Electric skateboarding is the current fad. E-boards are lightweight and portable, and they run smoother and faster than your traditional skateboard.
However, quality e-boards can be expensive. We do not want you to shell out a fortune only to end up with a design that is not compatible with your needs. Thus, our experts step in to help with your DIY electric skateboard journey.
Functions & Parts of Electric Skateboards
An electric skateboard or “e-boards” as colloquially coined, is your regular skateboard with a twist—it is motorized and can either have a belt motor or hub motor. It can also have a battery for power, an electronic speed controller, and a remote control for steering.
The usual bluetooth-powered remote controls its swiftness through the Electronic Speed Controller (ESC), as the motor turns the wheels. With this, you can control direction like you do in regular skateboards by leaning to the left or right.
Like electric scooters and trucks, these boards need to have the right size and torque capacity to work smoothly and comfortably. Each one has a different preference but the thing to pay attention to is what works for your and its stability over time.
Building a DIY Electric Skateboard
Choosing the right deck is crucial for your skateboard experience. Our experts recommend a deck that would give you stability for a smooth ride and more space for your electric skateboard components.
If you opt to convert a board you already have into a motorized one, then shopping for decks would not be necessary. But if you decide to build from scratch, considering the wheelbase, deck flex, and shape is pivotal.
The wheelbase is the space on the underside of the board for all the components: motor, ESC, battery and anything else that would have to be attached using bolt holes.
Once you sort your options and decide to pursue which build to stick with, set the deck top down and lay the lot and ensure that they will fit in your preferred layout. You may need to adjust the trucks if you are using a shorter board, and this will require you to drill through the deck.
Next, mount the trucks and the motors. This would be faster with hub drives as they are all incorporated. Installing the drive train can be tricky at first but the rule of thumb is to know the revolutions per minute (RPM) of your motor. Without knowing how fast your motor spins, it is hard to determine the required gearing reduction ratio which could, in turn, compromise your desired pace.
The deck flex could pose a problem for your battery when not measured accordingly. Solid parts should not be mounted to the area where the deck flexes as it would greatly affect the e-board’s performance. It should be balanced to keep the ride both smooth and comfortable over time. You can prevent potential flex problems by mounting the battery and motor closer to the wheels since the middle part of the deck is the area that bends the most.
On the other hand, the deck shape affects how you mount the parts to the board. Concave decks are preferred for foot stability, but its curve makes it hard to mount the motor and battery. Decks with large cambers will present the same problems because of their inflexible shape.
Our experts suggest a longboard deck because it gives ample space for the components, thus giving it a better torque range and a smoother ride.
Something with a relatively large diameter and medium softness is recommended for the wheels. Wheels that come with plastic hubs are ideal for mounting the pulley to guarantee a smoother maneuver. You would also want wheels that have a good torque range, and would be reliable enough to go through a variety of surfaces.
An 80mm Orangatang Kegel Longboard wheel is suggested for its high-speed durability and flexibility. Its big diameter allows high roll capacity while its moderate width helps with the balance of traction and slide.
If you choose to opt for a belt drive, you would want to make sure that the wheels you buy are compatible with the motor set up. It is recommended by our team to check the gear on the wheel for its height and size to see if the motor will have enough clearance.
Pulleys to allow allowance and flexibility can be obtained from belting online. A 36T or 14T T5 pulley reduction is connected by matching a synconflec timing belt. It is best to sketch and review the ratio as it will play a major role for it to work well. Smaller builds might be more compatible with 36T to 12T.
The bore of the smaller pulley can be modified to match the shaft the grub screws with each other. The corresponding flats can be ground on the motor shaft so that the pulley would lock onto it.
Motor & Battery System
Your e-board’s motor would carry your skateboarding game especially during steep surfaces including hills. It would have to be reliable by having high power and torque for a seamless ride.
There are two types of motors commonly used for an electric board: the hub, and belt motors.
A belt drive has a small gear on the motor, and a larger one on the wheel, fastened by a belt. It basically operates like a pulley system—the motor turns the small gear, which triggers the timing belt, and the belt turns the wheel.
Meanwhile, a hub drive, also called a direct drive, has a motor attached directly to the wheel. This usually means that the motor is embedded on the wheel itself, but in some cases, manufacturers simply use metal gear features in direct contact with each other to connect the motor and the wheels.
Both have pros and cons. For example, a belt drive makes it difficult for the board to move using manual foot power when the battery dies; while hub motors operate like regular skateboards when the battery is drained.
Additionally, although a belt drive is more at risk of having something break as it has more moving parts, a hub drive is more difficult to repair in case of a breakdown.
Lastly, hub drives restrict your options for wheels as it is usually embedded, thus limiting your choice to only the wheels made by the motor manufacturer.
By directly mounting the motor onto the trucks, the chance of the belt slipping off when turning becomes almost impossible. Mounts can easily be made from aluminum welded onto the trucks. The tricky part, however, is making fine adjustments for the tension on the belt. It can be made in two parts with extended bolt holes to aid the adjustments.
As for the batteries, you would want to ensure that the battery you will choose would have efficient performance. Low quality batteries experience significant voltage sag, which can be troublesome especially when you are on the road.
While every battery will eventually experience voltage sag, low quality batteries would pose worse problems as they are easily drained and the charge would get low pretty quickly. Though the price is more costly, it is better to invest in batteries that would take longer before needing to be replaced as this will be less hassle and thriftier in the long run.
Our team suggests that you take into account the following when choosing which battery to install:
- The battery’s voltage: the standard is 36 volts. Higher voltage would not always mean it’s better.
- Its ampere and ampere hours. Ampere is the measurement of the current that the battery is able to continuously discharge to which 30A is a typical minimum current. Ampere hours refer to the charge that the battery is able to store and is measured in the amount of energy that the battery would discharge if it could drain its entire capacity in an hour. It is basically the scope of the battery’s power.
The two most usual batteries of choice are Lithium ion battery and Lithium polymer battery.
Lithium ion batteries  are the usual choice because of its safety, longer life cycle, and stability. They are great for first time builders, cruisers, and commuter boards. While they are more expensive, a lot of riders tend to pick this one to get the most out of their boards.
Lithium Polymer, or LiPo batteries are the cheaper variety, and they are known to have less voltage sag than others. The thing is, LiPo batteries must be exhausted to a power level for storage as studies claim that they are more susceptible to catching fire.
What experts recommend is to build your own as many manufacturers use LiPo batteries because they are generally cheaper. If you are trying to save money by buying a pre-made board, it’s good to inquire about the batteries that they have equipped to make sure.
Enclosures will make the significant difference in your batteries and other expensive parts’ protection. Your chosen enclosure needs to be sturdy and solid with a good airflow and capability to hold the board and other components securely.
Carbon fiber build is rather popular among customized enclosures both for aesthetic and practical reasons. People tend to choose this material because it is lightweight and durable. However, it sometimes blocks radio signals and is a bit pricey—so the lot tends to opt for fiberglass instead.
Alternatively, enclosures can also be bought from board parts manufacturers.
What sets electric skateboards apart from traditional skateboards is its speed. Essentially, e-boards have a receiver that connects to the motor to regulate its power output via signals from the remote, and this is referred to as an Electronic Skateboard Control (ESC)
One other thing when purchasing an ESC, it is best to ensure that it is compatible with all your components, as most of the ESC’s out in the market are set up for RC cars and other smaller toys. As a rule of thumb, cheaper ESC models tend to be dangerous for both you and your board as most of them cannot handle the high currents and heat generated by your motor.
Investing in a quality ESC built for skateboarding is a must for your safety and peace of mind in the long run. Instead of going to hobby stores that sell generic ESC models, opt for those who specialize in manual electric skateboarding instead.
One of our team’s recommendations is Ben Vedder’s VESC as it is designed specifically for manual builds. Vedder’s goal is to calibrate it to become the best ESC possible by making it open-source, so other hobbyists can create updates for it. And while this would mean that there’s some programming required, Vedder claims that it is simple and new users should not be intimidated. This is usually one of the go-to ESC models by custom builders as it is highly hands-on and personalized.
DIY Electric Skateboard Kits
If you are a newbie builder, it can tend to get intimidating to figure out all the details of the different components, and even frustrating at some point so our team suggests that you can also consider buying a kit.
An electric skateboard kit will be everything you need with the exception of the deck. And while it might cost more than buying the parts separately, it helps to sort out that all the lot you would need is already included in the kit. It also saves you time while guaranteeing that the lot would work with just the proper installation.
Can you make your own electric skateboard?
Yes, you can make your own DIY electric skateboard. Before you purchase the parts you’d need, it is best to read and consult experts for their take on the matter. We hope this guide compiled by our team will help you with that.
Is it cheaper to build an electric skateboard?
Yes, it is generally cheaper to build DIY electric skateboards from scratch in contrast to buying high-end ones if you are on a budget. As it is entirely customizable, your budget would depend on your preferred quality, design, and features. Not to mention, you can also be certain that whatever you build would be right for you as it is handpicked and set up according to your preference.
What parts do you need to build an electric skateboard?
You will need to secure parts for the deck, wheels, motor, battery, enclosure, speed control board and remote to build an electric skateboard. For people who avoid getting a bit too technical, using readily made kits are also an option.
May it be converting your traditional means to get around or creating an entire e-board from scratch, one can always feel fulfilled in creating something. A lot of people tend to depend on ready built e-skates with a quality name or brand, but if you have a knack of electronics, patience and time, there is no stopping you from creating the best, personalized e-board experience you can ever have.
We hope this guide helps you make an informed decision as it answers most, if not all, your basic queries on starting your DIY electric skateboard.