09 Jun How do Electric Skateboards Work?
Electric skateboards can seem like magical things – one moment you’re perfectly still and the next your flying through the air without even doing anything.
It can feel like riding your own flying carpet sometimes! (Yes, all of those wannabe Aladdins you see on those joke Youtube videos are actually using electric skateboards.)
But there’s nothing mystical or even that complex about how electric skateboards work – they’re just like regular skateboards with a few extra parts, in fact.
For those who have ever wondered “how does my electric skateboard (or longboard) work actually,” this article is for you. Here, we’re going to cover what an e-board technically is, the parts it’s made out of, and how all they work together in order to do the voodoo that they do so well.
Understanding how your e-board works can only lead to good things. You’ll know when and when not to use it, its strengths and weaknesses, and the reasons behind its performance. Finish this article, and you’ll be one step closer to being a better rider.
What is an Electic Skateboard, Exactly?
An electric skateboard, also referred to as an e-board, is fundamentally very similar to a regular skateboard: both are personal mobility devices composed of two sets of wheels mounted on a board or deck that vary in length. Portability and maneuverability are very important features to both.
The key difference between an electric skateboard and a regular skateboard, and the thing that really makes the former unique, is the presence of an electric drive system. This drive system, composed of a battery, motor, and various electric components, removes the need for them to use their legs to accelerate or decelerate.
Rather than having to kick, push, and brake using their feet, electric skateboard riders instead rely upon a remote to control the board. This remote communicates with the motor signaling it to go forward, slow down, or stop. All you have to do as the rider is lean, turn, and enjoy the ride.
That is an electric skateboard in nutshell. Of course, there is a bit more to it than just a motor and battery though. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty here soon and focus on the different parts of an electric skateboard and explain the purpose of each one.
For now, let’s go over a few advantages of using an electric skateboard vs a regular one.
Pros and Cons of Riding an Electic Skateboard
Less physically demanding
Easier to accelerate
More portable and affordable than other types of personal transport, like e-bikes
Responsive and agile
Need to be used with more caution
More components mean more things can break
Bit of a learning curve
Not for children
Bit heavier than regular boards
What Are the Important Parts of an Electric Skateboard?
The following are the crucial parts of an electric skateboard. Without these, most e-boards would work.
We’ll go over each of these parts now so you have a better idea of what they do.
The battery stores and provides the electricity necessary to power an e-board’s motor and other electrical components. Without it, an electric skateboard would just be any other regular skateboard.
The battery is the heaviest, largest, and most expensive part of an electric longboard. The bigger the battery, the longer the range, and the higher the price.
Most electric skateboard batteries are made of lithium-ion. Lithium polymer and LiPro4 batteries are possible but less common. Lithium batteries do need to be treated a certain way both for the sake of extending their lifespan and for safety.
The motor of your electric skateboard converts electrical power into mechanical power. Mechanical power is transferred from the motor to the wheel usually via a series of pulleys and/or belts. When the pulley in the motor spins, it causes the wheels to turn.
There are two types of motors used in electric skateboards: hub motors and belt motors.
Hub motors are located within the wheels themselves. They’re smaller, quieter, and generally less conspicuous than belt motors. They are also less powerful, tend to overheat due to a lack of airflow, and are prone to break more easily.
Belt motors are larger and louder than hub motors but are much more powerful and reliable. The motor itself is located on the bottom of the deck and, when powered, turns the wheels using rotating belts. Belt motors are the standard when it comes to electric skateboards. The extra weight does make boards with belt motors a bit more cumbersome and harder to do tricks.
Most electric skateboard motors these days are brushless. Brushless motors involve magnetism and the technical aspects are pretty complicated to explain. This article explains them in-depth if you’re interested in learning more.
Electric skateboard and longboard wheels aren’t any different than the usual kind. Most are made of firm polyurethane material. The larger the wheel, the faster and more stable the board.
Skateboard wheels are able to spin thanks to ball bearings inside them. The bearings themselves are composed of several parts – like rings and steel balls – that together sit between the wheel and the axle. The smoother the bearing, the smoother the ride. Ball bearings do degrade quite easily though so they usually need to be replaced more often.
Off-roading electric skateboards will need special all-terrain wheels. These are pneumatic (full of air) and made of rubber, rather than solid polyurethane. This allows the wheel to handle rugged terrain more easily.
The deck is the “board” in “skateboard”. Usually, it’s a single piece made from one or more materials, like bamboo, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. The deck is then covered in grip tape to provide traction for the rider.
A good skateboard deck will be firm and flexible at the same time, which will allow it to handle blunt forces without snapping. Some decks, especially those on electric longboards, are very flexible.
Differently shaped decks serve different purposes. Wider, longer decks are better for speed and stability. Shorter decks are better for doing tricks. Other decks are specifically made for going down hills or carving.
Linky’s deck is unique because it is actually composed of two separate pieces. This is so the board may fold in half.
A skateboard’s trucks are what allow you to turn and provide the necessary suspension. When you lean on the deck, the weight is transferred to the trucks, which then turn depending on the direction of the weight.
Without trucks, your board would just go straight forward no matter how you lean.
Most skateboard trucks are made of metal and are composed of several different parts. A few notable components include the baseplate, axel, hanger, and kingpin.
A critical component of the trucks are the bushings. These dictate how smoothly or sharply you can turn with the board. If the bushings are stiffer, turns will be less exaggerated and more steady. Looser, and you will be able to make tighter turns more quickly.
Electronic Speed Controller (ESC)
This component, which resembles a small motherboard, is the brain of your electric skateboard. The electronic speed controller, or ESC, manages how much power is drawn from the battery, which is then provided to the motor or brakes.
A good electronic speed controller will be able to handle and distribute electricity effectively to either the wheels or brakes. A poor one will have bottleneck issues (like electric traffic jams) and will break more easily.
The remote control is how you make an electric skateboard accelerate and decelerate. All of them are designed to be held in your hand.
Different e-boards use different kinds of remote controls. Some controllers use a joystick in order to handle acceleration and deceleration. Tilt forward and the board accelerates; tilt backward and the brakes are applied. Others use a trigger on the rear of the remote to do the same: press hard to go faster, lighter to go slower.
Aside from controlling speed, some electric skateboard controllers come with extra features. For example, Linky’s remote control allows the rider to also check the battery level and select different riding modes.
An electric skateboard’s brakes are what slows it down and brings it to an eventual stop. Very important, obviously.
There are three types of brakes to consider: friction, dynamic, and regenerative braking.
Friction braking is the simplest and most outdated of the bunch. As the name implies, it involves applying pressure to the wheel in order to generate heat, which then slows the wheel down.
Dynamic braking is similar to friction braking in that it uses heat to slow down the wheels. The difference here is that dynamic braking uses an electrical current rather than friction to generate this heat.
Finally, regenerative braking is a special form of dynamic braking where heat is not dissipated via a resistor but transferred back to the battery as energy. In layman’s terms, you charge the battery when you brake.
Most electric skateboards these days use regenerative braking.
Electic skateboards come with all sorts of extra bells and whistles these days, like LED lights and more. If you want to pimp out your electric skateboard, check out all of the best accessories here.
So How does an Electric Skateboard Work?
To understand how all of the above works in tandem, let’s imagine we’re riding an electric skateboard now. Here’s what will happen:
- You place your board on the ground, prepare yourself, turn it on, and mount it (lightly of course). Some people like to test the board before riding it by giving it just a little power with the remote control.
- You assume the position (knees bent, ready to move) and gently push the joystick on the remote control forward. The controller sends a signal to the electronic speed controller, which then directs power to the motor(s). The motor begins to rev and the wheels begin to spin.
- The electric skateboard is now moving forward! The harder you push down on the joystick or trigger, the more power the motor will output and the faster you will go.
- As you’re riding, you’ll lean in order to turn. Put pressure on your toes to turn right and on your heels to turn left, or vice versa if you ride goofy-footed (right foot forward). The trucks influence how tightly you can turn on your board.
- Preparing to stop, you’ll slowly pull the joystick on the remote controller back or let up on the trigger. This signals the ESC to apply the brakes and the motor begins to taper off. Revolutions decrease, the wheels don’t spin as fast, and your board begins to slow down. Eventually, you come to stop.
- Dismount your board, turn it off, pick it up, and head to your next destination.
Congratulations! You just completed your first ever imaginary electric skateboard ride.
Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Electric Skateboards
Can electric skateboards go up hills?
Generally speaking, yes, electric skateboards can handle hills well enough. Some are just better at doing than others. The more powerful your electric skateboard motor is, the better it will be at handling inclines.
Note that when we say power, we’re not referring to max speed, rather the torque. Torque is the amount of force your motor can apply per rotation and not the number of rotations it can achieve in a given timeframe. Torque is much more important than speed when it comes to handling hills, even more so when you’re off-roading with your electric skateboard as well.
Are electric skateboards safe to ride?
Electric skateboards are safe to ride, just so long as you know what you’re doing.
Most e-board accidents happen because the rider is in over their head and has landed themself in a dangerous situation. Going too fast, having undeveloped balance, failing to turn properly, and riding in hectic environments, like busy city streets, can all be problematic for riders.
The key to riding safely is knowing how to ride an electric skateboard in the first place. You need to be able to recognize danger and then avoid it. Granted, the unexpected can always happen but experienced riders are better at preventing it.
Can I travel with my electric skateboard?
It has become increasingly difficult to travel on an airplane with an electric skateboard in recent years. This is mostly due to increased reports of faulty or poorly-made personal mobility devices, like OneWheels, spontaneously combusting.
Despite these incidents and stricter travel regulations, it is still possible to fly with your electric skateboard. We’ve done it ourselves with a Linky and lots of others have as well.
The key is to know both the federal laws as well as the regulations of the airlines. If a certain company is known to ban electric skate skateboards definitively, then you probably shouldn’t fly with that company. If another is supposedly a bit more lenient then your chances are higher.
To get a better idea of what it takes to travel with an electric skateboard, refer to our comprehensive article on the subject here.
Are electric skateboards legal?
Yes and no. It’s actually a bit complicated.
The thing is: there are no laws at all governing electric skateboards at the moment, at least in the US.
But that doesn’t mean you can do whatever or go wherever you want with them. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. You see, all modes of transport need to have some sort of regulations attached before they can be used in public. This goes for bikes, cars, scooters, any and all.
So because there are few if any laws for electric skateboards, they’re technically not permitted on the roads. Rather, they ought to be used only on personal property.
That being said, people still ride their electric skateboards all the time in public and nothing bad happens. Doesn’t matter if they’re going to the shop for groceries or just trying to ride across campus – if you use your e-board respectively and don’t endanger anyone unnecessarily, the odds of you being harassed by the law are unlikely.
Although some of their individual components can be complicated, electric skateboards are not. They’re essentially a skateboard with a few extra bells and whistles.
Never fails either: throw a battery and a motor on anything and it suddenly becomes 10x more fun to use.
You don’t need to know every technical aspect of an electric skateboard in order to use it. Just that there is a battery that you need to take care of and a remote control that you need to know how to use. Nail these and you should have no problem using one.
That’s it for this week’s Linky blog article. If you have further questions about how an electric skateboard or longboard works, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer them.
Ride easy, folks.