Direct-drive is one of the newest motor types for esk8. Multiple direct-drive boards are popping up in the market, so this article is here to help you pick which one would be best for you and also as a way to learn more about direct-drive.
How do Direct Drive Motors work?
The motors are attached to the axle of the truck. On the ends of the motors, there are wheel adapters held on by bolts. The motors spin on the axle with the use of bearings. When the motor turns, the wheel also spins, so the gear ratio would be 1:1, which is very efficient.
Why choose a Direct Drive drivetrain?
Direct-drive boards are very new to the market, which seems to make people step away from them, but they are excellent for filling the void of a drivetrain in the middle of hub motors and belt drives. Overall I would recommend direct-drives to someone who needed an in-between of hub motors and belt drives.
Pros and Cons
|Wheel swaps are possible||Low ground clearance|
|Efficient||Low proven reliability|
|Good heat dissipation|
Advantages of Direct Drive Motors
Like a belt drive setup, a direct-drive allows you to swap between many different wheels. Most direct-drives will enable you to use street wheels, but some can use pneumatic tires.
Direct drive motors will be louder than hub motors but much quieter than belt drive or gear drive. If you live in a place where esk8 is illegal, then direct-drive is an excellent option.
Direct-drive systems are very efficient and thus should give you a better range. After consulting with some other community members, I have learned that they don’t have a considerable range boost compared to belt drive, although you should get a little better range than a belt drive setup.
Most direct-drive motors are concealed in a thick aluminum that protects the motors from debris from the road. This aluminum acts as a heatsink and thus keeps the motor temps low. Definitely an advantage over hub-motors.
Disadvantages of Direct Drive Motors
Low Ground Clearance
Since the motors are attached to the truck axle, they might hit the ground on bumps. If you use a direct-drive setup, I would advise using bigger wheels to avoid damaging your motors.
Since there are no gears involved in a direct-drive setup, the only way to determine speed and acceleration is motor kV. A lower kV will give more torque, but it will lose top-end speed, and a higher kV will give better top speed but lose torque. If you are going to use pneumatic tires, you will want to use a low kV setup, but then if you’re going to swap to a street wheel, you won’t have that much top end, so while direct drives are more versatile than hubs, they are not as customizable as belt drives.
Low proven reliability
As direct-drives are relatively new and are attached to the axel, they have lower reliability. Adding to this, they are low to the ground, which means they will get hit more, which lowers the reliability even more. They aren’t inherently unsafe, but they are less tested than other setups, so it is good to be aware of some potential reliability issues.
Best Direct Drive Electric Skateboards
ONSRA Black Carve
The ONSRA Black Carve is $1500 seems to be one of the most popular direct-drive boards on the market right now.
|Has a very lively and carvy ride||Use’s a very cheap cell that can be downright dangerous at times|
|12s battery for high top speeds||Is not very stable|
|can only be bought second hand|
It uses double kingpin trucks and a shorter deck, which creates an entertaining carvy platform. The downside of this is that the board is not very stable at high speed, and as the ONSRA Black Carve uses a 12s battery, things can get sketchy fast. You can try and counter this by getting stiffer bushings, but this is not the board for you if you want all-out speed. This board has been fazed out and is now being sold as the ONSRA Black Carve 2.
ONSRA Black Carve 2
The ONSRA Black Carve 2 is almost entirely different from its predecessor, the Black Carve. For starters, this board looks amazeballs! The ONSRA Black Carve 2 (in my opinion) is one of the best-looking pre-built boards made. ONSRA is definitely stepping it up with the looks of their boards. Let’s go over the differences between the Black Carve 2 and the Black Carve.
|It has a much more stable ride than the first Black Carve||It hasn’t been used much by the community, so reliability is still up in the air|
|It uses a high-quality cell that gives better range and less voltage sag||is on the pricier side|
|Looks beautiful (personal opinion)|
|New ESC that allows for more power|
The Black Carve 2 uses a new ESC, which allows the board to run more current, resulting in a more powerful board. The boards uses a more extended deck to house a larger battery and provide more stability. The Black Carve 2 will lose some responsiveness, but it will be much more stable, which I think is the definitely right move for this kind of board.
The new battery is 648 watt-hours which is a considerable gain from its previous version, its also using 21700 cells which gives less sag, and any cell is better than a Samsung 35e (which is what they were previously using. The Black Carve 2 is $400~ more than the original Black Carve, but I think the upgrades that the Black Carve 2 gives you is well worth the price gain.
|Top Speed||30 mph (48 km/h)|
|Range||32 miles (52 km)|
|Battery Size||648 Wh|
|Link to Website||onsra-california.com|
|Discount Code||Use “DANIEL” to get $50 off|
The Boudmotor D1 uses double kingpin trucks and a carbon fiber deck with the electronics stored in the deck. The stiff and long deck makes the D1 more stable at higher speeds than boards like the ONSRA Black Carve, but the carve on the D1 won’t be as responsive.
|High-quality carbon fiber deck that is very stable||possible Chinese VESC may show reliability issues|
|12s battery configuration with 21700 cells||people have had issues with bound motors customer service|
|Allows you to customize your ride feel through modifying your braking curve, acceleration curve, and many other things|
|Is at a respectful price point for the performance|
One of the unique selling points of the D1 is that it uses a VESC. In short, most boards use an ESC, which is pre-programmed, and you can’t change how the board feels. On a VESC, you can customize the braking curves, the acceleration curves, you can limit the top speed, you can make unique modes, and you can buy an aftermarket Bluetooth connector and have an app.
This is all well and good, but VESC’s coming from Chinese budget boards can be unreliable and dangerous at times, so it might be a better choice to go straight up DIY. As I haven’t seen many reports of their VESC failing, you should be fine. If you’re not into DIY, I would recommend this board, as long as you’re willing to risk the Chinese VESC.
|Top Speed||31 mph (50 km/h)|
|Range||18 miles (30 km)|
|Link to Website||boundmotor.com/d1|
The Boundmotor D3 is similar to the D1, but it uses a drop-down maple deck. This deck will give a different ride feel and provide more space for a bigger battery.
|12s battery with 21700 cells||Boundmotor customer service issues|
|Very locked-in ride feel||Deck and enclosure cracking|
|A lovely price to performance ratio||Possible Chinese VESC reliability issues|
The one problem with this board is there have been multiple reports of the deck and enclosure cracking, and some people have had poor customer service experiences with Boundmotor.
If you’re ok with that, then the drop-down that the deck provides will give a locked-in feeling and will let you accelerate and brake hard.
|Top Speed||31 mph (50 km/h)|
|Range||28 miles (45 km)|
|Battery Size||518 Wh|
|Link to Website||boundmotor.com/d3|
At the time of this article, nobody has reviewed the ONSRA Challenger, so this is based on specs and thoughts. The deck, combined with the foam grip tape, makes the ONSRA Challenger look gorgeous.
|Big battery||Not tested by the community as of this review|
|It looks to have a high-quality deck||It will probably not be very stable due to DKP trucks and the shorter deck|
|The short wheelbase and double kingpin trucks will provide an extraordinarily playful and carvy ride feel|
The board uses double kingpin trucks, and I could see this board being a competitor to the Evolve Stoke as they are both cruiser-style decks with double kingpin trucks. ONSRA’s direct-drive system on the previous boards seems to work without any problems, so hopefully, that will also be true of the Challenger.
The battery claims to be 504 wat hours, which some all-terrain boards such as the Wowgo At2 also have, which means this board should get plenty of range.
|Top Speed||29 mph (47 km/h)|
|Range||26 miles (42 km)|
|Battery Size||432 Wh|
|Link to Website||onsra-california.com|
Miles has been around for a while but has not been talked about much until they released the Phantom. The Miles board Phantom has an exciting and unique deck design.
|Can dig into braking and acceleration due to the drop-down deck||as this board uses a short wheelbase, it is not as stable as possible, and the drop-down of the deck shortens the pan, which also decreases the stability even more|
|is light||It Will probably only be a board for a particular type of rider|
|has a high top speed||Miles has had issues delivering boards on time|
|uses 21700 cells|
The deck is short but has a drop-down which is uncommon, as a drop-down deck is suitable for high speeds while a short deck is not. As the deck uses drop-down, there is no kicktail, so sadly, you won’t be doing tic-tacs and tricks.
I think this board’s purpose is to have a fun, aggressive shortboard that is good for commuting. The Miles Phantom deck is made out of carbon fiber, making the board very light and suitable for commuting.
|Top Speed||30 mph (48 km/h)|
|Range||30 miles (48 km)|
|Battery Size||432 Wh|
|Link to Website||indiegogo.com/miles-phantom|
Best Direct Drive Electric Skateboards Kits
The Revel Kit would be my number one choice for a direct drive kit or board in general. The Revel allows you to bolt to any deck that doesn’t have a drop-down and allows various street wheel sizes.
|Very customizable||Upgrades can make the board get expensive fast|
|Can run in 4wd||You can’t use drop-down or drop-through decks, which are important in high-speed eskating|
|Very upgradable||Uses a “slide” remote control which is a bit dated|
|Has a low entry price|
|It uses RKP trucks for a stable ride and can get a carvy ride if wanted by the rider by purchasing a waterborne surf adapter|
|Has good customer service|
The battery is swappable for lots of range, and the Revel kit can run 4wd! You can do a simple DIY project and make a perfect board. If you don’t have enough speed, go with bigger wheels. If you don’t have enough range, buy more battery’s; if you want better torque, get smaller wheels, like more carve? Buy a waterborne surf adapter.
Of course, this can get very expensive, so be aware that the revel kit may get pricey if you want to max out its performance. Also, you can’t use a drop-down deck which, in my opinion, is one of the best features on a deck for esk8.
|Top Speed||28 mph (45 km/h)|
|Range||Standard: 10 miles (16km)|
Extended: 15 miles (24km)
|Battery Size||Standard: 144 Wh|
Extended: 216 Wh
|Price||Standard: $ 599|
Extended: $ 699
|Link to Website||revelboards.com|
Boundmotor Direct Drive Kit
Boundmotor seems to be one of the company’s pushing Direct drive systems. They sell pre-built boards and also kits. I haven’t seen all that many people using this kit, but I see nothing but good reviews when I do.
The Boudmotorer Direct Drive kit uses double kingpin trucks, so if you’re not into that, then these are not for you. Also, you can’t use All-terrain wheels, but this seems to be an all-around good kit.
Torqueboards Direct Drive Motor Kit
Torqueboards Direct Drive Kit seems to be the most used by the community. This kit appears to be one of the only Direct Drive kits that you can use 6″ pneumatics with and comes in various kV levels.
|Lots of power||Has seen some reliability issues|
|Can run in 4wd||expensive|
|Can use pneumatic tires||torque board has had issues with customer service|
|has been used quite a bit in the esk8 community|
Even though this seems to be the most used Direct Drive kit, multiple people have reported their kits failing and breaking in dangerous ways.
If you want to learn more details about the issues people are having with the Torquebaord Direct Drive kit, I would recommend visiting the Esk8.news forum.
Direct Drive vs Hub Motors
Many people get these two drive types confused, so I’m going to point out the differences. Hub Motors have the motors in the wheels while direct-drives spin on the axle attached to the wheel. Hub motors are going to be quieter and will have less torque but more speed. Direct-drives are going to be a bit louder and should give more torque and less top speed. Direct-drives also allow you to run different wheels for different terrains and situations, making them a good option for someone who wants hub motors but wants more versatility.
Direct Drive vs Belt Drive
Direct-drive and belt-drive allow you to switch wheels, but direct-drive only enables you to change wheels and not the gearing, whereas belt-drive can change gearing along with wheels. This means if you want to switch to a bigger wheel on a belt-drive, you can use a bigger drive gear to keep the same torque and speed, or you can keep the gearing to achieve a higher top speed but less torque. On a direct-drive, if you switch to a bigger wheel, you don’t have the option to compensate and thus will automatically lose torque but gain top speed; this is why most direct-drives can’t use pneumatic tires.
How to choose a Direct Drive Electric Skateboard
There are enough direct-drive boards on the market now to give a good array of options for the buyer. Lots of direct-drives use double kingpin trucks, which some people love, and some people hate. Other direct-drives use reverse kingpin trucks, which are typically more stable but aren’t as surfy and carvy as double kingpin trucks. For whatever reason, lots of direct-drive boards use a 12s battery, which will give more speed than a 10s battery, so if you want a 12s battery for the speed, then you have plenty of options, but if you want to use a 10s battery to keep your board light, then you will find it harder to find a board that works for you. You have to think about if you need pneumatic tires, as most direct-drive boards on the market can’t use them. Most companies seem to offer their boards with rubber street wheels which seems to be a good mix between a pneumatic tire and a urethane wheel. These rubber wheels do eat up the range and wear very quickly, so you will want to be aware that you won’t have as much range as a urethane wheel, and you may have to buy a replacement set quicker, which is annoying as these rubber wheels are more expensive than urethane.
The price of direct-drive boards varies, but you don’t start seeing them until the 1k mark. There are some exceptions for this, but as a general price point, it seems to start at 1k. That price can go up to 2k and higher depending on which board you choose. As direct-drives are new, many people seem to use them in the DIY scene as there aren’t that many pre-built direct-drive boards as other drivetrains, but there plenty of good options for a pre-built direct-drive board.
Overall the Direct-Drive motor type has many positives and is an excellent option for people who like hub motors but want more wheel options. There are many options for a board that uses direct-drive motors, and I hope that this helps you figure out which one best suits your needs and also, I hope that I could teach you something about direct-drive.