We are beginning to see electric skateboards more and more around us. People use electric skateboards for commuting, getting around or just riding them for fun. I personally love to ride electric skateboards. They are just so much fun! But what is an electric skateboard exactly? How do they work?

Electric skateboards are similar to normal skateboards except that they have an electric motor that drives them forward. Normally you open the throttle, control the speed and brake with a hand-held remote control. The battery that fuels the electric motor is mounted under the deck of the e-skateboard. The motors are either attached under the deck or inside the wheels. The rider makes a turn by tilting the board to one side or the other (weight shift to heels or toes). The electric skateboard is designed for local transport or commuting. They usually weigh around 22 pounds (10kg), have top speeds between 10-30mph (15-50km/h). The range can vary from 10-31miles (16-50km).

Table of contents

How do electric skateboards exactly work?

Anything that can travel as fast as small motorcycles is capable of doing a lot of damage to your body if you crash. Therefore, you should give electric skateboards the respect they deserve. In order for you to truly operate an electric skateboard safely, we should understand how they work first. You might be surprised to read that the first motor-driven (gasoline powered) skateboards were actually produced in the seventies. Today’s motor-driven skateboards are electrically driven and look much sleeker and attractive. They looked surprisingly like a traditional skateboard until you pick them to look underneath, where you can see the battery and electric motor.

First and foremost an electric skateboard almost always comes with a remote control. If you can pull the trigger on your remote control to open the throttle the remote control will transfer the data via electromagnetic waves to the Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) of your board. When we choose to accelerate with the controller, the ESC takes information coming from the Bluetooth receiver and evaluates and draws the correct amount of energy from the battery to the motor. And that’s it! The power that comes from the battery goes to the motor which will drive the wheels and your electric skateboard forward.

What is an electric skateboard exactly?

An electric skateboard also called e-board, e-skateboard, or Esk8 is a skateboard which is driven by an electric motor. Electric skateboards can accelerate and brake independently.

An electric skateboard is very comparable to a normal skateboard or longboard (long and more stable skateboard). The biggest difference is the acceleration and braking process. On an electric skateboard, you don’t need to kick push with your foot to get forward. The electric motor does it for you. You can enjoy the rides as a passenger with both feet on the board while an electric motor drives you around. Additionally, e-boards have brakes. You don’t need to break with your foot to slow down. You just pull the trigger on your remote control and the e-skateboard slows down independently.

Understanding how your skateboard works could help beginners and even advanced riders with quick repairs and maintenance. So you might find this article useful even if you already own an electric skateboard.

We can distinguish between three categories of components.

  • Basic components
  • Mechanical components 
  • Electric components
A DIY electric skateboard

Electric skateboards parts explained

Basic components

Deck

The deck is the biggest part of your electric skateboard. It is the platform, the board, you are standing on while you’re riding it. Normally the deck is made out of wood. Industry standard boards typically consist of 3 to 12 plies of hardwood, (e.g. maple wood) laminated together and pressed into a concave shape. Some deck suppliers use a layer (or ply) of fiberglass or carbon for strength and rigidity. Sometimes companies or do-it-yourself-skateboard-builders build their entire decks out of fiberglass or carbon. If the deck is out of fiberglass or carbon it will get lighter, stronger and more durable. However, in my opinion, wood is perfectly fine as well. The underside of the deck will usually be printed or painted with a design by the manufacturer.

different Deck shapes

Trucks

The trucks, are made out of metal and are the axis of your eboard. Transferring the weight of your body from the deck to the bearings and wheels. They have another very important part: With trucks, you can make turns!
Trucks are comprised of several pieces: the hanger, the bushings, baseplate, kingpin, and axle. The truck is one of the most essential parts of the skateboard because it will more or less determine how your skateboard will ride.

Wheels

Without wheels, your electric skateboard wouldn’t work. The wheels transfer the weight from the trucks to the pavement. They are usually made of polyurethane, and come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors to suit different types of skating and boarding. Larger diameters (50–90 mm) roll faster, accelerate slower and move more easily over cracks in the pavement. Smaller diameters (40–54 mm) keep the board closer to the ground, require less force to accelerate, produce a lower center of gravity, but are also made for a slower top speed.

Ball bearings

Each wheel is mounted on its axle via two bearings. These are usually made of steel, sometimes even out of silicon nitride, a high-tech ceramic. Bearings do the actual magic. Without them, we would not be able to roll down the streets. They are one of the most important and fragile parts of our board.

Maintenance on bearings is important. This includes regular cleaning and lubricating. Bearings that are kept unmaintained have less performance, less longevity and will need to be replaced more often. Bearing cleaning and maintaining kits are commonly available on the market.

Bearings

Griptape

Griptape is a sheet with adhesive on one side and a surface similar to fine sandpaper on the other side. Without grip tape, you would not have enough friction to transfer all your movements and forces from your feet to the deck. Grip tape is applied to the top surface of a board to allow the rider to stay on the board while accelerating, braking, doing turns and tricks. Grip tape is normally black but it can come in other colors as well. There’s also a way to make grip part of your deck transparent. Just apply sand on the deck and fix it with glue spray. (lucid spray)

Mechanical components


Motor:
The motor is one of the most important parts of an electrical longboard. It is the part that makes electric skateboarding so convenient. There are two main types of motors:

  • Hub motor
  • Belt motor

Hub motor

The hub motor is placed directly inside the wheel. It is very quiet and not so loud as a belt motor. It also looks very stealthy. If you drive your electric skateboard in areas where it is not allowed then the hub motor is maybe the better choice. But it has some disadvantages as well. Because of its placement, it is exposed to concussions.
Further, the hub motor is caged inside the wheel. We all know that motors produce a considerable amount of heat. Temperature wise the motor is not very intelligently designed. Air can´t go through the motor. To help the motor with cooling the motor-casing has holes so that air can pass through it. But due to these holes, the whole motor is not very water resistant. We need to be cautious when we drive on wet areas and should avoid puddles.

The Hub Motor

Belt motor

The belt motor is the classic and conservative motor in the electric skateboard industry. The way it works: an electric motor is driving the motor pulley. The motor pulley is connected through a belt to the wheel pulley. The construction is comparable to the type of drive of a bicycle or a motor bicycle. This construction is more exposed to the air so the motor won’t need additional cooling. The motor doesn´t have holes in his case so it more water resistant than the hub motor.

Belt Motor

Electric components

Battery

The battery is the energy storage device of an electric skateboard. It supplies the motor with power. The battery is the heaviest component of an electric skateboard. The bigger the battery the more range we get. They come in different varieties, shapes, and chemistry. The most common battery in electric skateboards are Lithium-ion batteries. I wrote a separate guide on batteries which you can read here.

Electronic Speed Controller (ESC)

The ESC is basically the brain of an electric skateboard. It controls how much power the battery will give to the motor. It is connected to the battery, the motor, the Bluetooth receiver and has got a computer for processing the data. When we choose to accelerate with the controller, the ESC takes information coming from the Bluetooth receiver and draws the correct amount of energy from the battery to the motor.

Remote Control

With the remote controller, you can choose if you want to accelerate or break. There are different kinds of remote controllers. On some RCs, you push a slidable button with your thumb forward for accelerating and pull it back for breaking. On others, you pull a trigger with your index finger to open the throttle and remove it for braking. On different ones, you slide a wheel forward and backward to control the speed.

Bluetooth transmitter and receiver

Since the invention of Bluetooth we don’t need wires to transfer signals, which is a big advantage in electric skateboarding. Now we can hold the remote control easily in our hands and don’t need to think a lot about wires. The Bluetooth transmitter is located inside the controller and sends a signal to the Bluetooth receiver. This allows wireless communication between the Remote control and the electric skateboard.

Possible additional components

Lights

In the morning evening or night, you want to be seen by cars, bikes, motorbikes or pedestrians. You can attach white LED front lights and red LED backlights to your board for riding safety. I did a lot of research and wrote a whole article on electric skateboard lights, you can find it here.

head- and taillights

Nose guard

Nose and tail guards can be purchased to protect the nose and tail from damage. They are normally made out of plastic. They have different shapes and colors.

nose guard

Extra Battery

Some electric skateboard brands offer boards with a removable battery. So you can ride till the battery is completely empty and just switch it with a fully charged one. The majority of boards only come with one battery. If you don’t have the possibility to charge your board often an extra battery is very helpful. Or on big trips, where you ride long distances you just need extra juice.

Wheel Guards

If you drive during the rain you should add some mudguards to your electric skateboard. With mud/wheel guards you won’t have muddy, wet or dirty shoes and pants after a ride in the rain.

wheel guards

Rain wheels

You can even purchase special wheels for riding during the rain or on wet pavement. For example from “Harfang Wheels are designed to drive the water away from the wheels.

wheels for wet roads

Final thoughts

The electric skateboard is a new innovative way for local transportation without polluting the environment. Due to advances in technology, production volume and competing companies electric skateboards are dropping in price. The get more popular every year.

I hope now you know how electric skateboards work. Either I hope that my blog post had helped you to understand the anatomy of e-boards better. If you have any suggestions or general feedback, I would be happy to read about it. It would be highly appreciated!