Build vs. Buy
So you heard it was cheaper to build an electric skateboard than buying a complete? The truth is, it can be, but speed is not cheap. To get a quality, reliable and safe electric board here are some things to look out for.
Cost alone is never a good reason to make a decision, an electric board can be used for fun, short trips around town, and even as an everyday form of transportation. When building a custom board you can tailor the components for the purpose you intend to use it for, this means building a board is much more flexible than buying an off the shelf complete. Every custom esk8 is unique like a snowflake, a complete is more like a rain drop and every other drop next to it.
Want to get out riding now? a complete board might be the best option for you. Currently most complete boards come in a one-size-fits-all style, by keeping options simple you can save some time choosing the right board for you.
For more in depth information about electric skateboards and the technology that powers them please refer to our wiki page at wiki.esk8.today
While building your own electric skateboard, you may be able to save on cost, but you will still pay with your time. If you’ve done your research and purchased compatible parts, assembling them should only take a few hours. To help make the process as smooth as possible you want to get some basic tools and supplies before you get started.
When it comes to building a custom electric skateboard there are many things to decide on, we’ll walk you through some combinations that know work reliably and recommend quality parts to fit your budget. If you’re unsure of terms used, refer to our wiki or glossary. (link these)
Belt drive or Hub motors?
Its best to make this decision early on, because most hub motors rely on higher voltage to keep cool. Other components like wheels and trucks are usually included with hub motors. Not sure whats right for you? Here are some differences.
Belt Drive (Satellite Configuration)
Belt Drive is the most common for electric skateboards overall. The simplicity and performance make it a great option from budget builds to all out crazy performance boards. With motor mounting options that fit caliber, paris, randal and even DIY solutions for cast ronin trucks the options for using high performance downhill longboard parts are only going to get better. Wheels are also gaining options, the genuine ABEC 11 Flywheels can be hard to find in sizes 90mm and larger (Unlike regular board bigger wheels are better! ), but flywheel style wheels often called “clones” are cheap and work great in 90/97mm sizes and are available in various colors! Orangatang Kegels are also popular options, 80mm with plastic core to attach pulleys and they come in orange 80a and purple 83a. Since your motors are assisted by a torque multiplying htd5 (most common) pulley system, even a single motor can pull you up steep >20% grade hills while still reaching top speeds of 20-30+mph. Speed, acceleration and hill climbing abilities can be further customized by change gear ratios or wheel size.
Hub motors (Direct drive)
The nice thing about hub motors is they simplify a build because wheels are included and they are build around specific truck styles. Hub motors usually rely on higher voltage to help keep cool, because they drive the wheel directly the motors must produce all the torque themselves. Options for hub motors are pretty slim for custom boards as many hubs are only sold as complete boards, Carvon and steelhubs (by hummie) are some of the most popular. Hub motors usually require custom or modified wheels to fit, so options are limited. If you’re a heavy rider or plan to ride up steep hills, you’ll need dual or even quad(4x) hub motors, however a single Carvon hub can get you over 30mph on flat. But despite fewer options, the ride of hub motors is smooth and unique.
Picking your deck is an important decision, the deck is what everything is mounted to, and if you pick one too small there may not be space for batteries and electronics. A deck with a longer wheelbase usually makes for a board that is more stable at high speed, and gives the rider more options for foot placement. Flexible decks can be used but usually require batteries to be spit to opposite ends of the deck, leaving the center of the board clear and flexible. With a custom electric board, you can choose from any style of deck, from drop down to kick tail, but some require more creativity to build on, and limit motor placement.
Trucks and Wheels:
You probably already have some trucks and wheels for your skateboard or longboard, and you want to use them because they work fine right? Chances are they will not work well for an electric board.
Depending on the Drivetrain you want to use, trucks and wheel options are usually limited to just a few choices like caliber, paris, randal trucks, flywheels and kegels for wheels.
Once you’ve decided between belts and hubs, you’ll need a few more things to get going.
ESC (Electronic speed controller) – This is the main controller of your board. There have many examples using 1/8th or 1/10th scale rc car escs, but the performance of these is limited. The VESC (Vedder’s Electronic Speed Controller) is an open source project created by Benjamin Vedder, and produced by several esk8 vendors and electronics manufacturers.
For now the VESC is the only esc I recommend for electric skateboards. supports 3-12s lipo. and FOC.
Batteries – Lithium Ion or Lithium polymer batteries are the most widely used because of their high energy density. Because of the high power lithium batteries are capable of, they can also be very dangerous if mishandled. If you don’t have experience with rc/multi rotor style battery packs, you’ll probably want a complete battery pack with bms for easy charging.
100 W-hr or greater. Range = 6-8miles per 100W-hr.
If you want to take your eboard with on an airplane, you’ll want to keep your batteries at 99w-hr or less since many airlines do not allow larger packs on board. Check with your airline to be sure.
Remote – Any rc remote control will work well for this, but the standards are the flysky gt2b with a 3d printed custom enclosure for portability. The mini rc remote is also a reliable options but requires 2AA batteries that can be annoying to replace. If you have electronics experience an Arduino + nrf24 can make for a great custom controller with more programable options and i/o for extras like brake lights and turn signals.