In this article, I will answer the most challenging questions when it comes to electric skateboards. The questions that some are even afraid to ask and few know the correct answer. Belt drive or Hub drive, when it comes to the force moving the skateboard, and remote or hands-free control when it comes to the steering? However before we can answer these questions, we must explain a little about what an electric skateboard is, what its main components are and how it works.
Essential parts – plain it simple!
The easiest way to describe the electric skateboard is to compare them to an ordinary car. Hence, the electric motor, mounted from below, is the same as the engine in the car; it creates the force that drives the wheels. The battery is the same as the fuel tank where the charge/fuel needed for running the engine is stored. The deck where we stand, it represents the seats in the car. The truck is our 'steering wheel,' and the trigger on the remote control is the gas pedal. There is also a 'clutch,' but not in all models, and we will discuss that later in the text. For now, I think that the comparison is clear, we all know what the essential parts of the car are, and now we know and what are the essential parts of the electric skateboard and what is their function.
Belt Drive vs. Hub Drive
The same question in 2015 would have a straightforward answer: the belt drive. Hub motors are a newer technology that has emerged in recent years. To answer this question, we must first explain what belt drive or hub drive means.It is important to know that both types of electric skateboards use the same brushless DC motor. The trick is in the transmission of forces, the way the power of the motor is used.
A belt drive is a looped band of flexible material used to connect two or more rotating shafts mechanically. A belt drive allows smooth transmission of power among shafts at a substantial distance. They are mostly used to transmit power efficiently from the source of motion to the track relative movement.
In a two pulley system, the belt drives are classified into two types, depending upon the direction which the belt drive rotates the pulley; open belt drive and crossed belt drive.An open belt drive is applied when we need to rotate the driven pulley in the same direction of driving pulley. In this type of drive, while in motion, one side of the pulley is more tightened compared to the other side due to power transmission result and centrifugal force. When the drive is installed horizontally, the tilt of the higher side slightly increases the angle of folding of the belt on the two pulleys, so the tightened side must always be kept on the lower side of the two pulleys. A crossed belt drive is done when we want to rotate the driven pulley in the reverse direction of the driving pulley. In this type of belt drive, more power can be transmitted than an open belt drive, depending on the value of wrap, higher this value goes the more power is transmitted from the engine to the pulley. However, because of the wrap of the belt, bending and wear of the belt over a short period of time is a big concern.
The belt drive configuration at electric skateboards consists of two pulleys open system. The small pulley is attached to the motor, and the larger pulley is attached to the wheel. When the motor produces power and force, that power is transmitted from the small pulley to the large pulley and to the wheels with the help of the elastic belt.
The hub drive is also known as a direct drive because the motor is directly attached to the wheel. The motor’s rod becomes the rear axle. Because the rod is fixed in place, the motor rotates around the cylinder, launching you forward. The motor itself could be installed in the hub of the wheel so that the motor and the wheel rotate together.
The other type of hub drive motors can include gears. The metal gears are in direct contact with one another. The simplistic 3-speed gear hubs use a unique planetary epicyclical gear set. For lower and higher speed, a reduction is used to regulate the torque of the engine, while for the middle-speed direct-hub drive is used because there is no torque at all.
Planetary epicyclical gear set
The belt drive is much older technology used for the past 20 years, while hub drive is a new technology that has emerged in the last two years and has not yet been developed completely.
Whether we would like it or not, it will often happen that the battery of our skateboard will be wasted, so we have to use foot power. When we find ourselves in such unpleasant situation, hub drive skateboard has the advantage because it moves like a regular skateboard, while the belt drive skateboards and its attached belt makes it difficult to push because of the friction created by the belt.
When it comes to maintaining, hub driven skateboards have the advantage, because they have fewer moving parts which are less susceptible to dust and moisture because they are entirely enclosed within the hub. In the belt drive, many moving parts are not protected at all, completely exposed to all external influences. This, in another hand, allows them to have no problem with the heat. The electric motor and the wheel are separated, and that results in much less heat dissipation, hence better protection from nearby parts like the battery. Hub drive skateboards have a big problem with the heat because everything is placed inside the hub. The hub makes them quieter, the motor enclosed in the hub helps to mitigate the noise.
On the other hand, the belt drive provides better acceleration, and the gearing system provides better torque for climbing hills. Although the hub drive lags behind in acceleration and incline, it has a better braking system since the motor is directly connected to the hub.
When it comes to efficiency, the hub drive is the undisputed champion because it has near 100% efficiency because the gearing is 1 to 1 and has a much lower weight due to the smaller motor and fewer parts.
The variety of different types of wheels is higher with the belt drive, but they are still limited to wheels that allow mounting on the pulley. As for the ride itself, although the belt drive technology is older, it still offers a softer, more suspension, ride. The hub makes the ride stiff.
So, what is the right answer, belt drive or hub drive? We would say that currently, the choice would fall on the belt drive. But not for long, it is expected that in the next few years the hub drive skateboards will have significant improvement and entirely replace the belt drive skateboards.
Remote control vs. Hands-free
Before we begin to elaborate on the question, what it is the better way of steering, with a remote control or hands-free, we have to explain how steering electric skateboard works. Both ways have one thing in common; whether we want to turn left or right, we do it by tilting our body in the desired direction, and the built-in gyroscope detects the change of the center of our mass and controls the electric skateboard Canada. The big difference is in the way of acceleration and braking.
Almost every electric skateboard for adults on the market comes with handheld remote. The remote is used to increase/decrease speed and braking. Press up if you want to go forward and press back if you want to lower your speed or break — pretty simple and easy to use. For most of the skilled drivers, the remote control appears like second nature. On the other hand, the remote control has very high sensitivity, and a period of adaptation for each new driver is required, regardless of age. If you give a new driver a handheld remote and that fun skateboard can quickly turn into a 30 KMH rocket.
The hands-free controlled skateboard is something new in the e-board community. The function of handheld remote control is replaced with body motion control system. The system is practically well-written software that processes the data that comes from a gyroscope sensor and multiple weight and motion sensors. However, before you start riding, the software has to measure your weight. The calculation happens in a split second, the moment you step on the board it measures your weight and adjusts for the desired ride mode. After you hear the beep signal, you can start boarding. Shift your weight toward the front of the board, and the wheels begin to move forward smoothly, no kicking or remote control required. After you accelerate, the speed controller records all your body movements and continuously assists while riding. If you want the board to slow down, you should lean in the opposite direction of travel. Lean more to accelerate or decelerate faster. Hop off the board, or shift your weight back further, and the e-board will quickly come to a stop.
Hands-free boards are supposed to be controlled by moving your weight forward or back to accelerate or slow down. When you have a remote control in your hand, you’re adding an additional step for your brain to process. You have to coordinate your hand with the feedback from your feet. The hands-free boards are eliminating one step and making it easier for us to drive and enjoy the ride.
However, in reality, the technology behind the hands-free boards is not yet developed entirely. You have to move your feet on and off the control pads continually. It's dangerous and difficult even for a well-experienced driver. When you are barreling downhill, you don't want to have to move your feet around the board to think about slowing down.
For now, remote control boards are far superior. You still have to tilt your weight to steer and balance, but being able to control the board with your handheld remote, independent of your weight position, is much better and safer. This way the skateboard can't speed up or slow down unexpectedly because both feet are on the control pads accidentally.
So, as a conclusion, we can say that for now, the remote control electric skateboards are a better choice from the hands-free boards. Although it requires more coordination and concentration from the driver, they are much safer and for now is the first choice. Nevertheless, the future belongs to the hands-free skateboards. The technology is getting more advanced every single day, and significant progress is expected in this field. We need to wait and see the way in which skateboards will continue to develop, but one thing is certain, the remote will be out of use.