Like almost all the kids at the end of the 70’s I started up with a skateboard. At the age of 14 years, I learned windsurfing on a Mistral Competition and was fascinated from the first moment of gliding over the waves with wind speed. Shortly thereafter, I was on Bali and for the first time on a surfboard in the surf, which was overwhelming. At this time snowboarding was invented and we built our first boards with simple pressing and veneering. The bindings were made out of leather belts and the boots we had where…. Moon Boots. Far from being perfect.
That changed in the late 80s, when the first quite reasonable snowboards came on the market and the windsurfers improved. To the annoyance of my parents I built about 20 windsurfing boards and surfboards at home in our apartment.
In the early 90s I started to study Industrial Design at the University of Arts in Berlin and took the opportunity of student projects to bring my passion on the street. The first boards had only 2 wheels and used rubbers to reset the wheels. Soon I had the idea to replace the rubbers against an intelligent kinematics, which utilizes the body weight as a restoring force. This gave birth to a variety of concepts.
In 1994 I presented my first 2-wheeled and self-regulating LandSurfer study without rubbers at the ISPO and FANATIC showed interest.
Unfortunately we found out soon that 2 wheels are not ideal and led to serious falls. The topic of gravity as restoring force instead of rubbers did not let me go of from then.
The Grandparents of Curfboard
After graduating in the mid-90s and being in my home town Munich, I experimented on various concepts of skateboards with no moving parts. However, it soon turned out here that the differently oriented wheels slowed down the board when touching the street. But one aspect was notable. The movement and the driving behavior of these prototypes was like a snowboard. In a curve it turned on the edge and the board was calm and flat on the ground when driving straight ahead, similar to a snowboard.
Another very interesting project was a 4-wheeled skateboard, which could be driven very precisely without nervous speed wobbles due to a kinematic using gravity as the restoring force and which was very low over the ground.
The BMW Streetcarver
Since my presentation at ISPO in 1994 I was privately in contact with the BMW chassis engineer Rudi Mueller, one of the last generalists and old hands who knew every detail of a car. Rudi himself was an avid snowboarder and surfer and had the fixed idea, like me, to transfer his passion on a land vehicle. BMW was interested to create a new product out of that.
I applied at BMW in 1997 and based on my experience of innovative skateboard kinematics I was hired and started in the Product Design department. For about 20 years, I am now at BMW and today I develop new e-vehicle concepts in the research department. In my spare time I keep working on my own projects.
Together, Rudi and I developed the STREETCARVER between 1997 and 2000 at BMW. We built about 10 different prototypes before we had defined the correct dimensions and harmony. It helped that we both had the same goal in mind and we knew exactly how it must feel like. A unique constellation and cooperation with lots of fun!
The technical feature of STREETCARVER was its progressive steering kinematics, which was self-adjusting via the weight of the driver by gravity only. The wheels tilted like a motorcycle and enabled much more dynamic rides. This was possible by connecting the arms with the base plates via ball joints, original pendulum supports of the stabilizer from the BMW 5 Series rear wheel axle.
When STREETCARVER came on the market in 2000, the reaction of the press was overwhelming and the product got several awards worldwide and was included in the permanent collection of museums in the world. Unfortunately production was stopped 2003.
… and the story now continues with the curfboard®.