There are now a number of options for converting longboard decks into e-boards:
- Fitting a complete drive unit – really easy
- Assembling a full kit – easy if you have a little DIY knowledge.
- Building from DIY parts – takes a bit more work and thought, but there are good blueprints and help.
I have not included products that are not currently in production, there are a few more companies currently promoting on Kickstarter, Indiegogo etc., however, too many early starter companies have not made it into full production, for me to consider them viable so early on.
These are usually top-mounted decks for combined-units, but some of the kits can also work with to drop-through decks. Whatever the deck you do need to keep in mind clearance for wheel-bite, especially as for higher speeds on rougher roads/paths you typically need to use larger 80mm+ wheels.
The idea of adding an electric drive system to an existing board is appealing to me, given we have a number of decks that would work well and be a lot more stylish than the usual cheap bamboo boards used on many of the electric boards.
Motors – Hub, Belt, Direct-Drive?
Most of the units and kits use in-wheel hub motors, rather than being belt-driven by external motors, these have the advantage of being water-resistant, compact and no belt to snap. It does, however, have the disadvantage that there is no gearing and generally less torque and only a thin layer of urethane on the wheel, as opposed to a belt-drive which means a full/normal wheel can be used. Which way to go all depends on what you want, I suspect that in-wheel hub motors will be dominant going forward, however, it will be some time before belt-drives are no longer needed.
Although most people fit only one axle drive, using one or two motors, with many of the kits and units you can combine them to drive on both axles (4-wheel drive) for more torque.
Link: Youtube Video by ESK8 comparing the two motor options.
There is a rarer third option, Direct-Drive, which Carvon Skates have designed and championed. This has the appealing advantage of using a direct drive mechanism with a full wheel (street or AT), over the usual in-hub motor with just a fixed thin covering layer of polyurethane covering the motor.
To use this on an existing longboard deck will, however, require you source your own battery, controller and remote-control.
Don’t Forget The Controller
Although this article is primarily listing the parts to fit to your deck, don’t forget that the remote-control and controller software is just as important (all the units and kits listed come with controllers). As we have found with the early e-boards we bought complete, and others we have tested over the last year, the quality, software control and ergonomics of the controls can vary a lot and makes a big difference to the experience.
Some of the controllers are nothing more than just off/on, or forward/stop (meaning lots of flying off the board forwards or backwards!); with the good controllers having a progressive forward speed and, importantly, brake capability. In fact, I would be interested in a downhill longboard that had just an electric braking system.
Given the early stage of the market, it can be hard to find these units and kits to try before buying, hence, why it is important to research and ask quests on the community forums. The ones (there are others) I use regularly include:
With just about all products in the e-board market, including complete e-boards, you always have to keep in mind that all the technology and manufacturing is relatively new and evolving rapidly. Even the big financially-backed market leaders, Boosted, Evolve etc., have had issues, and recalls, as they progress their development. If you are e-boarding right now, you are equally part consumer and part tester.
Consequently, when buying I would take into account your own technical competence, the track record of company (via the community forums, although these are also in their infancy) and how easy it will be to fix issues, or get issues fixed by the supplier – because the reality is that there is a high probability that you will have issues and, equally, that your parts will be obsolete very quickly, in some cases in only a few months. This is technology market that is a long way from being mature, well regulated and to be blindly trusted.
1. Truck Mounted Units
The following are truck-mounted units (combined motors, electrics and battery), which bolt simply to the deck. Very easy to fit, but usually requiring replacement of the whole unit if there is a failure. With the exception of the JayKay axel unit, these unit have quick-change batteries, so that spares can be carried and swapped in quickly for extra range.
The German company Mellow Boards has been developing its unit for some time and are the premium brand in the market, being I think the first out with the design. Although the price is significantly higher than all the other options, they do have the advantage of being made and supported in Europe, a 2-year warranty and IP65 water-resistant rated.
Very similar to the Mellow unit are the Chinese Onan X2 and X3 units. Although made in China they now have European retailers and support, plus are well regarded in the community.
Equally similar to the Mellow is the Chinese LandWheel L3-X unit.
The German made JayKay hub-motor unit is slightly different from the other units in that the battery is built into the truck, allowing for it to be mounted to just about any deck, either a single motorised axel or dual (4-wheel drive) and having a much smaller profile, however, also using a much smaller battery.
Note: currently only pre-order.
A new Spanish company out of Barcelona Ride Unlimited have just launched a range of modular units (Solo, Cruiser and R), as well as complete boards. They are very new and so far I have found no information on the unit, other than their website. It does state IP65 rating which is encouraging for water and dust resistance. Power output on the Solo and Cruiser, at max 840W, looks weak on paper, however, I would need to see a good review or try it myself to know what this means in reality to real world riding.
- Retail price: pre-order only €650-€1000
- Solo: Lithium-ion, 36 V nominal | 42 V max. 2.5 Ah
- Cruiser: x2 Lithium-ion, 36 V nominal | 42 V max. 2.5 Ah
- R: x2 Lithium-ion, 36 V nominal | 42 V max. 2.5 Ah
- Peak Output: 840W (Solo & Cruiser) – 1680W (R)
- Weight (unit+battery): not known.
Single hub motor; 2200mah battery; 12km range; 25 km/h top speed; 85mm wheels.
More details to come, as I have one on order.
2. DIY Kits
Battery, motor and controller parts which need to be assembled and fitted to a board. Not as simple to fit as the combined units, but generally less expensive and easier to replace any faulty components – which to me is the real advantage of this route. We all break things and all boards fail (oh’ they do); if you have just some basic electric and DIY skills these issues are easily sorted when you can get spare or replacement parts.
Meepo, Ownboard & Wowgo
DIYEboard & Torqueboards
DIYEboard, based in China, has a good reputation for supplying DIY kits which you install on your board like the Meepo kit. Interestingly, they supply both hub and belt-motor kits; plus all-terrain kits (belt-motors with all-terrain wheels).
Maxfind Electrical is another China supplier of e-boards and parts for attaching to existing decks sold primarily through Amazon (various countries). Is one of the rarer kits with a quick-change battery.
3. DIY Parts for a Self-Build
If you want more freedom and challenge than a simple DIY kit, then you can do your own self-build using various parts from different suppliers. In addition to the kits suppliers listed above, who also sell individual parts, there are then other retailers who will sell specific parts. I suspect there are more than my list, but the ones I know of are below. One of the best sources on suppliers and how to build your own is the forum:
including an excellent thread on where to start: Beginner Guide.
- Boosted Box
- Build Kit Boards
- Carvon Boards
- Chi Battery Systems
- Drv Wizard (EU)
- Electric Board Solutions (EU)
- Enertion Boards
- Eskating.eu (EU)
- E-Torxx (EU)
- Hobby King
- Hyper Ion
- Longhaired Boy
- Maxfind Electrical
- Meepo Board
- Rocket Boards
- Street Wing (EU)
- Trampa Boards (EU)
- Unik Boards (EU)
Ok, my personal comments, based on my own preferences, average technical capability and limited experience of just a few (5 to be exact) e-boards and, for full-disclosure, having not fitting any of the above solutions to any of my boards. I wrote this blog page out of interest and looking at options for me, not experience.
First off, fitting these units or kits to an existing deck is interesting, but they don’t offer much of a cost saving over buying a complete e-board. A well-established brand like Evolve, with a Bamboo GT, is only £1,200, compared to the still relatively new Mellow unit at £1700; and a cheaper Koowheels 2 only £500, compared to the cheaper units and kits. Plus, it looks like I would have to import all the kits (no European supplier/retailer) and pay import taxes, which gives them no cost saving over a buying a full board. Consequently, I would not buy any of the DIY kits or combined motor units just to save money, the only rationale right now that I can see to go this route is just as a fun technical challenge.
As with any e-board, I would personally only buy something with a well-proven reputation, regardless of price. A problem occurring at 20mph, like a controller disconnecting or wheel jamming, is the last thing I want even if I had saved more than 50% on the cost of a trusted brand – medical bills will always be more than any purchase saving!
Re hub-motors or belt-drives, I am happy to stick to belt-drive for now, even if they are not the long-term future. My experience with the extra torque of belt-drives and the ride from thin urethane on hub-motors (give me real wheels on my rough broken local pavements and roads) has convinced me to stick with belt-drive for now.
The dual belt-drive kits have strong specs but are small engineering projects needing fitting to the deck, specifically mounting the drive, controller and battery parts to the deck (needing screws and holes) and I am not sure I want to start making holes in one of my beloved veneered decks.
As said, these comments are just my own preferences – buy what works for you.
Note: All specs and prices are at the time of writing, so it is always worth checking before choosing as this is very fast evolving technology and manufacturing.