ELEC­TRIC ROLLER BLADES

Petrol-pow­ered roller skates could be handy in those an­noy­ing, rush-hour traf­fic jams

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

THE idea of pow­ered roller skates is at least 60 years old, but since Peter Tread­way showed plans for his sp­nKiX power skates in 2011, the mar­ket for a set of 4x2 shoes has all but ex­ploded.

And the only rea­son it did not lit­er­ally ex­plode was be­cause po­lice in the United King­dom con­fis­cated 50 pairs of Chi­nese petrol-pow­ered roller skates be­ing de­liv­ered to an ad­dress in Bournemouth.

The Metro quoted Bournemouth Coun­cil trad­ing stan­dards of­fi­cer David Mor­ton say­ing: “The skates are so dan­ger­ous, we are too wor­ried about putting them on to test them.”

Only the right boot is pow­ered by a tiny, 25 cc petrol en­gine, con­trolled by a hand-throt­tle. The power skates are still ex­ported to the United States, with the Ab­so­lutely Un­be­liev­able web­site list­ing them for $400 (about R4 600).

The site claims: “Pow­erSkates can reach a speed of up to 30 miles per hour [48 kilo­me­tres], so you could weave in and out of rush-hour traf­fic jams, get­ting to work or home faster than ever be­fore. You’ll be sav­ing time, money and the en­vi­ron­ment when you use Pow­erSkates as your pri­mary ve­hi­cle.”

Tread­way’s much sleeker 2x2 elec­tric shoes sell for just un­der $700 (about R8 100) as Ac­ton Rock­etSkates.

If R8 100 sounds a lot of money for a pair of 2x2 pow­ered skates, con­sider that at the time of writ­ing, the cheap­est pair of slip-on Jimmy Choo san­dals on sale cost £195 (about R3 400), while a pair of killer heels listed for £1 197 (about R21 000).

Seems many did the com­par­i­son, for Kick­S­tarter showed the Ac­ton Rock­etSkates had 10 times too many tak­ers for the power shoes that went into pro­duc­tion in Oc­to­ber last year.

The new French Rol­lk­ers were of­fi­cially launched last week and go on sale later in the year. They clip to any size and make of shoes with large wheels for bumpy sur­faces.

Maker Di­jon said Rol­lk­ers were de­vel­oped to pro­vide a health­ier, more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly form of trans­porta­tion. The Rol­lk­ers are self-bal­anc­ing and re­quire no spe­cific train­ing.

The Rock­etskates are by all ac­counts a bit more terrifying to ride on. The user starts by plac­ing one foot for­ward, giv­ing the skates a mo­ment to wire­lessly syn­chro­nise and then mov­ing by tilt­ing the lead skate for­ward. Slow­ing down re­quires low­er­ing the heel. The mo­tors of the non­lead skate sim­ply copy what­ever those in the lead one are do­ing.

Top speed on a pair of Rock­etskates is about 19 km/h.

Fi­nal specs for the Rol­lk­ers are not yet avail­able, but the mak­ers said top speed is about 10 km/h. A trawl of YouTube showed the Chi­nese petrol-pow­ered roller skates do not go any­where very fast.

PHO­TOS: SUP­PLIED

Rock­etskates ride on two wheels. To slow and stop, the user leans for­ward.

PHOTO: GETTY

May 11, 1961: Sales­man Mike Dreschler has his mo­torised roller skates re­fu­elled at a petrol sta­tion near Hartford, Con­necti­cut. He has a sin­gle-horse­power, air-cooled en­gine strapped to his back and holds a clutch, ac­cel­er­a­tor and en­gine cut-off switch in his hand.

The Rol­lk­ers by French company Di­jon prom­ise to dou­ble the av­er­age per­son’s walk­ing speed to 10 km/h.

Banned in the UK but still on sale in the U.S., th­ese Chi­nese petrol-pow­ered skates have a 25 cc en­gine on the right heel.

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