In late 2000, rumors about about a new personal transportation device that could change the way people got around started making the rounds. Steve Jobs initially said it could be “as big as the PC,” while John Doerr speculated that it would be more important than the Internet.
So when the Segway was actually introduced in December 2001, anticipation was very high. But while it did grab the imagination of those like Steve Wozniak, the product was big and heavy and cost close to $3,000. Jobs, after inspecting the Segway, proclaimed that its design “sucked.”
It also hit roadblocks in cities that did not want it on their sidewalks or roads. Today, it’s mostly used for tours and mall and airport police to cruise private properties as part of their work duties. Fast forward to today, and we are starting to see a new breed of personal electric transport hit the market in the form of e-bikes, electronic scooters, hoverboards, and electronic skateboards.
One of these products might become the real workhorse for short commutes; the second generation of hoverboards backed by serious companies in the personal transportation business, like Jetson Bike and Razor Inc. Even Segway has created the Segway Mini Pro to compete.
As you know, the first generation of hoverboards were a disaster. Many caught on fire and were recalled. But this time around, most of the models have new engines and battery packs that are much safer and show greater promise as personal transportation devices. While the first-generation gadgets were mostly targeted at younger users, new ones also take aim at urban commuters.
I got interested in this focus after traveling to places like New York City, Hong Kong, and London. I saw a lot of people using old-fashioned skateboards and push scooters, as well as some of the newer hoverboards. With this in mind, I reached out to the folks at Jetson Bikes and Razor and asked if I could try one of their hoverboards. Jetson sent me its newest model, the Jetson V6, a Target exclusive that costs $399. Razor sent me the new Hovertrax 2.0, which is $449.
The Jetson V6 is a bit larger and heavier then the Razor HoverTrax and can handle a person up to 300 pounds; the HoverTrax recommends a weight limit of 220 pounds. But both are light enough to carry easily, and both are self-balancing so it should be relatively easy for younger people to try. But I have to warn you that us older folks will have a larger learning curve, especially if we have any issues with balance. No matter what age, it is best to wear a helmet and elbow and knee pads while riding.
When I opened the Jetson V6, my 11-year-old granddaughter happened to be at the house. It was already mostly charged and she hopped on and took off as if there was nothing to it. She seemed to instantly understand the way it steered and how to balance. So of course, I thought it would be a piece of cake for me. Wrong. I fell back on my butt so hard I saw stars. Luckily, my wife and son were laughing too hard to get a photo or video.
Of the two, the Jetson has more foot space and control features than the Hovertrax. I discovered too late that I could dial it down to the beginner level via an iPhone app, which made it less sensitive to foot controls. I highly encourage beginners to do this. That said, once I did get the hang of it, I also easily adapted to the foot controls of the Hovertrax 2.0 and started zipping along.
I want to be clear that these new hoverboards are actually fun to ride; the Jetson V6 can play music from your smartphone and has multiple light colors that flash while in motion. But it would be wrong to see them solely as toys; they are emerging as an alternate form of low-cost transportation for short commutes and could be valuable in their own right for that purpose.