Ever since Benjamin Franklin went flying a kite in 1972, just to see what would happen, humans have been fascinated with how we can get electricity working for us. We use it to light our homes, to communicate, to wash our clothes, and now we are even using electricity to transport us.
Electric transportation isn’t exactly a new thing, the electric motor was first invented in Hungary in 1827 by Ányos Jedlik. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s when things really started to become fun for the electric motor, when Louie Finkle (Electric Louie) put an electric motor on a skateboard and patented it (see here for patent information)
Since then we have seen kick-starter campaigns funding the development of skateboards for the masses as well as several big brands come on board developing and fine-tuning the skateboard for both transportation and competition. You can buy off the shelf, customized or even just kitsets that allow you to turn your own board into a wireless electric machine. There are hundreds of options, ranging from under $20 for a build your own kit of dubious quality, right through to over $1500 worth of fully kitted out board designed to make sure you arrive at your destination with your suit intact looking like the trend setter you are.
Of course, most people who are looking at electric skateboards are already skaters. Most of them may know what they like in a board for ramp, park or road. But when it comes to changing over to an electric board, things get a bit more difficult. Whether you are looking at getting an electric board because they’re fun, because you’re simply over trying to skate up hills, or you just need a faster & an easier way to get to work each day, there is a range of different skateboards that can suit your needs.
How to Choose An Electric Skateboard
Just like a non-motorized board, you’ll have to think about your primary purpose for wanting to get on electric skateboards before you can work out which one will best suit your needs. There are a variety of wheel sizes, board lengths, battery weight, board width and controller types but probably the most important for most people is how far you can go on a single charge.
Battery Range – How Far Can You Go?
Although the question of how far you can go on one charge will depend on factors like how heavy you (or your backpack) are, and what sort of inclines you are dealing with, generally you are looking at anywhere from 7 miles right up to 25 miles. However, electric skateboards are constantly being developed and improved on, so battery life is one of those things that companies are trying to improve.
Transportability – What’s Your Weight Lifting Like?
One of the reasons to invest in an electric skateboard is to make transportation easier. You want something that can get you from A to B as quickly, cheaply and easily as possible (fun goes without saying). Bikes and Scooters have the problem of what to do with them once you get to your destination, which is where skateboards have always had the advantage. Tuck them into your backpack straps and walk around quite happily until you need to get speed again. With an electric skateboard you have the problem of the weight of the motor and battery to contend with. The lightest comes in at around 12lbs, while at the heavier end of things you are looking more at 25lbs. Which may not seem significantly heavy until you are trying to carry your board and your backpack up several flights of stairs.
Like battery life, one of the things that skateboard manufacturers are trying to work on is reducing the weight of both battery and motor. Not just because this makes a nicer board, but decreased weight also helps to increase the distance able to be travelled on one battery charge.
Them Hills, Them Hills
If you live in Anaheim or Las Vegas you might not need to worry about whether your board can get you up anything more than a gentle meandering slop, however if you are San Francisco based whether you board can actually make it up a hill (and what the brakes are like!) matters. While most boards are ok with a 15% incline – although some may require a little bit of foot power to help them along, some are designed to get you zooming up a steeper 30% incline, while a few won’t cope with any hill whatsoever.
It’s All About Control
You may be an experienced boarder – you may be an experienced gamer, but unless you are experienced at both you will want to have a test run of your new board at a safe location where you aren’t going to come to any (much) harm. Almost most electric skateboards are controlled by a joy stick, you will find some that are designed to function in a similar fashion to a non-motorized board with controllers built into the trucks and board.