About five years ago, Jonas Ho was watching YouTube videos when he discovered a novel way to spend the $500 burning a hole in his pocket: a battery-powered MotoTec skateboard. Since then, Ho, the owner of Noble House Tattoo in Stockbridge, has become a mad scientist of electric skateboards, turning his board into a 51-pound street cruiser lined with lights and capable of traveling up to 32 miles per hour on city streets. He’s even traversed up the side of Stone Mountain. A familiar face during Atlanta Streets Alive and Critical Mass (the hundreds-strong group bike ride through Atlanta), Ho hopes to spread the gospel of e-boards—and even e-unicycles—to a city street near you.
Ho, 42, had no prior experience with skateboarding before he bought his e-board. After purchasing a helmet, kneepads, and other protective gear, he practiced in Piedmont Park and other greenspaces to get comfortable with the machine. Ho drives to his Henry County tattoo parlor, but he’ll ride the e-board to Walmart down the street or to grab lunch.
E-boards, which first rolled out in the mid-1990s, are the descendants of gas-powered skateboards unveiled in the 1970s. Among e-boarders in Atlanta, Ho’s model is considered akin to a monster truck, an image he enjoys. Ho operates his skateboard using a simple handheld controller with two options—forward and brake—and occasionally will hold a selfie stick. “I am DJing, filming, and riding at the same time. But no texting!”
Embedded in the nose of Ho’s board is a custom digital display that shows his available battery power. “Around 31 volts, it’s time to start calling an Uber,” he says. Ho’s original board used essentially a small car battery, but advances in technology have allowed him to go faster and longer. Once, he traveled nearly 100 miles in one day, spending most of it in DeKalb County, which has “nice rolling hills.”
Show the Love
Ho, a member of E-Board Atlanta, a group that includes people who commute to work or transit using e-boards and e-unicycles, says the community is more accepted now than two years ago. “When people see an electric skateboard, they go nuts,” he says. “It’s like a UFO.” However, he occasionally receives pushback from “mammals—middle-aged men in Lycra”—on the Atlanta BeltLine.
Located in the rear of Ho’s studio, his “BatCave” houses his tools and latest inventions, including a hoverboard-powered rolling lawn chair. He’s tinkering with adding a 300-watt mounted speaker and amp to the board—a less bulky method of blasting tunes than the 500-watt, 12-inch speaker he tows behind him. And he’s purchased a smaller deck to stack on his current board, allowing space for a double-sized battery that would enable him to travel an extra 60 miles. “Now that I have stability down with the noise, I’m thinking about faster. It sucks when a cyclist passes you.”
This article appears in our February 2019 issue.