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December 13, 2018
For most mechanical devices, like bikes and cars, the theory is that regular maintenance will result in fewer major issues over time, and will hopefully help you avoid major unexpected and expensive problems from occurring.
Fortunately, electric skateboards are fairly simple in regard to mechanical components. From time to time, you might need to tighten some screws and clean the bearings, but this really shouldn't be an issue with a modern electric skateboard on the market today. They should all be using standard skateboard hardware that is available from your local skateboard shop or various online suppliers.
What is a major concern with electric skateboards are the electronics. Just like mechanical parts, electronic parts can fail over time due to wear and tear, or simply from random events that can’t be predicted or identified. Vibrations, water, and corrosion can destroy electronics slowly overtime. Unlike mechanical parts, you can’t easily do regular maintenance on electronics to prevent issues. Electronic faults can sometimes be explained with Murphy's law "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong."
The good news is that electronics these days are generally inexpensive. If a small part fails inside your electric skateboard, like a switch, it is likely only a few dollars to replace that part. However, here’s where it gets interesting! Not many electric skateboards have been designed to allow the end user to repair it easily. This is often due to the use of proprietary components or due to the main circuit boards having all the sub-systems integrated together.
When it comes to resolution, this design and manufacturing method can create a domino effect that results in a costly and lengthy delay on repairs. It often means a specialist repair agent or the original manufacturer needs to have the product in their workshop so they can use specialist tools to troubleshoot and replace the part.
As a consumer, it would be advised to shop for an electric skateboard that has modular parts that can easily be replaced by the end user. It’s also important to make sure you’re allowed to do repairs yourself without voiding your warranty. The ability to repair your product with parts at home will not only save time, but it also can be a great new skill that can give you a sense of accomplishment!
In the future, I hope that all electric skateboards use standard parts that are easily replaced by the end user! Just imagine for a minute if you had to return your bike to the shop to get a puncture repaired! Silly, right? I feel the same about electric skateboards—anyone should be able to repair them.
Most people would agree that non-powered skateboards are naturally very good at rolling along flat or downward-sloping surfaces but not so good at rolling uphill.
So the only reason you’d want to strap very expensive, heavy motors and batteries to a perfectly good rolling platform like a skateboard is if you want to climb hills… Do you agree? So first & foremost, ask yourself this very important question: can the electric skateboard on your wish list carry your body weight up a hill?
Your weight & the incline percentage you want to climb are the key factors in this test, therefore, it is a difficult question to answer until you have the board in your hot little hands!. Your only viable option if you don’t want to waste cash on trial & error is to search for answers on YouTube. Try to find some videos that clearly show the product carrying a human load up a steep hill. If you can’t seem to find any videos of the product you like taking someone up a hill, you need to seriously reconsider your purchase.
Apart from watching videos to determine if the esk8 you like can climb hills it would be very handy to understand some basics about mechanics, physics & electrical theory. So, try to bear with me and I’ll do my best to quickly cover the basics & ultimately help you to demystify the topic of electric skateboard performance.
In general, on an electric skateboard, Speed & torque are inversely proportional to each other.
Example 1: Assuming constant power of 1000 watts, if you change a drive train component like the wheel or pulley diameter to increase top speed you will lose some torque. If you change a drive train part to increase torque you will lose top speed.
Still with me? The above example is a mechanical change only, however, you must think about electric skateboard performance as being determined by both mechanical attributes & electrical attributes. The voltage & current are extremely important aspects to esk8 performance. The most common way to compare the power of two electric skateboards is by the wattage rating, Voltage X Current = Watts, the greater the watts the better.
Example 2: You install a wheel with a larger diameter to make your esk8 go faster, However, this will directly impact your hill climbing performance because there is now less mechanical torque output. The only way to keep the new higher top speed & maintain the same torque is feeding the motors more power, specifically you need more current.
Example 3: Increase top speed by increasing voltage. If an electric skateboard designer wants the most efficient system with high top speed without losing torque they won’t change mechanical parts they will use higher Voltage batteries. Assuming your electronics are rated accordingly there are no major disadvantages of increasing voltage. Warning this is not something that you should try to do at home, modifying the voltage of an electric skateboard will permanently damage it.
Let’s also remember, Performance is very subjective. It can mean many things to many people. Ultimately what is important is whether the electric skateboard has the ability to meet your expectations. So take some time and think about exactly what you want.
For me personally, In urban environments max of 45km/h (28mph) is my sweet spot, but only if I'm presented with clear open space, anything less eventually seems to feel slow & let’s be real with ourselves folks, cars are much safer and generally more comfortable if you want to travel at speeds above 45km/h. Also, traveling any faster than around 45km/h on an electric skateboard tends to chew through your battery very quickly— wind resistance losses are quadratic meaning speeds over 45-50km/h on electric skateboard will be very inefficient & can tend to lead to overworking the electronics which results in shorter life span on components.
Electric skateboards that can reach speeds up to 45-50km/h whilst also offering very strong torque output for hill climbing are not very common, nor are they very cheap. This explains why tesla’s cars are expensive! To make a high performance ESK8’s a reality you need these key ingredients; large powerful motors, high voltage & large capacity battery packs with premium cells and finally, electronics that are engineered to throughput the high current.
In the electric skateboard physics examples above I said that slower top speed normally means more torque, however, this is not always true. Some electric skateboard manufacturers will purposely make an electric skateboard so it has low top speed & low torque because it is much easier & cheaper to do this. So be warned, if you are shopping for the cheapest electric skateboards on the market don’t expect premium performance. It’s way more expensive & complicated to make high performance electric skateboards. So the super-cheapo ones available on the market are generally recommended for kids only & tend to struggle & ultimately fail or need expensive repairs if you drive them too hard. It’s a false economy.
A great way to learn more about electric skateboard performance characteristics is to build your own electric skateboard. Of course, like I said above, the other reason you might decide to build your own is because most of the mainstream brands, especially at the entry-level price point, have very low end performance. If you do decide to build your own ESK8, you can try different gearing ratios and battery voltages and test the real world performance. If that sounds too complicated or if you simply don't have the time, you might decide to search for electric skateboard builders or specialist companies that only make high performance electric skateboards.
Since the birth of skateboarding in the mid 1900’s, both the form and function have been constantly evolving. In the beginning, the skateboard was no more than a plank with wheels. Riding one was often called “sidewalk-surfing!” As the decades rolled by, many different skateboard riding styles were developed, and with each new style came a new deck shape carefully tuned to maximise performance. In the 1976 California drought, most backyard pools became popular with skaters who liked to get air by launching themselves from the edge of the vertical pool walls. Thus, “vert” was born & the popularity of wider decks with kicktails increased.
The 1970’s was a time when skateboard tech was progressing rapidly, new materials were being used, and now there were more manufacturers working to develop better wheels, trucks, and decks. For the first time, skaters could finally build a setup that suited their specific styles. With improved handling characteristics gained from using quality deck, wheel, and truck combos; riders could now perform more radical tricks. This allowed the sport to constantly evolve.
As the technology improved, many new genres of skateboarding riding styles were developed. Sometime around the 80’s the ollie was invented and street skating increased in popularity. The size and shape of skateboards also began to change to be more uniform & lighter weight to meet riders’ preference to perform ollie based flip tricks common in street skating.
Whether you consider skateboarding to be a sport, a recreational activity, transportation, or a form of performance art, there’s no denying that all skaters have their own individual styles. This is only fully realised due to the ability to customise the skateboard to meet the rider’s personal taste. Customizing your own ride has been a critical element in the history of skateboarding. Without this ability to cater to the individual's needs, skateboarding wouldn't be where it is today.
The ability to pimp your ride to meet your unique style should not be overlooked when buying an electric skateboard. Shop for electric skateboards that offer some level of customization. At a bare minimum, I recommend going with an electric skateboard that is compatible with different deck designs. I personally like a freeride-style longboard with medium wheelbase and a kick.
The deck on your skateboard is the only part you interact with when riding. To get the most out of your riding experience, you need to feel confident and feel physically connected to your rig when riding. That’s because even the slightest variation in shape underfoot can really play havoc with your balance, especially if you are constantly searching for a natural foot position on an unfamiliar deck shape.
So, whether you are a longboarder, old school vert rider, or street skater; having a say when it comes to deck should be a major priority.
Finally, you really want some control over the performance characteristics of your electric skateboard, especially if it's a really high powered system. This can be in the form of beginner mode toggles or more advanced throttle curve adjustments. Humans are all different, so being able to tune the performance to meet various riders’ skill levels and expectations is super important. With the ability to adjust power and performance settings, you can safely share the amazing experience of esk8ing with friends & family without worrying about them breaking their ankle on your new rocket stick!
This article is written by enertionboards and previously published on enertionboards.com
February 21, 2019
February 12, 2019