The Scoop on Future Motion’s Latest Self-Sabotage

by freshlycharged

2022 has been a dumpster fire for Future Motion, the makers of the Onewheel. The funny thing is, just about all of the wounds seem to be self inflicted.

Below is a guest article from butoursgoto11 which was posted on Reddit.

The original article below was written for those outside the Onewheel community, because Future Motion’s approach to stifling competition has greater potential impacts beyond our fun little toys.


We’re all familiar with companies like Tesla and John Deere that want to control the repair market for their products. What if a company took it one step further, beyond simply refusing to sell parts or support third-party repair, and made it impossible to even use spare parts from one used vehicle to repair another? Well, it’s happened. San Jose, California-based company Future Motion sells a line of high-end personal electric vehicles (PEVs), used by many for commuting to and from work, in addition to recreation, and is doing everything they can to prevent third-party repair. These are not cheap throw-away toys, but sophisticated, durable PEVs costing thousands of dollars, capable of long range and high speed, with many of the older models still getting used daily, some with over 20,000 miles on the odometers and at least one that has nearly 34,000 miles on it, according to the online leaderboards that track recorded Onewheel mileage.

Future Motion just discontinued their older flagship model, the Onewheel XR, whose more recent firmware versions had made many people upset due to electronic countermeasures put in place to prevent battery upgrades that were once possible on previous models and firmware versions. A small company called JW Batteries reverse-engineered the battery communications system to develop a chip that restores the ability to upgrade the battery, and they are being sued by Future Motion for this legal act. Right to Repair advocate Louis Rossman has posted several videos on the matter from a repair service provider and consumer advocacy perspective (here’s the latest from Louis Rossman: Attorney Leonard French analyzes the frivolous Future Motion lawsuit against JW Batteries from a legal perspective, but both miss some important points that are spelled out below (Leonard French’s video can be found here:

Self-balancing vehicle technology, first brought to market by the Segway in 2001, has been around for a long time, and Future Motion wasn’t the first to build a self-balancing skateboard, but they were the first to patent some novel aspects and the first to market a workable product in 2014. Due to Future Motion’s patents, no one else can sell a competing self-balancing skateboard, but there is a thriving DIY and aftermarket upgrade community because the technology is fairly basic by today’s standards. As a mechanical engineer, I am all for the appropriate use of patents, but it appears that Future Motion is engaging in anticompetitive practices and operating beyond their legal rights as a patent holder.

The more you unpack the short-sighted lengths to which Future Motion has gone to control the market, the worse the situation gets and the implications to the greater Right to Repair movement are the major concern. Like the auto manufacturers tried in the early days before courts guaranteed consumers the right to get their vehicle serviced wherever they wished, Future Motion claims their desire to control repairs is all about safety. As with the auto manufacturers, there is little to no evidence to support this safety claim and, were there valid evidence, the liability would not fall on Future Motion, so the courts have ruled that safety is not a valid concern for manufacturers to interfere with consumer rights to repair their products.

As with other manufacturers who have tried this before, the evidence indicates that Future Motion is motivated to kill off the DIY and third-party repair community in order to corner the market on profitable repair services and to drive sales of their newer models, while the older models end up in the landfill.

I’m sure this sounds familiar to anyone who owns a high-tech gadget, but Onewheels are relatively low-tech, really more vehicle than gadget, and even the very first model released in 2014 is still a great vehicle for getting around on. We know that old vehicles, especially electric ones, have a huge environmental cost when they are tossed into the landfill instead of being repaired or used for parts. While we can’t expect a manufacturer to make replacement parts and perform repairs on older models forever, we can at least expect that they won’t actively install countermeasures to prevent others from making repairs.

The real fear is that, if Future Motion is not stopped, more and more manufacturers will install electronic countermeasures to make unauthorized repair impossible, and the environmental impact of doing so would be even worse than that of today’s disposable consumer product market, where devices are merely made difficult to repair, but not impossible.

What do Future Motion’s countermeasures look like, and why are people still buying their products? That will be addressed below, after a brief synopsis of where the Onewheel market stands now, so the impacts of the countermeasures can be better understood. We don’t know exactly how many Oneweheels have been sold since 2014, but there are enough of them out there to foster a fairly robust aftermarket repair industry, despite Future Motion’s previous efforts to stop them. For reference, one of many online groups centered around Onewheels has nearly 45,000 members, and Future Motion’s latest tactics have been causing quite a lot of angry posts to the effect of, “We love the product, but hate the company.” The hashtag #FFM (F**k Future Motion) is widely used in the Onewheel community.

Many people preordered the newest Onewheel GT model back in October of 2021 for its greater range and power, not knowing anything about the new electronic countermeasures that would be put in place. Many delays later, the GTs started shipping in March of 2022, plagued by safety and reliability issues as they arrive in the hands of consumers. A reasonable estimate is that one quarter of all new GT boards have serious safety and functionality issues covered under warranty, and there is only a single repair center on the entire planet. New models often have issues, so we can all endure that, but the greater concern is long-term sustainability when there’s only a single overwhelmed repair center, they already refuse to repair older models, only honor the warranty to the original owner, and refuse to repair Onewheels that have been modified by a third party.

The single worldwide repair location is even more problematic for people overseas with older, out-of-warranty vehicles, because shipping back to Future Motion for repair costs them hundreds of dollars in shipping, plus $600 or more for the repair itself, essentially leaving their vehicles totaled. Due to this single worldwide repair center approach, the Onewheel often costs more to repair than the vehicle is worth, sometimes just due to a simple cable coming loose inside, which is an easy repair for some, but not even a consideration for most consumers. The single repair center isn’t the big issue, though, only context.

The original battery replacement/upgrade countermeasure that was circumvented by JW Batteries with a $50 chip was only the tip of the iceberg. Now that the new GT model is in the hands of consumers, we have discovered that they have taken the electronic countermeasures to a whole new level. In the GT, the act of simply unplugging the battery and plugging the same battery back in, now leads to a bogus “corrupted memory” error that requires the entire 35 pound board, classified as dangerous materials due to the “non-user-serviceable” lithium battery, to be shipped at great expense back to Future Motion to reset what is just an artificial firmware countermeasure (previous models had no issues with batteries being unplugged).

The countermeasures get worse still. All of the major components, such as the motor controller and power management unit, are now digitally paired to each other in the new Onewheels, so repairs can no longer be made outside the single worldwide repair center. The aftermarket repair industry has always relied on spare parts from broken vehicles to repair new ones, much like third-party Tesla repairs.

It’s not ideal, but totally within Future Motion’s rights to refuse to sell repair parts. However, this practice combined with the newer, more egregious electronic countermeasures seems intended to kill the blossoming aftermarket repair industry and render these very durable PEVs as doorstops, forcing consumers to buy new ones instead of repairing old ones.

To better understand the potential longevity of these devices that is being intentionally curtailed through the implementation of electronic countermeasures, many Onewheels have tens of thousands of miles on them. Like old cars, people can readily replace bearings, tires, batteries and other wear items on older models to keep them going indefinitely, but when it comes to major components like controllers and PMUs, those must be sourced from used parts. New Oneweheels can cost over $2,700 with accessories, and used ones still sell easily for $1,500. Future Motion already refuses to repair its older models, which can fortunately be repaired with spare parts, but Future Motion will eventually refuse to repair its newer models, which cannot be repaired by anyone other than them, so all of those newer models will end up in the landfill, unless Future Motion is compelled to disable its electronic countermeasures.

Is that bad enough yet? It gets worse still. Not only does Future Motion prevent replacement of an electronic part that’s guaranteed to wear out like a battery, but they require the board to be shipped back to them for tire replacements when those wear out as well. They won’t just ship you a new tire, even if you live in Australia. The aftermarket community long ago figured out that Onewheels used the same size tires as many go-carts, and the market for tire replacement industry thrived, because the stock Onewheel slick tires offered from the factory weren’t great. This led to many options coming to the market like treaded tires that weren’t offered by Future Motion. Onewheels were advertised for off-road use, but the only option for older models was a slick tire, and Future Motion claimed that aftermarket tire replacement would void the warranty (which isn’t legally true) or they would refuse to perform out of warranty repairs on vehicles with aftermarket tires.

Future Motion’s GT product launch in October announced that treaded tires would now be available straight from the factory… with a catch. The GT now has a new rim size, purportedly needed for greater heat dissipation to deal with more power coming from a bigger battery. So now, no one makes a tire that fits that rim except Future Motion. It’s unfortunate that they now destroyed the aftermarket tire industry, but someone will start making that new tire size, and it was necessary to change the rim for engineering reasons, right? Wrong.

As it turns out, the newer GT models are reportedly overheating and shutting down even more than the older models, when ridden side-by-side, and the data suggests that the new proprietary rim size is either to blame or simply has no effect on heat dissipation.

On top of this, the widely-held opinion is that the newer tire size just doesn’t ride as well as the older size that had a ton of different options for varying rider preferences. The motor is inside the rim, and industrious users have discovered that the stator inside the old rim is the same size as the stator in the new rim, so they are cannibalizing the rims from older boards to put them on the new GT model to get the tire options they were once accustomed to. The problem with doing this is that Future Motion has a long history of refusing to repair boards with third-party upgrades, whether the repair is covered under warranty or not. So far, the few cases in which the old rim has been retrofitted to the new vehicle have not resulted in the motor overheating and shutting off. Further field data may prove conclusively that the change in rim size was purely to control the market.

“Your tire’s worn out? Yeah, we don’t repair those anymore, but we’d be happy to sell you a new Onewheel.”

How does Future Motion stay in business when they are so consumer-hostile? Onewheel owners would say it’s because they make a desirable product that you can’t get anywhere else. Owners would also say it’s a lifestyle product with a great community of people who love riding and customizing their PEVs. There are lots of PEVs out there, but the Onewheel offers a unique experience, and Future Motion knows this. What Future Motion doesn’t seem to understand is that the aftermarket upgrade community they are trying to kill off makes their brand more desirable, and that hurting that community hurts them even more.

Those who pay attention to the tech industry have seen this type of thing happen with companies like Apple and, although they still have their “walled garden,” they at least allow third parties into that garden now, because those partnerships make their brand stronger. The greater concern with these business practices has to do with durable goods like tractors and cars, as they get more widely integrated with components that make it easy to block third-party repair. So, while the Onewheel isn’t something that most people need or want in their lives, the implications in the greater Right to Repair movement are pretty awful. If manufacturers like Tesla start bricking vehicles when spare parts from another vehicle or manufacturer are installed, or refuse to service vehicles with non-factory rims installed, then we’re all in trouble.

The hope is that Future Motion will pay attention to this article and the many other valid complaints of their community and change their ways. If they do not change their ways, the company will not survive beyond the point at which their patents expire, and/or competition introduces a product that is able to provide a similar experience without violating their patents. There are few examples of similar companies who were this hostile to their users and aftermarket community, but managed to survive by virtue of the quality of the products they sold, but Future Motion is perhaps the worst example to date, and with the release of their new GT model that’s plagued by myriad issues, the future of Future Motion is in serious doubt.

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