Be it for commuting in a busy urban wasteland or surfing the sidewalk at your local park, electric skateboard has slowly evolved from the college lab to the internet market place. Now is a great time to play with alternative forms of transportation for fun and freedom to explore your world in new ways.
If you are looking to purchase your new mode of transportation, there are a ton of good sites to find a ready to ride an electric skateboard. You can visit Lacroixboards.com, Backfireboardsusa.com, Meepoboard.com, Wowgoboard.com or even Amazon.com to find any number of boards to suit your needs and budget.
This article is meant for the adventurous tinkerer who enjoys getting into the guts of a project, the studious experimenter, or even the old school skater or landlocked surfer looking to renew their love of the ride. So let’s jump into it, in the electric skateboard DIY guide.
Which Kind of Electric Skateboard to Build?
This is important, as there are a few different styles of an electric skateboard.
Urban Electric Skateboard
This style of a skateboard is generally converted old school decks, penny boards, or shorter longboards with large street wheels, inflatable wheels, or solid airless AT wheels with street treads. Most use hub motor, single or dual belt drives, or even direct drives like the Revel kit. These smaller boards are used a lot on college campuses, and as commuters for work. Good stable boards with modest speeds and great range. They don’t take up a lot of space and are easy to carry.
Electric Street Skateboard
Feeling adventurous? Street eboards are made from standard longboards, smaller downhill boards, and AT boards using urethane street wheels. These tend to be faster boards with wider trucks for higher speed stability and sliding fun. These boards will feature dual belt drives, direct drive, or even gear drive. They feature high-speed motors and very streamlined setups. Rides like these can be a little tricky for inexperienced or new skateboarders. Surfers have even put special ride plates on these boards to recreate the surf carving experience when cruising around town.
Electric AT (All-Terrain) Board
These are mountain board style skateboards with large inflatable knobby tires, fully suspended trucks, huge top-mounted battery packs, and fully enclosed ESCs, with dual motor or even 4wd motors. These motors are usually high torque belt driven, chain driven, or even gear to gear drive trains. Some of these beasts come with bindings to keep your feet in place if you plan on catching a ton of air. These boards are incredibly powerful with huge amounts of torque all designed to get you up and down the mountain as fast and as fun as possible.
Electric Downhill/Uphill Racer
That’s right I said racer. These boards FLY. The men and women who ride these boards do so wearing full leather motorcycle gear and helmets. These boards race above 50 – 60 mph and are being pushed even faster. These riders race up and down some of the scariest canyons in the west. These boards feature the best and fastest motors, batteries, and ESCs the industry currently offers. Only the most experienced riders should attempt to tame these ponies.
For the purpose of this article, we are going to build a Dual Belt-Drive Street Board.
Here is the Electric Skateboard DIY Parts list:
Longboard Skateboard deck. 41 inches top mount. This deck is a 9ply maple deck found at skateshred.com along with a ton of other great choices. Choose a board with at least a 31” wheelbase between the trucks. Check out our guide on electric skateboard decks for more info on eskate deck styles and choices.
6354 190kv battle-hardened Flipsky brushless motors (flipsky.net). You can also go to the larger 6384 or 6394 size motors. If you would like to learn more, check out our guide on electric skateboard motors.
High power 12S4P Battery. This battery is built by the people at Mboards (mboards.co). It includes a matching battery charger and has a pre-soldered XT60 connection. The most expensive part of your build without a doubt is your batteries; choose wisely. There is a ton of high power in these very small packages. If you buy, choose a reputable vendor or home builder/rider who comes on a rock-solid recommendation. You can also try your own hand at building. Improperly built, they can start fires. Much caution is urged when connecting batteries. Check out our guide on electric skateboard batteries to learn more about the most important part of your ride.
- ESC (Electronic Speed Controller)
FocBox Unity Dual electric speed controller. This unit includes built-in Bluetooth and has a built-in easy setup or you can dive into the VESC programming depending on your skill set. You can find the Unity at multiple online retailers. Other great ESCs are the Flipsky 6.6Plus Dual FESC (flipsky.net), Stormcore Dual ESC (lacroixboards.com), or the BKB Zenith by Build Kit Boards (buildkitboards.com). If your ESC doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth, buy a Bluetooth adapter. Programming your ESC is way easier using your smartphone or not being plugged into your laptop.
- Battery and ESC enclosure:
For this build, we will be using the new and much improved XL enclosure from MBoards. This enclosure comes with its mounting bolts and precut gasket seal to help keep out moisture and dirt. If your enclosure doesn’t have its own mounting system, use 6 – 1 ½ inch 10×32 mounting bolts at least. Too many bolts, or too stiff of an enclosure and you will affect your ride, or possibly crack the enclosure and damage the electronics.
- Remote control:
For this build, the VX2 from Flipsky meets the need. The rugged Flipsky remotes can take some damage and the VX2 features onboard telemetry and speedo when connected properly. The cheaper VX1 is an often copied industry standard and also works great. Hoyt Skate makes a great one shaped like a hockey puck that fits in the palm of your hand. Whatever remote you choose, there are a lot of options out there for you as long as you have the receiver and a compatible port on your ESC.
Skateboard trucks. Style depends on how you plan to ride. Check out our guide on electric skateboard trucks for more info. The trucks for this build will be super-wide, reverse kingpin, caliber style trucks.
Torqueboards 110mm urethane 79 Duro skate wheels with kegel hub and adapter found at (diyelectricskateboard.com) . There are so many, many other styles of wheels sold by so many, many different companies. Check out our guide on electric skateboard wheels for more info on this growing section of electric skateboarding.
Bones Reds wheel bearings. Since I also “analog” skateboard, these are a personal choice. There are many brands out there. These can be a crucial part of your ride depending on your environment, check out our guide on electric skateboard bearings to learn more about skateboard bearings.
- Pulleys and belts:
Belt length will depend on your build. For this build, we will be using a 36 tooth Kegel pulley and an 18 tooth 8mm Vanpro drive pulley on the motor. The belt size should be around 375mm for this setup. Go to diyelectricskateboard.com, mboards.co, or the vbeltguys.com to order belts.
- Motor mounting plates:
Mounting Plates for motors. The Mboards mounts being used are easily adjustable to help with pulley tension and feature a mounting system that doesn’t slip. There are a ton of options out there. Other great options include mounts from Flipsky, colored anodized sets from Torqueboards, Sturdy versions from BKB.com, or popular brands such as Evolve. You can also make your own from any chunk of metal you can work with your hands or CNC mill.
- Mounting bolts:
10×32 1.5in Mounting bolts for the trucks. Use longer bolts, 2 to 3 inches, if you intend to use lights like Shredlights. I prefer to use stainless steel bolts from the local hardware store as they don’t rust. If you feel creative you can paint the heads.
- Riser Pads:
½ inch Riser pads. 1/4inch high is a minimum to help prevent wheel bite with ½ inch being the ideal. If you are building AT setups you will NEED wedge risers. Use rubber for more shock absorption. Pads can also be 3D printed in PETG. The pads in this build are 3D Printed using PETG.
- Battery Meter (OPTIONAL):
The one used for this build is the DROK battery meter with on/off and Battery Temp Sensor.
4mm bullet & XT 60 connectors. The Focbox Unity has these pre-soldered and attached on their ESC. So no soldering will be required. However, some ESCs such as the ones from Flipsky will require soldering connectors to attach to motors. For All Terrain electric skateboards, you may want to go to the larger 5mm bullet connectors to the motors and larger XT 90 connectors for power connections.
- Some Add-Ons:
- Roll – Conduit to keep motor wires organized. Lots of cool options to dress up your ride and keep your wires and connections clean.
- Roll – 2 inch wide Velcro.
- Roll – Longboard grip tape or grip material for the top of the deck. Let your creativity shine! You can also use the spray grip tape or the epoxy and fine ground sand/glass method. Whatever works, as long as you can stay on your skateboard.
- Seal material for the seal between the enclosure and the skateboard deck. The Mboards XL enclosure includes a neoprene gasket with its kit, but some good options for other enclosures are yoga mats, thin neoprene foam from the hobby store, window foam seal strip, and rubber window seal. This helps keep vibrations to your electronics down and helps keep out dust and water from the occasional splash (not waterproof).
Let’s Get Started! Let’s build an electric skateboard
Prep Your Board.
Pre-drill the holes for your enclosure and make sure you have clearance for the motors, mounts, and electronics. This is where you will want to decorate your skateboard. If you paint your board, let it dry for a few days before building. You can paint your enclosure at this time as well if you want. Both will need at least 3 days to dry. You can also vinyl wrap your board and enclosure. The sky is the limit.
When your paint is dry or other artistic endeavors satisfied, apply your grip tape and make sure it is fully applied with no bubbles before trimming. Re-drill your mounting holes for the trucks and the enclosure. When done, set aside. Cool Trick! Glue down a layer of thin foam down before your grip tape for a more comfortable ride.
Prep Your Motors
Add the motor mounts on your rear truck. Insert the motors into the mounts and install the drive pulley on the motor but keep the motor hand adjustable. Do the same for the other mount and motor.
Make sure both motors spin freely and the drive pulley doesn’t drag on the mount.
Add the wheel bearings two to a wheel. Press them into your wheels. A quick way to install the bearings in tight wheels is to put them on the trucks, adding the washers, and tightening the axle nut until the bearings seat themselves in the wheel. Repeat for all wheels and set aside.
Install the Kegel pulleys to two of the wheels. Sometimes the pulleys snap right in, sometimes they have to be screwed in. If your wheel pulleys come with screws, use them. After mounting the pulleys to two of the wheels, mount those wheels to the trucks with the motors mounted and give them a spin. If you feel resistance, adjust your motor mounts and see if you get the clearance you need. Depending on your wheel/pulley/truck combo choice, you may have to grind some material off of the trucks to get the free movement you need. This can happen and can be normal. Just take your time and take small amounts of material off at a time.
Once you have the wheels spinning freely, remove them, and apply the belts to the drive pulley on the motor. Slide belt over the wheel pulley as you reinstall the wheel. Now you can adjust the belt tension by pulling on either the mount or the motor until the belt tightens. You want loose enough for a little give, but tight enough the belt doesn’t slip.
Tighten all the bolts on the mount and the motor. Check the tension again. If all is good, remove each bolt from the motor one at a time, apply thread locker (Like Loctite) to each bolt, then reinstall and tightening. Do the same for any bolt that doesn’t have a Nylon locking nut.
Repeat for the other motor setup.
You should now have a complete drive setup with the wheels on and belts mounted. Mount the completed drive set up on your skateboard. Add the wheels and bearing to your front truck and mount that as well. Be sure to route the motor wires in a way you can reach the enclosure and not rub on anything that may damage them.
Cool Trick: If you have bung screws or motors on your motor mounts that just Will Not stay tight no matter what you do. Wrap the bolt threads with Teflon tape, before applying thread locker and reinstalling. It helps keep the bolts from vibrating loose.
Build up the enclosure
DO NOT Connect the battery until all electronics have been test fitted and all parts are in place.
Test fit the battery and ESC in the enclosure, and see how everything will fit. Make sure none of the wires will be kinking or rubbing on anything. Remove after fitting.
Pre Drill holes for the power switch and charger port.
Trim Velcro to fit your battery. Apply the soft side of Velcro to the battery and the hook side inside the enclosure. Re-mount the battery. Do the same for the ESC. Cut into strips for ESC, especially if you are using an ESC with an exposed circuit board. Apply around the heat sink side. Re-mount ESC.
Now battery and ESC are secure and shouldn’t move around too much. If you invert the case, they should stay in place and not fall out.
Add power switch and thread in the charger port and wire.
Add in your receiver for your remote control. There are normally two styles, UART and PPM. UART has many wires and the PPM has only three. Both will work fine. Just make sure you connect your receiver to the proper port for your chosen remote. Follow the wiring instructions that came with your ESC.
Add a small strip of Velcro to the receiver and find a place in your enclosure for the circuit board. Make sure the receiver antenna is not obstructed or kinked. If you have to add a Bluetooth adapter, add that now and Velcro in place. Connect to port on ESC.
Once mounted inside the case, add a little drop of hot glue to power switch threads and charger port to keep them from vibrating out of the enclosure when riding.
Connect the power switch to ESC, and connect the charger wire to the BMS wires of your battery.
If you have it, now is the time to wire in your battery meter per its instructions. This may require soldering.
Put enclosure on the skateboard deck facing up so you see inside the enclosure.
Take one bunch of motor wires from one motor and cross them to the other side of the enclosure and connect to that side of the ESC by connecting the bullet connectors, don’t worry about the order of the wires, they all work the same. Each motor also has a set of wires called Hall Sensor wires. These tell the ESC the position of the motor at any point in time and space. You want to add this to the wire group as you connect them. Be sure the Hall Sensor wires for a motor, plug into the same side of the ESC as the wires for that chosen motor.
Grab the other set of motor and Hall sensor wires and as a group cross them over the other motor wires and connect to the other side of the ESC. Looking down, the wire bunches should form an X leading to the ESC with one set of motor wires over the other.
Make sure the power button is off. Now Connect the ESC and the Battery via the two XT 60 connectors.
Press the power switch. If the ESC powers on, the lights change color from red to blue, to green, Success! That means you have connected everything correctly and are ready to setup. If the lights stay red or don’t power on at all, press the power switch, disconnect the power from the ESC and check all of your connections. Make sure the battery has a charge, and reconnect to the ESC. Troubleshoot your setup until you have power on and all green.
Turn off the power. You are now ready to program your ESC, finish the final assembly, and go ride.
Cool Trick 1: Wanna go 4×4? Simply connect two dual ESC via a CAN/BUS cable and you can now have four motors for super power! Just remember to program the ESC so that the two front wheels work in the same direction as the rear wheels.
Cool Trick 2: You can make a security “Loop Key” for your skateboard by adding an additional XT 60 or 90 connector between the battery and ESC. Simply cut the positive wire and run the positive for the battery and positive for the ESC into each plug, in a single side of an XT connector. Take the other side of the XT connector and loop a piece of wire from one side to the other. Now when you pull the “key”, you will effectively cut all power to the board. This used to be used as an Anti Spark connector, but most newer ESCs have anti spark technology built in so this now serves more as a cheap security feature.
Programming and Running your electric skateboard for the first time.
Download the VESC Tool software on your laptop. Or you can be a proud donator to the cause and spend the 99 cents to download the VESC Tool app to your smartphone. Connect your laptop via the included USB to micro USB cord. I set up most electric skateboards using my smartphone and the Bluetooth connection. So this setup is done using that method.
Power on your skateboard and wait for all the lights to go green or blue. Make sure there are no obstructions around the wheels of the drive system, and the belts are connected and tensioned.
Open the VESC Tool app on your phone and SCAN for your ESC. When it finds the ESC hit PAIR
Now use the Configuration Wizards to setup
When the wizard for MOTORS start you will hear a high pitched sound from your motors, this is normal. And good news! It means your ESC is working and reading the motors. The motors will spin up in power and move forward and backward. It will do this for both motors. When done, the wizard will show you the motors and you will be asked to choose the drive direction. If the motor doesn’t run in the right direction, choose INVERT and hit OK. The motors should now spin the correct way. Click OK and exit the motor wizard.
Enter the input Wizard and set the style of remote you are using. Most will be UART or PPM. Whichever way you connected to your ESC is the style of input you choose. Setup your battery info and other info. Then as the wizard continues, it will ask questions to help you adjust throttle etc. Once you hit your throttle, your wheels should start spinning. If only one wheel spins, don’t worry. The motors work better when under load. So if the throttle connects and works, you are good to go. Just make sure that when you press the throttle, a wheel or wheels spin up.
While programming an ESC can get complicated, for the most part, you are done with basic VESC programming and are ready to finish assembly and go have a test ride. I know I am missing a few things, but on initial setup, the ESC and VESC Tool will setup to defaults which will work fine for initial testing. You don’t need to make any additional adjustments after setting up motors and controller. You can tweak everything else after your first ride.
NOTE: Please do some research before diving too deep into the VESC software. Know that every DIY builder likes to customize their electric skateboards to their riding style, and adjusting your ESC using VESC Tool will allow you nearly limitless adjustment. So take your time, research, and tweak your skateboard in baby steps as you ride and evolve.
Turn off the power, flip the case over and fasten the enclosure to the skateboard.
The crossed motor wires should now be in line with its side of the enclosure. Make sure there are no pinched wires. Wrap the motor and hall sensor wires with conduit just to keep them organized and clean. Everything should now be secure. Tape, zip tie, or otherwise secure the conduit.
Fully Charge your skateboard and remote control batteries before your first ride.
You are now ready to test your new electric skateboard.
Your First Ride
Motorcycle Proverb: Dress for the Crash, not the ride.
If you have never ridden a skateboard or think you may be able to ride a 30mph plus skateboard with no protection, please take the time to read this article, https://e-skateboarder.com/best-protective-and-safety-gear/
Find a large safe area.
Power On Your Board, then your remote control in that order.
Lift the drivetrain side of your skateboard and give the throttle a quick pull. Your wheels should spin up.
Smile. You did it.
Stand on the board, lean forward on your right foot, and ease the throttle. You will start to move forward.
– As you ride, get a feel for the board. If you feel wobbly, tighten the trucks until you feel more stable but not so tight you can’t turn. Find your speed wobble point. That’s the point in speed where your skateboard trucks can’t keep up with the speed or your constant correction and you begin to lose control and balance. Keep adjusting your trucks to match your current speed comfort level. The faster you go, the tighter the trucks need to be. So you will start to lose turning power and carving ability in favor of speed. Also, the bushings will continue to break in requiring additional adjustments. Check out this article https://e-skateboarder.com/bushings to learn more about how your bushings’ durability affects your ride.
– Hit the throttle, check the throttle response. Your throttle should be snappy. You can tweak in the INPUT Section of the VESC Tool
– Let off the throttle at speed, watch the remote for battery response. It should show a small regeneration charge every time you let off the throttle. If you don’t get enough regeneration, you can make those adjustments in VESC Tool. Too much regen and your board will suffer, so use sparingly.
Cool Trick: You can actually track your speed and monitor all of your ESC systems if using the VESC Tool App on your phone while riding. It can monitor an entire ride session and provide you with real time data.
Go have fun
I hope you enjoyed this build. I know I did.
Please check out https://e-skateboarder.com for many more articles on this hot new sport/hobby/PEV vehicle.