DIY Electric Skateboard Guide [2019] – Belt Drive

So you’re keen to make your own electric skateboard.

Back when I first started this project there were the number of electric skateboards in the market so be sure to check out the boards on offer on the “best electric skateboards” page

High level you’re going to need

  • Skateboard – deck, trucks, bearings, screws
  • Motor – a motor and mount for the motor
  • Pulleys and belt
  • Batteries – Batteries and charger
  • Electric speed control (ESC)
  • Remote control
  • Something to house the ESC and batteries in

The Board

Deck:

Most people pick a longboard because their stable and easy to ride but really the board itself could be almost anything. You can get a longboard deck from any number of places this makes no difference to the electric part of the board but people will talk about riding styles and flex. See a true longboard blogs for indepth discussion.

Wheels

Go for large size (83mm plus) Flywheel style wheels . Personally I’ve gone for Abec 11 flywheel because of the quality but there are a number of cheap flywheels on amazon.

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Why does everyone pick flywheels for electronic skateboards? Because they have spokes which means it’s easier to attach a large drive cog to them and still be able to rotate/change the wheels for wear.  Also larger wheels are good for going over pavement cracks, twigs etc

Bearings

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Once again riders preference but Bones reds are recommended by most of the real skateboard blogs for price and quality: Amazon link

Trucks

Now truck selection is where it gets interesting. This all depends on how you intend to attached the motor…….more on this in other sections. If you’re using a kit then they all seem to be using a rip off of the Caliber 10 inch trucks because of the square profile. You can find cheap knocks offs or the real thing. However the real thing come in a range of colours and are well respected in the downhill skateboarding community.

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Some electric skateboard kits have welded/preassembled motor mounts options. More on that in the suppliers list.

If you’re looking at a hub motor option then this truck section isn’t very helpful. More on the differences between hub and belt drive boards later.

Bolts, Risers and grip tape.

Bolts (got to stick those trucks down somehow). Risers adds some space between the trucks and the deck (1/8 inch should work). With the angle of the motor mount you need to ensure the motor has some movement.

Electronic parts for you DIY electric skateboard

Simplistically we’ve got a few parts here.

  • Motor,
  • Batteries,
  • Electric Speed Control (ESC),
  • Remote control
  • Bunch of connectors

The following is more detailed information from VESC Project.

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If you’re making your own electric skateboard you’re going to need a soldiering iron.

Transmitter and Receiver

Let’s start with the easy stuff. While any old RC controller would do there are anumber of cheap ones developed specifically for electric skateboards these days. You’ll only be using the one channel to control the speed so here are a bunch of small remotes.

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Electronic speed controller (ESC)

When I first started making an electric skateboard people use RC truck speed controls however a gentleman Benjamin Vedder open sourced a design for an electronic speed controller designed specifically for Electric skateboards . They go by the letters VESC.

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These ESC pull a huge number of amps so goes by the name VESC. Electric skateboards pull a tremendous amount of amps when they’re starting, pulling your weight from zero to go. Hopefully they’re only peaking out when getting you rolling which is also why you should push yourself to start. The sustain amount of high amps can fry the ESC and motors. .

These days everyone is selling variations of VESC designs. Version 4.12 or the more recent Version 6.

Batteries

Most people are using LiPo batteries. They’re very energy dense. (Think Telsa cars). The only draw back is they can be “explody” if not treated well. By this I mean if you overcharge, unbalance charge them or pierce them and they touch oxygen. Cutting them = flames. That said they’re the same batteries you find in Tesla cars or the phones you carry around with you so nothing to worry about.

There are a couple of options here:

  1. A pre-made Electric skateboard battery pack with a inbuilt battery management system (BMS) that you can charge with something that looks like a laptop chargeror
  2. Create a pack with a BMS if you have the time soldering skills and inclination, or
  3. Standard Remote control car/plane battery packs. However, you do need a specialised balance charger to charge these. The balance charger are sold from all hobby stores as they’re used in RC racing. The balance charger is basically doing that the BMS is doing. Hobbyking.com is a good place to start for batteries and chargers, connectors etc.

When looking at batteries you’ll see the following numbers. Here is what they mean:

  • mAh = how long it will give up the power for.
  • C = is how quickly it can give off the power.
  • V = voltage. That’s pretty straight forward.

Now the choice comes up to you budget but what you’re looking for is 2 x  3 cell batteries (they run at 11.1 volts, wire them into series making 22.2 volts total or or 3 x 5 cell (18.5v x 2 = 37volts ) . Series wiring is pretty straight forward. But you can get a plug to wire them into series so that’s not a problem.

You’ll note that the VESC operator on voltages between 8V-60V (Cells: 3-13S LiPo) but 10S is recommended in most instances

This is the most simplistic wiring possible. You could have power switches, charging ports and BMS (Battery Management Systems) etc

http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__86__85__Batteries_Accessories-Li_Poly_All_brands_.html

Charger

If you are using hobbyking style batteries without a BMS then you need a “balance” charger for your LiPo. Balance chargers have an additional little plug that charges all the cells of the battery evenly. Once again I’d try an appropriate charger from hobbyking.com.

Alternatively we’re going to make your own battery pack more details can be found here: http://www.electric-skateboard.builders/t/connecting-a-bms-quick-guide-how-to/6122

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Motor for an electric skateboard

You want an outrunner brushless motor (they have a tremendous amount of power).

Most of the suppliers listed will have a range of motors. If you’re looking at a single motor setup a larger is 6355 (length and width in millimetres) or 6375. Or even a smaller 5055.

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The other numbers you will see are kv.  To get revolutions per minute you multiple the kv by the volts to the motor. Hence think of kv as RMP.

You want a kv below 300kv but preferably around the 200kv mark. Why? You’re looking for torque/power not high speed. You can always gear it higher to get more speed but you can make a high kv motor perform better at low speeds. When you think about it you way much more you weigh than the average RC car.

The final part is sensor or no-sensor. Sensored is better. Sensors that tell where the motor is in the rotation and make for smoother starts

Connectors

Finally check that you will have all the connectors you need to connect the batteries, ESC and motor together. Most of the time the ESC comes without any connectros which you will have to solder yourself.  XT90 connectors are nice and beefy for batteries and bullet plugs for all else.

Finally consider anti-spark suppressor to stop any surges as you connect the power.

Apart from that you could add in a anti-spark suppressor and a voltage meter if you want to get fancy.

Calculate the speed of your electric skateboard

Check out my post here:  http://howtomakeanelectricskateboard.com/uncategorized/calculating-speed/

Don’t go aiming for some high top speed because you think you’re kool and will be bombing it at 100mph, remember you’re going to spend most of your time going from 0 -15kph. Also lower kv(RPM)  motors mean they’re design to pull at those lower speeds.

Motor mounts:

I’ve got a whole page on comparing the various options in market. Check that our here.

However, you’re going to need a clamp like structure to hold the motor to the truck. This is pretty straight forward these days due to the ones available for sale.

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Other ideas for motor mounts have been tried in the past including glueing, screwing, 3d printing but in the end of the day the clamp or weld methods are the only thing that lasts.

The Pulleys & Belts for an electric skatebaord

Belts

For belts most people choose a HTD 5mm teeth belts either 9mm or 12 mm wide. HTD belts have been designed to withstand loads.  The length will be defined by the cog sizes and motor mount being used,

Small pulley

The motors  have either a 8mm or 10mm core. Usually 16T (teeth). So figure out how many teeth you will need use the speed calculator above but 15 teeth should be good. e.g:

Large pulley

This needs to attach to the wheel. You can pick yourself a pre-made piece from one of the kit website or you can purchase a large pulley and fix it to the wheel. Usually 36T or 40T.

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Enclosure

Really anything works here. I’ve seen Tupperware containers to special made vacuum formed containers. Personally I’ve double sided Velcroed parts to the bottom of my board as it rarely rains where I’m from. So the enclosure is entitle preference.