEN SIN
The Pi can go up to 7 miles per hour.CHIC
Xie says all the boards are now produced in house in the company's own Shenzhen factory, and though the company has launched the board on Kickstarter, mass production has begun.
Chic will also bring the Pi to CES next January, and the boards will be sold globally. On Kickstarter right now the early bird price is US$499, which Xie concedes is more expensive than people may be used to.
The wheel measures 6.5-inches in diameter and can be upgraded to 10-inch wheels for faster rides.BEN SIN
"I know some will say the Pi is overprice[d], because they look at hoverboards like a cheap plastic toy," he says. "But the Pi is not meant to be toy, it's meant to be a personal transportation vehicle. It's meant to replace a bicycle or an electric scooter."
I'm not sure if most of the world can use a hoverboard as a real transportation tool, as there are laws against riding a hoverboard on the street or sidewalk in many cities around the world, but for people who like to ride for fun, the Pi is a big step up from the hoverboards we've been used to.
Reprinted from Forbes：https://www.forbes.com/sites/bensin/2017/10/25/original-hoverboard-maker-tired-of-unsafe-stigma-has-new-board-that-wont-explode/#480eb2897167