Introduction: DIY Short Electric Skateboard
Electric Skateboards can be used as a great form of transport whether you're in the city, out in the middle of nowhere, pretty much anywhere that has a road. They can be small and compact to large and beasty.
If you are planning to make your own electric skateboard it is important that you do your RESEARCH, I spent hours and hours doing research before heading into this project, as much as it was fun figuring out issues throughout the project, Doing your research is important for YOUR safety and for the safety of OTHERS,
For any help you need and/or research you want to do, the best place I would recommend is watching Mike Beard and other youtube videos of people making and setting up their electric skateboards.
Also, https://www.electric-skateboard.builders is a forum full of electric skateboard builders who are more than happy to help you answer any questions you have, they also have lots of discussions on components and issues and a useful starter guide that is useful.
The supplies below are what I used:
- Sheet of flexiply
- DUAL VESC 4.20 100A from Flipsky
- 2.4Ghz Remote VX1 from Flipsky
- Dual hub motor kit from eBay
- antispark switch from eBay
- two 4S LiPo batteries (6.6Ah 12C 14.8V)
These are what I used, you do not have to use the exact ones, Below I'm going to explain what you need and what you should know about them.
For this project I am making my own deck for this, you can always use a preexisting deck and make modifications to it.
Making your own deck can be done in so many ways I have laser cut a plank of plywood to make a simple flat deck. I've seen Instructables on people how have made them out by sticking planks of wood together and just shaping it.
I way I do it is more-less traditional to how skateboards are made by vacuum forming sheets.
Choosing the right battery for your project is an important component to choose as they play a vital role in how fast and far you can go
There are 2 types of batteries typically used to power these products. Lithium Polymers(LiPo) and Lithium Ions(Li-ion)
LiPos tend to be cheaper than a Li-ion pack, however, you are constrained to the size of the battery and the voltage it gives out. LiPos, on the other hand, tend to have a larger output current compared to Li-ions.
Most DIYers tend to make their own Li-ion packs for electric skateboards because you can customise the voltage it gives off and the Ah of the pack, Making your own Li-ion packs involve buying 18650 cells and soldering/spot welding them together to make a pack for your battery. You'll also need to get your self a BMS for the appropriate set up of your pack that you will use. I did not make my own Li-ion pack, due to where I live, finding a supplier of reliable safe battery cells that were adequate was difficult. You could always buy a premade pack by someone to save the effort of making a pack but you might run into issues if you need to have it flown in.
VESC or ESC
Electronic speed controllers (ESC) are basically the brains of the whole project, There are 2 main categories of ESCs, you have the Vedder Electronic Speed Controller(VESC) and your regular ESC.
The VESC allows you more control when setting up your skateboard and more flexibility with your configuration.
There are 2 types of motor setups that are typically used for this, you got belt-driven setups and hub motor setups.
Belt driven setups allow for more flexibility and upgradeability over hub motor setups. Belt driven setups allows you to choose your own motor and wheels that you want to use. In addition, Hub motors have less polyurethane(the material typically used to make the wheels) thickness as the majority of the wheel is the motor and the remainder is the polyurethane.
There is a great video by Mike Beard that explains everything you need to know about motors here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJ_P3-72TxA
Enclosures: You can make your own enclosure out of sheet metal or to save weight you could vacuum form a polymer box together, however, most people save money by using Tupperware box or a sandwich box to hold and secure their electronics together.
LEDs: LEDs allows for you to have a sicker ride when riding in the dark and of course safety so other vehicles can see you, I will be using these 5V LEDs strips that I found lying around.
Remotes: You can find remotes from anywhere on the net. I wanted a remote that would tell me the battery level of the board.
Anti-spark switch: an anti-spark switch is great to prevent any sparks from ruining everything and allows you to cut off the power to the (V)ESC without having to disconnect the batteries from it every time.
I highly recommend buying materials from suppliers that are trustworthy and reliable as cheap products have a higher chance of being faulty.
I used the following suppliers for my electronics.
Flipsky: flipsky.net (They have pretty much everything from VESCs to Motors to remotes to other things you might want)
Ebay: ebay.com(definitely be careful with the suppliers here)
Hobbyking: https://hobbyking.com (They offer reasonable deals on certain parts you might need)
Step 1: Choose a Design of a Board You Want to Use
The next following steps are for if you want to make your own board for this project. You can skip to Step 6 for the rest of the set up if you have a board you want to use already.
For this board, I am using a sheet of 1mm ply, there are lots of great tutorials for other ways to make a board a non-traditional way.
I chose a simple-looking cruiser board and chose a small compact size to use. You can use the image above to choose a design you want to use.
Typical electric skateboards seem to use the longboard design because of its larger size. Furthermore, you can fit a larger battery and it is also more comfortable for longer rides.
The problem I found seeing these is that they are just too big to walk around with when your not using it, I wanted to make a small and compacted board that could be as light as possible, making it easier to travel around with.
(credit to artist MicroOne from Vector stock for this informative image on the different designs of skateboards)
Step 2: CAD
Here is what I hope to make the skateboard look like by the end
Step 3: Making the Mould
The mould consists of 2 parts of the male and female part. I used foam to make the mould, and alternative is to use wood to make it .
Then measure the size you want with a pencil and ruler to ensure both parts of the mould are equal and use the band saw to cut out the parts.
Say measure out a reasonable angle, I wanted to use and then proceeded to cut it. I used some doubled sided tape to stick to the mould. The first time I cut it the angle was too steep so I had to recut it, Ensure you test your mould with some scrap/small piece for testing.
Step 4: Cutting the Ply Sheets
I used a single sheet of ply and measured 70cm by 20cm and then cut out each sheet. You need to be careful when working with machinery like the table saw as they are high-speed moving blades that can cut you up.
Looking at what's recommended by other people who do this they use a mix of grain directions to get a stronger board, however, I cut them all in the same grain. I believe both methods work fine.
Step 5: Gluing and Vaccum Forming
For this I used a compressor and a vacuum bag, If you don’t have this equipment, vacuum bag and a vacuum cleaner should work just the same
When applying the glue to the sheets of ply It is important you put an appropriate amount of glue . As too much glue would be difficult to remove from the mould and too little would risk the likelihood of a weak board. I used a scrap piece of acrylic to spread the glue.
When vacuum forming, if you are using a thin vacuum bag make sure that when sucking the air out you pay attention to where the bag goes, with thin bags you could end up trapping the bag inside the plywood and you might puncture the bag.
Step 6: Cutting and Shaping the Deck
The most common way to mark out the shape of your deck is to print out sheets of paper and aligning them and then sticking them on to the board.
When marking the shape of the board for mine, I found that Word or the printer would resize the whole thing and it was also a waste of paper. The way I marked out the design of the board instead was to use a laser cutter to engrave the shape.
I threw an image of the shape I wanted into Illustrator and used image trace and then resized it to fit and then off you go with the laser engraver.
Step 7: Attaching the Wheels to the Deck.
This is probably, in my opinion, the most painstaking part of building your own deck, The attachment of the wheels so they are centre and aligned right.
I measured to the centre of the deck and then used 2 rulers to align up the other truck. I then drilled a small pilot hole into the hole then after removed the truck and proceded to drill through with a larger drill bit that would fit.
After attaching the wheels I noticed it moved to the left, so I had to realign it with some planks of wood on the side to line up the wheels. I then used the drill to make the holes bigger so i can pivot the trucks to line up.
After all this I used a countersink to counter sink the holes.
Step 8: Making the Series Connector for the Batteries
Making this connector is only needed if you are connecting 2 battery packs together.
Batteries in series will increase the voltage, so connecting 2 14.8 Volts battery packs together would give you 29.6 Volts. The mAh will stay the same and so will the Discharge rate.
Batteries in parallel will increase the mAh and the Discharge rate of the battery but the voltage will stay the same.
So in summary batteries in series gives your board more power whereas batteries in parallel give your board a longer ride time.
Making the series connector involves 2 female connectors and depending on the connector attached to your VESC/ESC a Male or a female connector. I put a pool of solder into the connector and then a bit of solder on the wire to allow for a better connection between the connector and the wire, I also used shrink wrap to insulate it.
I used a clamp to hold the connector while soldering as when soldering the connector the connector would get hot and hard to hold on to.
Step 9: Connecting and Setting Up the VESC
The VESC I bought didn't have a connector on the power lines so I connected a female connector to it.
The motor wires on the VESC were all the same colour whereas the motor wires on the motor were Blue, green and yellow. The documentation didn't say what each cable is, so I did trail and error to find out which way round it was.
In addition to soldering the connector, I had to solder on a makeshift CAN-BUS connector as the internal CANBUS connector on the VESC wasn't working. The CAN-BUS connector is used to connect 2 VESCS together so then you only need one remote control to control both at the same time.
I double insulated the soldering on the motor wires with shrink wrap as it was connecting a thicker wire to a thinner wire.
Setting up the VESC
Setting up the VESC involves downloading a tool called VESC tool from here: https://vesc-project.com/vesc_tool
You can get the free version at the bottom of the link.
When setting up the VESC make sure you are using the batteries you are going to use with it and not a power supply for testing.
Step 10: Making the Enclosure for the Battery and Electronics
Making the mould of the enclosure I used some MDF cut them cut to the sizes I made using fusion and drawings.
As I wasn't sure about the melting temperature of Aliphatic resin emulsion glues(titebond) so I decided I would screw the pieces that make up the enclosure instead. As I didn't have screws that were the right length I screwed the bottom 2 sections together and then screwed the top section to the bottom 2, as the diagram shows, I also used wood filler to fill out the screw holes and sanded them level.
(Using the mould I checked to see if it fits on the board and to see if the electronics would fit in the dimensions.)
After making the main mould piece I attached it to another piece of MDF that would help with the moulding, By adding the holes in the place I did it would help with the suction of the thermoplastic, as a pose to multiple points of suction, by concentrating the suction to around the mould the plastic would form better.
I used a range of thickness of plastics to see which would come out the best, the thickest material had a curve on the bottom making it difficult to attach to the board. The thinnest material moulded perfectly however due to the thickness of it, it would be easy to break. Therefore I used the material that was right in the middle of both and it came out perfect.
To shape the enclosure on to the deck, I simply attached it onto the deck with some screws and then sanded down the edges till it met up with the board. Becare to not sand the deck.
Step 11: Spray Painting the Enclosure
As I mistakenly attached the VESC into the enclosure already and drilled the holes to let the wires out I had to tape the ends of the wire with masking tape and also seal the back with paper with double-sided tape.
It is important to remember when spray painting to do lots of thin coats instead of thick coats, also be sure to work in a well-ventilated area and to wear safety goggles.
As the enclosure will be on the bottom of the skateboard it will be likely that rocks and dirt can be kicked up and scratch it, so I did at least 10 thin coats of black spray paint and then 10 more of clear coating spray paint.
Step 12: Attaching the Enclosure to the Deck
Originally I used 6 screws to screw the encolsure on to the deck. However I wanted a easier way to remove the enclosure when wanting to charge the batteries. The way i did it was then to stick velcro on it then it will stick however during testing when a large bump or force is applied then it comes off, the way to fix this was to use 4 screws.
To remove the excess velcro I used a craft knife to cut it off.
I also used doubled sided tape to attach the receiver onto one side so it doesn't rattle around.
Step 13: Reconnect the Motor Cables
When reconnecting your motor cables make sure that you do not leave it too long that it would scrap against the ground or that it would get caught by any debris you ride over, but also make sure you leave just enough length for you to be able to lift up the enclosure without ripping out the wires.
Step 14: Adding the Power Switch
The anti-spark switch was from amazon and it looks like it was handmade, it has a 100A fuse to keep your electronics have from surges.
The first issue I ran into was that the wire from the PCB was 10 AWG and the wires from the VESC and batteries were 12 AWG, so to attach these 2 wires together I shoved them into each other so they mixed together and then soldered on it, When doing this I tried to make sure that the solder would seep in between the wires.
Adding the power switch to the enclosure I used a 10 mm drill bit which was the biggest size I had, this was about a 1 mm or 2 mm too small and I had to use a scalpel to try and widen the hole.
During the installation of the power switch into the enclosure I accidentally broke the wiring inside and had to buy a replacement for 7USD from aliexpress. So from this, I recommend not twisting your power switch when installing it if it is a cheap one.
Step 15: Skid Pads
As I realised during usage that the tail would hit the ground a bit violently when picking up the skateboard I decided I would add a cork pad onto the back of the tail to protect the tail from chipping or being damaged.
I got a cork sheet and traced the tail on to it and then used a scapel to cut up the cork, Then using wood glue and lots of clamps I attached it to the board and removed any excess glue that was dripping out with a damp cloth.
When the glue is dry I used the craft knife to remove the excess and to make the cork flushed with the board.
Step 16: Attachment for Remote Control
I wanted to find a way to attach the remote to the skateboard when its in storage or when it's not powered.
Therefore I got a strip of velcro and attached it to the side of the skateboard on the right as I am right-handed and the remote is meant for your right hand. To make sure the velcro stays on the remote and enclosure I used some super glue to attach it together.
Step 17: Testing
I used a road nearby and went up and down with my phone in my pocket and used 2 speedometer apps.
The max speed I got was 22km/h (13MPH) I didn't record the distance I travelled as it was just up and down. The batteries had 16.00V and 16.07V after 1hour and 51 minutes.
Runner Up in the