First, the logical question that comes to mind: why bother? Why don’t you just buy the pre-built skateboard from a dealer, with warranty and money back guarantee? Well, anyone who has ever made anything knows the feeling – that sense of pride and accomplishment for this thing you’ve created with your own two hands. Moreover, you will have a unique ride built specifically for you, through the process of building your own board you will get to know your ride to the last nut and bolt, you will learn how everything works and be able to fix whatever breaks. You will also be able to customize it according to your preference: make it faster, extend its range, design the look.
First step in electric skateboard home build is to decide how much of the work you want to do yourself. That mainly depends on the tools you have available, and the level of technical knowledge you possess (although, if you have never built an electrically powered board, it will definitely be a learning experience). You can choose to start from scratch and build all the elements yourself, or you can make the whole process easier by using the electric skateboard kit.
Electric Skateboard Kit
Electric skateboard kits allow you to transform any skateboard/longboard into a super awesome electric transportation device. While it is much easier to build from purpose made parts and assemblies, it still requires a certain level of technical skill, and you need to be familiar with all the parts. It’s somewhat similar to assembling a piece of furniture from IKEA, you get all the components you need, but it’s mostly up to you to figure out how to put them together. So if you do not know how to use a screwdriver and a power drill, maybe you should get yourself a pre-built electric skateboard.
If there is nothing ready-made on the market that you would buy, and you think building your own electric skateboard or longboard would be a better option, the easiest way to do this is to look for electric skateboard kits. Building an e-skateboard using kit is the best way to get quality ride at a lower price, especially if you already have a deck. The DIY kits allow you to convert your standard longboard/skateboard into a powerful electric vehicle!
The DIY electric skateboard industry is growing stronger, there is a nice range of high quality kits available from companies that are dedicated to serve the emerging self-built e-board market. These companies are developing batteries, writing code, engineering motor systems and figuring out pieces of technology at every point in between, and will give you all the customer support and help you might need with your project. We are not sure you will get the same treatment if you decide to offer cheaper DIY kits and parts from China.
Best Electric Skateboard Kits
Here is a list of tried and tested DIY electric skateboard kits that we think are worth considering. The only thing you need to do with almost all of these kits is to mount them to the board. This makes a long and difficult process of building an e-board incredibly easy and straightforward.
The Airwheel M3 is a full kit that comes with the deck. Basically it is an electric skateboard that comes disassembled. The deck that is included has already drilled holes for mounting all the components. The motor setup can be mounted on any decks you want. This board is very easy to ride. Built-in dampeners in the trucks to make the ride very smooth. The wheels are… strange. The rubber tires should enhance the smoothness of the ride, and they do to the degree, but the problem is that they tend to wear out. The guys behind this ride wanted to make this ride suitable for everyone, even for those that never have ridden skateboard, but seems like they got carried away with reinventing the wheel. But, this wheels do make this skateboard ride easily even on the rough terrain.
The huge downside of Airwheel M3 is that the performance is not even close to the advertised specs. This board is advertised with a top speed of 12 mph and a 12 miles range, but the top speed can only be reached if you weigh less than 130 lbs or are going downhill. If you are heavier than 150 lbs you will get to 9 mph top on flat. 12 miles range could maybe be reached in the first gear, but in the top gear you will only be able to travel half the distance. Another not so attractive feature is the bulky battery hanging below the board.
However, you get a lot of great parts: the complete trucks with wheels, a motor, Samsung battery, a deck for a very affordable price, plus you get the 6 month warranty on the battery and 1 year warranty on other components (except the wheels), and you can track and tweak your ride via app available on both Android and iOS. A great deal overall!
Maxfind Dual Motor Kit
We have reviewed the Maxfind Dual Motor electric skateboard. Well did you know that you can buy any of the parts of this good value e-skateboard you need in case you want to build one yourself. You can buy the parts separately or a whole pack that includes: 2 motors + 2 normal wheels, front truck, back truck, battery box + charger, remote controller, T tool and user manual. Specs? In theory similar to the Maxfind Electric Skateboard, so not too bad. In the ocean of the cheap Chinese parts, these actually offer some quality.
Eon by Unlimited
Eon Electric skateboard kit is a high end kit, currently only available for pre-order via Indiegogo. It is the first modular conversion kit. The kit includes the first ever direct drive hub motor that bolts onto any truck without modification. You can use any board or any trucks, simply bolt on the motors and you’re off. You can opt for single motor or dual motor kit, one battery pack or two. With the best setup you are supposed to reach the top speed of 22mph and a max range of 15 miles and climb 20 degree hills. This may be a sneak peek into the future of build-you-own-electric-ride industry. I expect to see a lot more Plug & Play solutions for converting your regular longboard into an electric one in the future.
Mellow has finally started shipping! Mellow Drive started as a Kickstarter campaign way back in 2015, and after two years of announcements, testing, tempting YouTube videos, they have finally started shipping orders to their backers. What about the rest of the world?
Mellow is the first ever drive system for turning any skateboard into an electric one that can be mounted under any deck. It’s as simple as it can get- just unscrew your rear truck and replace it with the Mellow Drive. Designed and made in Germany, Mellow Drive consists of a one piece module; trucks, hub-motors, battery pack and speed controller enclosure. The battery is easily swappable, so you can extend the range on the go. This is supposed to be a premium quality product with every little detail refined to perfection.
That being said Mellow Drive is really expensive! With that amount of money you can buy 2nd generation Boosted Board Dual+ and not wait forever to get it. Is it worth it? I guess we will have to wait for a little bit longer to see.
But there are already Chinese knock-offs showing up, like this one I found on Amazon:
Torqueboards Parts and Pre-Built Kits
Started as a part-time hobby in San Francisco, Torqueboards is now one of the largest retailers of electric skateboard kits and parts. On their website DIYElectricSkateboard.com you can find a wide selection of electric skateboard motors and motor mounts, hub motors, kits, remotes, batteries and everything you need to build your own e-skateboard. Here you will find single and dual motor mechanical kits, complete with the wheels, trucks and motor mounts and also ready-made electrical kits. Torqueboards has been a pretty established vendor for a while and many people are using their products without many complaints.
Enertionboard Electric Skateboard Kits / Parts
If you have ever read anything about building your own electric skateboard you must have heard of Enertionboard. The Australian startup has been a well-known name in the DIY e-board community for quite some time. They offer high-quality kits that have everything you need included in them minus the deck. This is probably the “most DIY” kit you can find, since you will have to put everything together, and even be ready to do some modifications as you go.
Update: I am not actually sure whether they are still selling assembled kits, they have concentrated their efforts on their awesome electric skateboard called Raptor 2, but you can still buy most of the parts you need for building your DIY board on their website.
They have had some issues with customer service and shipping the orders, however they are a new company, so I hope it’s just teething problems and they will get their act together soon. If you heck out their website you will find lots of high quality parts and kits, and even complete skateboards. You will also find guys who know what they are doing, and not just reselling imported parts from China.
Building an Electric Skateboard from Scratch
Process of building an electric longboard from scratch is difficult and it depends on what you are expecting from your custom build. First thing you would need to do is a whole lot of reading and research. The two best resources for aspiring DIYers are the two forums – the electric-skateboard.builders and the Endless-sphere forum, plus there is a very supportive community that will help you with your questions and dilemmas.
Depending on whether you plan to use hub motors or to build a satellite configuration, plan a single motor or a dual motor drive, the list of parts is going to be slightly different, although basics are the same. Here is a quick guide on what you need to build your own electric skateboard/longboard:
Obviously, you will have to get a deck if you already do not have one. Almost any board can be motorized, so it is completely up to you and depends on what you are hoping to achieve with your project. If you want more stability and enough space for all of the components it is best to get a longboard style deck. Also, make sure that it is not too much of a drop-down, since you are going to need more clearance, because the battery and all of the electronics go to the bottom of the board. If you have some extra time and some plywood lying around you can make your own deck.
Wheels & Trucks
Wheels and trucks are an important factor in overall smoothness of the ride. The wheels are usually made of polyurethane, material with both good bounce and grip. Besides having durable wheels, it is equally important to get the right size. Bigger wheels mean more stability, smaller wheels more torque. Most commonly people use wheels between 80mm & 90mm diameter.
As for the trucks, using regular skateboard truck will require you to make some modifications, either to fit the hub motors on it (if it’s even possible), or to attach the motor mount. If you are doing it from scratch it is some serious DIY including cutting, grinding and filing, so if you do not have the tools, you can get the whole assembly.
Motors & Motor Mount
Couple years ago the satellite configuration, or assembly of a motor, motor mount hardware, drive belt and pulleys was the only common option for propelling DIY electric skateboard. Then, the hub motors appeared as a very convenient and affordable option on production e-boards, and they’ve found their way into the DIY world as well. Belt drive has much more parts, but it is also more flexible and gives you control over every part. Hub motors are very stealth and elegant solution, but you won’t be able to change the wheels, and you can’t just use them with any skateboard trucks. Ultimately it comes down to your preference and the riding style.
Motor mount is the most interesting part of the build especially if you decide to make one yourself. People usually make the mounts by cutting an aluminum plate, though I’ve seen a guy that used doubled 12mm plywood to make his. You will need to design it to accommodate the motor and the trucks, then cut it with the CNC machine (or have it cut), and then attach it to the trucks. Most common way of attaching the motor mount to the trucks is welding. Alternatively you can bolt/clam it on. It is great if you can make the motor mount in a way that allows you to adjust the difference between the motor and the wheels, so you can get the right belt tension.
Belts & Pulleys
If you decide to go with the satellite setup, you will need couple of pulleys and a belt. Smaller pulley goes to the shaft of the motor, and it connect with the belt to the larger pulley on the wheel. The large pulley is attached to the wheel. You can pick yourself a pre-made piece from one of the kit stores or you can purchase a large pulley and fix it to the wheel with fully threaded bolts. Don’t forget a large washer on the outside and thread-locking because they tend to unscrew themselves. Pulleys and belt together make the drivetrain, which basically defines the performance of your e-board.
ESC or Electronic Speed Controller is the brain of your electric skateboard. Its purpose is to vary an electric motor’s speed, its direction and possibly to act as a dynamic brake. Budget-conscious DIY electric skateboard builders use ESC from hobby shops. They work ok, but they just didn’t have the necessary features required for building a good and safe electric ride. The most important thing is to get ESC that is powerful enough so it doesn’t burn out. So look for 120amp and up.
But the ESC is not the part where it makes sense to save money. And there is a solution far superior to any RC car or boat ESC. It’s called the VESC. Benjamin Vedder has created this little circuit board that made the entire community of DIY electric skateboard builders very happy. It is an open source, highly programmable, high voltage, reliable speed controller specifically designed for electric skateboards. The VESC needs to be configured specifically according to your motor setup, but when you learn how to manage it, the customization possibilities are almost endless.
Battery & Charger
The cheapest batteries for an electric skateboard you can get are those hobby RC battery packs. These packs are typically LiPo batteries connected together so they offer good power and are very affordable. However the LiPo batteries, or should I say, the improper use of LiPo batteries, has been known to cause fire. If you are going to use LiPo batteries you will also need a BMS,
Remote & Receiver
Electric skateboards are usually controlled by RF or Bluetooth remote control. To control your e-board remotely you will need two things a transmitter, remote control that sends a signal, and a receiver that connects to the ESC. Today there is more and more models of remotes for electric skateboards, so you don’t have to use those bulky handheld remotes from hobby store anymore. Unless you want to.
Is building your own skateboard cheap?
Many people decide to try and build their own skateboard because they think it will be cheaper than buying a production board. That is not entirely true. While with the help of some serious planning and research you can build a better electric longboard than a pre-made one, for less money, it is very easy to fall into the “false economy” trap. By focusing only on the budget, and buying cheap parts and cheap electronic, you will not get a reliable and high performance ride. If your only motivation for taking on this project is because you think it’s going to be cheaper, than you will be better off looking for a cheap ready-made models online, because you will end up:
- with something that won’t work like you’ve hoped;
- spending way more than you have planned in the long run because cheap parts will break very fast or
- abandoning your project half way and spending the rest of your life disappointed in yourself and the DIY electric skateboards
The list above is not the complete list of the parts you need and this article is not meant to be an instruction on how to build a DIY electric skateboard. This is merely a light introduction to the world of DIY e-boards, and a general overview of the process and the parts you will need for your build. For detailed instructions and some real advice, head onto the two forums mentioned above and do some serious research before engaging into your own project. I am planning to start my own project in the near future, and I will be posting all about it on the blog, so stay tuned. Or even better, follow me on twitter, Facebook or Instagram, and subscribe to the EKS8 newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news.