Self Build Part 2 – Where to start

dual focbox diagram

Following on from deciding my approach (see: Part 1), of getting the Battery+Motor+VESC+Remote working first before anything else, it has been time to read, ask questions and work out where to source items from.

My starting point for information is the goldmine: Electric Skateboard Builders. There is so much there that it is a little overwhelming at first; however, when you get it into it and understand a little more on what to look for it is not so bad and people are always helpful. Second to that is the Reddit sub: Electric Skateboarding.

In Europe, there are a few parts suppliers I am aware of: E-Toxx, Unik Boards, Street Wing, ESkating.eu – all of whom have been helpful before and I would be happy to source parts from and get some guidance. This last point for me is really important, I don’t want someone to hold my hand, but I can see the need for some occasional advice along the way; hence, why I think it is important to find a supplier you are happy to buy from, even if they are slightly more expensive than sourcing all the parts direct from China.

focbox

The VESC

Choosing a VESC was easy, the dominant self-build and programme device out right now and readily available in Europe is Enertion’s FocBox. There is mature well-used software and helpful instructions out for it, and plentiful support. Right, sorted – I am building a dual-drive machine, so that is two to order.

Lots of useful information on Enertion’s site, as well as links for downloading the software: Enertion Downloads Page

 

remote_maytech_top

The Remote

Having had and tried a lot of remotes over the years, I care about the remote, both how it feels in the hand and the progression/sensitivity of the control. Not all remotes are the same, some are plain awful – just try the Eolve r1 (horrid), compared to the gold standard for me, the stock Boosted.

This part of the DIY market seems to be surprisingly less developed, with not many options. In theory, any 2.4Ghz RF remote can work with the FocBox, however, ergonomically I don’t want to do the over large ugly adapted model-car controller. The common offering is the Maytech remote although Enertion offers their Nano-X Controller I will do some more research but will probably go with one of these.

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Battery (BMS & Charger)

Now, this is where things have got difficult; there seems to be no established battery unit builder and supplier in the UK right now. I don’t want to build my own battery pack – meaning soldering the individual batteries (safely) and adding a Battery Management System (BMS) – so am looking to get a pre-built pack like the popular Sanyo 20700 to keep it simpler and safer.

http://www.joshendyblog.net/diy-electric-skateboard-project/
Battery pack – joshendyblog

Buying one from the US, from the likes of popular Psychotiller or HobbyKing, would be expensive with shipping and import tax; similar from China from Ownboard, Wowgo etc.; and the mainland European suppliers, like Unik Boards, will sadly not supply outside France. Trampa, based in Nottingham, only recommend specific batteries for their boards (Trampa link), with links out to Ebay and HobbyKing.

One thing I have to consider is the enclosure needed, there are not a lot of enclosures available to fit underneath the deck (I don’t want a big sandwich box on the top of the board or hanging off the back), so I need to consider the dimensions of the battery pack and what enclosure I will sue with it.

psychotiller encloser
Psychotiller Fish Bone enclosure

I talked to Steet Wing and they are currently looking into sourcing some batteries for the UK, so will wait until they are able to offer an option, hopefully with a suitable enclosure. What I would like to avoid is the enclosure being very deep and limiting the clearance under the board and thus the style/shape of the deck. For example, the popular Samsung and Sanyo battery packs, available from the Chinese kit suppliers and used in the Foosted build, are chunky block shaped (needing min of 45mm depth) and not slim/flat.

 

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Motors

There are lots of motors available, although I suspect a lot are just rebranded versions of the same ones.

For reference, motors model numbers such as 6355 and X are its dimensions – diameter and length, not a power/performance rating. Its “Kv: or “RPM/V” (Rounds per minute)/applied volt states how fast the motor will spin (depending on the applied voltage).  A watt figure states its power rating, which typically for e-skate motors will be between 500W to 3500W per motor.

If you want to understand what you will need there is a very good guide to how to calculate the motor, pulleys, and gearing required on Electric Skateboard Builders: A beginner guide to DIY an ESK8. 

I am going to hold on choosing my motors (size and power) until I know where I am going to source my battery pack, as hopefully, I can get them together and have some assurance, that (unless I mess it all up), the battery, VESC, remote and motors should all work together.

… project on hold, waiting for a local battery pack option. Update soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Self Build Part 1 – Vision & Approach

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What to build

I have decided to do an electric self-build for our next project, a set-up from assembling another kit.

Even with the knowledge I have, it is all a little bit daunting to start with, specifically the “what speed controller (ESC/VESC) works with what battery, remote and motors etc?“. The excellent Skate Metric Foosted blueprint was the catalyst that got me thinking, that I should stop holding-off and get on with learning. Much as I like the Foosted design, specification, and appraoach, I however already have a Boosted and, cost-wise would have to import many of the parts.

foostd 1
Skate Metric Foosted

The end-product vision in my head is something like a slightly shorter (33-38″) Boosted or the Eskating.eu Beast. Not a short wheelbase board; more stability, than portability for this one; something to easy cruise around on. The Boosted V2 is fast enough for me, so more power to go faster is not the objective, it is just to have similar top speed and torque for easy cruising fun.

Beast
ESkating Beast

An easy choice for me is to go belt-drive – I just have to live too much with crappy Victorian London roads and need real wheels (plus some flex in the deck); plus, if I wanted to do another hub-build I might as well just get a Wowgo, Meepo or Ownboard kit and that is not the objective here – this is about building better and learning. I am tempted by a gear-drives system, from the likes of E-Toxx , but will keep that for a future upgrade. For now, a more forgiving belt-drive system is the way to go.

Two Motors or One?

It used to be a big decision a few years back, but now as costs have come down it comes up less. Two motors does not make a board faster (top-speed), but it does give a board more torque, for acceleration or braking. For this project, I am all in and two motors it is. It is probably not necessary for the performance I am looking for in reality, but I am interested to see how the VESCs work together.

Go Euro

Besides trying to use some existing parts (wheels, bearings etc.), to save money, it would be nice to build it with as many European parts as I can find, and certainly from European suppliers for local support and no import tax and duty. This last part also rules out the Foosted blueprint, as the battery, ESC, enclosures, remote, motors, drive systems etc. would all come from China and incur import tax and duty for me. Time to build my own dream Euro board (here in the UK) and not pay any more important tax and duty.

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Approach to building

Given the whole speed-controller, the heart of the board, is all a little daunting right now I am going to do the project in two phases:

  1. Battery+Motor+VESC+Remote – get that all working on the bench-top (or living room floor!), including configuring/programming the VESC before I build, even buy anything else; then,
  2. Assemble it on the deck with the enclosure, drive system, trucks, wheels etc.

I am in no rush here, we have boards already (too many, to be honest!) and the truck, drive system, deck etc. is all relatively easy; it is the configuring the electrics that is the new part (and not just using an existing ESC) and the bit I am most interested in learning about.

If I was new to all this I would actually recommend doing it another way, buying the deck, trucks, bearings, wheels etc. to make a conventional push longboard first – learning the skills, and having fun, with that as a push longboard and then electrifying it. The skills learned (foot-braking, push starts, a few dance moves, wobble adjustment, truck set-up etc.) from pushing would be invaluable, plus it would help to decide if it was the right type of deck for what you really want with your e-skate.

 

The most commonly used trucks and wheels for electric builds are Caliber II trucks and ABEC11 Superfly style wheels, using these straight off on a conventional longboard would still make one hell of a longboard and save money later on (if) when electrified. As an alternative to the Superflys (the Superfly core), you can go with the Kegel core, with the likes of the original Orangantang Kegels, Cagumas, Boa Hatchlings etc., which is now also becoming popular in the e-skate world with good availability of pulleys. With wheels for electric builds, the important aspect is the core used needs to be able to have a pulley attached the Superfly and Kegel cores, have been universally adopted by the e-skate community given they are easy to attach to (not solid cores like most longboard wheels).

 

The big Boas on the Boosted

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Fitted the big (and they are big) 100mm Boa Constrictors on the Boosted. Fitting them is relatively easy, it is just like swapping the stock Kegels. The big advantage they have is the off-set core which means you can use the stock motor-covers, no replacement or trimming is needed.

To remove the drive-wheels:

  1. Wheel nut and speed-ring/washer off (don’t lose it).
  2. Motor-covers off.
  3. Carefully, wiggle the wheel and belt off (check the belts has no damage).
  4. Remove the long spacer and big inside speed-ring (again don’t lose it) – you can leave these on if you want, but I prefer not to lose them when I forget and tip the board on its side.
  5. Carefully (you do not want to break it) lever around the pulley with a flat-edge screwdriver and prise, bit by bit, the pulley out. It will come, just be patient. If necessary, you could soak in warm water to help, but mine have never needed it.
  6. Remove the small outside bearing from the Kegel, if you are going to re-use.

To fit the new drive-wheels:

  1. Carefully press the pulley into the wheel – I used some silicon spray on the pulley to help it go in smooth, but it is not essential.
  2. Press in the outside bearing – easy to do by hand, given the large wheel.
  3. Put back on the large inside speed ring and long spacer.
  4. Put the belt on the pulley and motor and wiggle the wheel into place.
  5. Re-fit the motor-cover.
  6. Fit the outside speed ring and tighten the wheel-nut
  7. Important, turn the board on its side and press forcefully on the top wheel to ensure everything is in nice and tight; then reverse and do it again. Listen for clicks.
  8. Re-tighten the wheel nuts.

Changing the front wheels is just like with any longboard/skateboard – if you are not sure how this is a good general video: changing wheels & bearings

If there are rattles from any wheels when you first try it, it is highly likely that things are still not fully in and it is spacers rattling. Again just turn it on its side and press hard, if you hear a click, that was it.

img_20180703_115430__01
Showing just how big the Boas are – 20mm increase in diameter, 10mm in clearance.

I have not had a chance to fully ride them, but my initial impressions are (1) that the increase in ride height is very noticeable; (2) they are significantly better, the ride is better, with our crappy old victorian roads; and (3), to be expected, there is also a noticeable loss in torque and acceleration (given I am using the stock pulleys), not a party killer, but it is noticeable. I will ride more and write up a full review over the next few weeks, especially if the loss of torque is worth the ride improvement, and if it is worth changing the pulleys and belts to get back the torque.

I would also add that the massive contact patch of the new wheels, makes it feel very planted – in some ways, too planted and did not entice me to carve it; but it is early days so this might be me not used to new ride-height. Anyway, I will ride a lot more over the next few weeks and do a full review.

 

UPDATE: I really like these wheels and highly recommend them to anyone with a Boosted, or any e-skate that will work with a Kegel core, as a change for fun or rougher roads and pavements.

These are a well-made and quality wheel – not some cheap cold-cast knock-off. Although a slightly higher duro, 83a, than the stock Kegel, they still feel and grip the surface as a soft wheel. And with a bigger contact area, there is no loss of grip at all; in fact, more grip on sharp corners than the already excellent soft Kegels. White is not my favorite color for wheels (although strangely I like the white Alkamist Ahmyos) and it does show up dirt and grim immediately, but then we can wear that as a badge of honor and you can always dye them if you want another color.

Although there will be some loss of torque, I have not really noticed it and have climbed happily all the usual hills. I am no speed-demon, so maybe it is just my casual cruising around that does not push the limit of using these; anyway, if you just want to cruise around, just stick these on the stock pulleys and don’t worry.

Similar with the top-speed, yes there is an increase, but I don’t really care – in my crowded city on backroads (where the police do not want us on main roads with traffic) 20mph is plenty fast enough. If you want a faster board (really?), just buy or assemble a board with with more battery juice and powerful motors; just putting bigger wheels on is not the answer to your speed crave.

The board does ride noticeably higher and feels a bit like a ‘boat’ – my friend’s comments of “oh’ part Boosted, part invalid mobility scooter” did may me laugh and ring a little true; but then, that is the price for greater clearance.

For me, the reason to use these wheels, occasionally or full time, is crappy roads and paths, where they make a very noticeable difference over the stock Kegels. The ride is smoother and more stress-free – you just have to avoid less in front of you.

Last word – given how relatively easy they are to fit, these Boa Constrictors are a great option to just have in the kit-bag and swap to when you fancy a change, then back to the Kegels (or Cags) when you want more nimble carving. Here is the irony, swap back to the Kegels and the overall experience feels faster. Mathematically it is not, but it feels that way – I guess this down to acceleration being more noticeable than speed. Just don’t throw out those Kegels just because you now have the Boas – they make a fine compliment to each other. The answer is run both.

Well done Boa (Jed), nice product – big thumbs up from me.