Electric TurfBoard (FAIL)

About: A lowly geologist who likes to build stuff.

The concept of electric skateboards has always piqued my interest; they are the closest thing we have to Marty's McFly's hoverboard. There is no lack of working production models and cool DIY projects:


I wanted to take a crack at it myself, but the components seemed more expensive than the a fully functional board (≈500$). Once I saw the "Turfboard Deville" being liquidated on Ebay, I knew I had to make it happen. Skip to the last step to see the disappointing results (so far...maybe) otherwise check out what I've attempted to do in the steps. Feel free to comment if you have an elegant solutions to my design issues.

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Step 1: Hardware

The Turf Deville is a trully HUGE BOARD: tall and long enough to tuck all the components neatly under the board. It is also gnarly looking with knobby tires, and red spring. The people that developed this beast must have lost their shirts developing and manufacturing it. The reviews online unanimously panned the board for being too heavy, unmaneuverable and implementing an obsolete snowboard binding system. None of these were cause for concern for my project.

Note that the kids in this video likely have had their knees replaced... (did I mention heavy?)

Items that I used for construction (failed attempt):
  1. 48v-1000w-motor-controller-throttle-kit at Monster Scooter Parts (180$)
  2. TurfBoard Deville (80$) no longer available...
  3. 48V Lithium EBike Battery at Golden Motor (470$): I already have this and have been using it for other projects such as the Electric-Snowcat-Pico
  4. Sprocket set that fits onto the motor and brake cylinder (30$)
  5. Handle bars from a Razor E200 scooter
The sprockets was more of a challenge than expected. The tip on the motor is not "D" shaped but rather, it is flattened on two sides. I eventually went to a machine shop to get a sprocket to fit as well as boring holes and threading them into the brake cylinder into which I attached the wheel sprocket (both from pocket bikes).

Step 2: Installing Motor and Chain

Both rear wheels had extra cylinders bolted onto the rear wheels that were used for braking (see first picture). I elected to sacrifice one of these to attach the sprocket (stopping has not been my main concern!). I had a holes drilled and threaded at a machinist shop to enable me to attach the sprocket (purchased from a dirt-bike shop).

I simply drilled through the board and bolted the motor in place. The chain was shortened by grinding one of the link bolts off and using a replaceable link. I ended up shortening it by one link; better to shorten than lengthen (always). To add a little tension I jacked up one end of the motor from the board with some spacers. The chain tightness was just right at this point.
  1. After the first failed trial (chain skipped off), I significantly tightened the truck bolt to compress the rubber and stiffen the unit.
  2. I replaced the rubber cushions with steel rings: fail.
  3. I used stainless steel tie wraps to limit the spreading between the wheels: fail.

Step 3: Steering

This part of the project gave me major head-aches. I desperately wanted the trucks to be sufficient effective to make a turn, this would make the build SO much easier. However, even with both trucks loosened all the way, the turning radius was 100 yards; and I knew that I would have to firm up one set of trucks to attach the motor. I reluctantly decided to go for a scooter type of design. 

I wanted to preserve the suspension and wheels, which left me with very few options. I eventually decided to thread a piece of square tubing through a space in trucks and into a set of handle bars from a old kids scooter I picked up (E200). It is frankly a bad solution: it is not smooth and tilts the board in the opposite direction that you would want. I am not sure that I will pick up this project at a later date, but I would likely have to completely rethink the steering. Maybe attach the front end of a scooter and make a single wheel fit in the forks. Frustrating...  

Step 4: Installing the Electronics

This part was rather easy as I had previously wired the whole kit together for the Electric-Snowcat-Pico. You basically follow the instructions that come with the kit. One detail that can cause issues is that you need to join the red and blue wires.

Step 5: Anatomy of a Failed Project

I have probably spent 100 hours on this project and I cannot imagine it working properly due to two MAJOR issues with the current design:
  1. Chain Skipping: I cant get more than 10 meters before the chain inevitably skips. I have a few potential solutions (killing the shock on this side, screw in the second support on the truck). I am not convinced that this will be sufficient to stabilize the truck. 
  2. The steering mechanism is frankly very weak. It is unreliable and tilt out of the turn. It feels like it is dumping you out of the turn. I may Frankenstein an entire scooter front into the design; I would prefer to keep 4 wheels because the wheel base is already pretty narrow.
Check out the videos below to see the last ride and some sad commentary in the garage. I may pick this one back up one day (not today).

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    17 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I am working on a build with that exact board you cut into pieces lol.
    Do you think...
    1. Belt drive would fix the chain jumping problem?
    2. Attaching a motor mount directly to the braces of the shocks that way the motor will always be in direct line with drive wheel?
    3. A two wheel drive setup would work? 2- 24v 500w reversable motors.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    i hope you have more luck than i did. belt drive could help, but i think the main issue will be that the wheel mount will always flex, but your motor mount will not. if you can find a way to mount the motor to the braces as you've suggested, this could be your ticket (my motor was massive...). I don't see why 2 motors couldn't work. I am very curious how you intend to steer the beast, let me know how it goes!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    You should note that you have the chain mounted on an inverted suspension system. The Turfboard will not turn properly because you have the suspension system backwards. The swing arms should be pointing in the opposite direction. Shocks to the inside. You should also note that no ones knees were replaced and the board performed on its own. I do agree that the final product was 29# and subsequently overbuilt. I have redesigned the Turfboard and it now is under 15#. Far better design.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comments. Am I to understand that you were involved with this product? If so, much respect, the board looks amazing and looked like a blast to use. Although I never bought it, or tried it, for it's intended purpose. I also did not intend on using the trucks to turn, particularly on the end with the chain, essentially fixed them as they stand. I installed them correctly for my initial tests and pretty much Frankensteined it as the project evolved. I ended up using the wheels for my firewood dolly project. Do you know if the wheels are available for sale anywhere, particularly the slicks which looked awesome!?


    6 years ago on Step 5

    Try looking at sprocket guards. Round piece of metal that attaches to the sprocket, looks like a sprocket with no teeth. One on either side with enough of a gap to allow for the chain.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment.
    I hadn't considered that, I could make one out of sheet metal and attach it to the sprocket with some washers to give it some space. Thanks for the comment.


    6 years ago on Step 5

    You could try a "V" belt. Perhaps an undersized one so that if it comes a little loose it will still stay in the pulley. They are very inexpensive and will still function if they are slightly out of alignment. I believe the chain is coming off not because it is loose but because the suspension is compressed on one side when you turn or shift your weight. This would then put the sprockets out of alignment with each other and the chain would come off.

    3 replies

    Thanks for the comment. I'm a little bit of a bike nut so I would not have considered a belt. But a belt might just be the solution I'm looking for!

    I used to work for Goodyear a long time ago and V belts were one of the products I sold. Good luck and if you could send me an update. You could look at pulleys from a furnace blower or various car engine parts. Any store that has parts for the agricultural market would have a good supply as well.

    I think your issue is that the motor is mounted to the board and the wheels move independently from the board due to the suspension. This is going to cause the chain loop distance and angel to vary not just in turns but also as you apply power. I have one of the professional models that works pretty well, but I rarely use it. It also suffers from a poor turning radius and must be used in big open areas (not what I bought it for). The motor on the board I have is mounted to a plate that mounts directly to the axel. This keeps the chain length and angle fixed. You could try to mount the motor to the suspension arm of the wheel you are driving. That should keep the chain distance and angle constant. It would also allow you to loosen up the suspension for a better turning radius.

    Before I bought my turf board I thought about buying buying a used electric scooter and mounting the rear drive to the back of the turf board (making it a three wheeler). You might try that as the motor drive will already be worked out. A used electric scooter should be pretty cheep if the battery is dead. You could always buy a longer set of trucks for the front if you want more stability. If you keep the scooter handle bars, you might try shortening the distance between the front and rear wheels for a better turning radius.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1 reply

    Thanks for the awesome input. I had started a new comment instead of hitting reply...

    I had considered mounting the motor directly on the truck/suspension, but the motor is HUGE and didn't fit. I am sure I will pick this project up in a few months (I get heartburn just looking at it now), and I'll be sure to update this instructable.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment. I was considering threading a single rod across both axles (both on the back) as a next step. Good idea on a tensioner as well.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Don't give up, you are so close to having something really fun.
    It looks like you chain problem has to do with the location of the suspension pivot point and the location of the drive motor. In a perfect world you would like to have the motor shaft and the suspension pivot in the exact same location which would eliminate the chain from going tight or slack depending on the amount of suspension compression. This would be a lot of work requiring an intermediate shaft and a second chain. So an other option is to relocate the pivot point onto an imaginary line drawn between the axis of the motor and the axis rear wheel when the rear suspension is compressed to its normal operating mode ( look at a motor cycle and you will see that the three points are always close to being inline). A third option is eliminate the rear suspension. Do you really need it? Those tires look like they will soften the ride. Does the board have independent suspension, if so, that might be part of the turning radius problem? Try replacing the rear shocks with a metal bar or blocks of wood to see if that helps with the chain problem.
    Good Luck

    1 reply

    Thanks for the comments

    In fact the suspension is more of a decoration, there is very little movement on that axis. I have also considered using a single threaded rod that would bridge the "independant suspension" that would serve to keep the mounts from flexing apart.
    I have a some great solutions to test now, thanks to all the great suggestions everyone. I will update...


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the awesome input. I had considered mounting the motor directly on the truck/suspension, but the motor is HUGE and didn't fit. I am sure I will pick this project up in a few months (I get heartburn just looking at it now), and I'll be sure to update this instructable.