An electric skateboard is a personal transporter based on a skateboard. The speed is controlled by a hand-held throttle or weight-shifting and the direction of travel is adjusted by tilting the board to one side or the other.
Electric skateboard motors can be divided into two groups:
Hub motors – More affordable and easier to maintain, hub motors are built directly into the wheels so they produce less torque.
Out-runner motors – Noisier, more mechanically complex and more expensive than hub motors, belt drives produce more torque which also makes them more energy-efficient.
The out-runner motor uses a belt and pulley system which drives the wheel. Because of this, different sized pulleys can be used to gear the drive system. Popular boards like the Boosted Board Plus use this type of motor system. Hub motors are incorporated into the wheel hubs themselves, which give a smaller overall footprint. Hub motors are often used in smaller electric skateboards. The Inboard M1 is an example of hub motor use.
Electric skateboards are able to travel at high speeds, as well as go off-road. The stability, in turn, is determined by a couple of key deck features:
Length – Achieving high speed almost always requires the use of a longboard. The longer the deck is, the more stable the skateboard will be.
Wheelbase – The term wheelbase describes the length between a parallel pair of wheels. As you would expect, wider wheelbases provide better weight distribution.
Flexibility – Flexibility is the deck’s ability to absorb shocks and, unfortunately, has a negative impact on the unit’s stability. Downhill racers require stiffer decks. Casual commuters should choose something in between.
Speed Controller and VESC
All electric skateboards need an electronic speed controller (ESC) in order to vary the speed of the motor for accelerating or braking. The rise of hobbyists building their own electric skateboards meant demand for a more functional and specific ESC. The VESC (which stands for Vedder Electronic Speed Controller) is a more advanced ESC which allows for features such as better motor and battery protection, regenerative braking, programming options like acceleration and deceleration curves, and other advanced features. Previously these hobbyists had been using RC ESCs which were not as robust. Not every VESC is equal though, as Benjamin Vedder designed the blueprints as an open source project. Companies selling the VESC have modified and improved on these original blueprints.
Many electric skateboards can reach speeds of over 20 mph (32 kph), with many (including D.I.Y electric skateboards) heading up towards 30 mph (48 kph). Although many boards have brakes, they are not as efficient as brakes found on other personal transporters like bicycles.
Personal protective equipment, especially helmets, are recommended when riding electric skateboards.
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