How to Select the Best Electric Skateboard to Buy

Posted by Brent Gray on 11/9/2015 to Resources

There are many different types of electric transportation devices available these days, including electric scooters, bikes, unicycles and the currently popular 2-wheel self-balancing scooters (also known as hoverboards or mini-Segways.) But for many people the best choice of them all is the electric skateboard. For a whole bunch of reasons, electric skateboards are HOT!

When choosing an electric skateboard there are a few key factors you'll want to consider. These factors—or in some cases features—can affect the price and the functionality of the board. Depending on your needs—and your budget—understanding the differences will help you choose the board that is right for you.

Battery

Probably the most important differentiator, that affects both price and performance, is the battery. There are two main types of batteries: Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) and Lithium Ion (Li-ion). Understanding the differences between these two types of batteries, not to mention other factors such as amp hours, volts, and watt hours, is far more complicated than you might imagine, but for this article, we'll keep it as simple as possible:

The bottom line is cost versus performance!

Li-ion batteries are lighter, hold a charge better, and last much longer, around 3-5 years before losing significant capacity, but they are much more expensive that SLA batteries. An SLA battery, which is similar to a car battery, is much heavier and will usually last only about 1-2 years. But they are much less expensive, which makes them very popular for many applications, including electric skateboards.

Li-ion batteries are typically the preferred choice of the two, however, the increased cost cannot be ignored. We offer several excellent SLA-powered electric skateboards that perform extremely well, and since the cost-difference can be significant, it could be the difference between owning an electric skateboard or not. If you really want to know even more about the difference between SLA and Li-ion batteries, you can click here.

Motor

Before you buy an electric skateboard you should check out the size of the motor and whether it is a brushed or brushless motor. Brushless motors are more expensive, but are lighter, quieter, run more efficiently and require less maintenance. (The difference in efficiency means that more of the total power used by a brushless motor is being turned into rotational force and less is being lost as heat.) The wattage rating of the motor is also a factor. Generally, the higher the wattage, the higher the top speed and torque.

As with the battery, understanding the differences between motors can be pretty complex, but here are some general guidelines regarding brushless versus brushed motors:

 

   Brushless

   Brushed

   Pros

  • Speed/Torque is flat, which enables efficient operation at all speeds
  • High output power to size ratio
  • Higher speed range
  • Quieter due to lower electromagnetic interference (EMI)
  • Low maintenance/longer lifespan - no brushes to wear out
  • Simple two-wire control - Brush motors can be wired directly to DC power and control can be as simple as a switch
  • Operates in extreme environments due to lack of electronics
  • Some can be rebuilt for extended life
  • Much lower cost of manufacturing
 

   Cons

  • Higher cost of manufacturing
  • Electronic Speed Control (ESC) is required to keep the motor running, which is sometimes even more expensive than the motor itself
  • Less efficient at high speeds (less torque)
  • Lower speed range due to mechanical limitations on the brushes
  • Brush arcing generates more noise
  • Shorter lifespan - brushes wear out
  • Periodic maintenance may be required


On-Road or Off-Road

This is a big difference between electric skateboards. Generally, boards are designed specifically for on-road or off-road use, which will be obvious to you when you look at the boards. On-road boards are usually smaller, lighter and have solid polyurethane wheels, whereas off-road boards are typically bigger and heavier and have large rubber pneumatic tires. The one good thing about boards designed for off-road use is that they work just fine on regular hard surfaces as well, whereas boards specifically designed for on-road use, really don't work well off road.

Size & Weight

Your intended purpose for buying an electric skateboard will determine the importance of size and weight. If you plan to go fast or ride off-road, then the length of the board becomes important to increase stability. The longer the board, the more stable it will be. On the other hand, if you plan to ride your skateboard to school or work, and will need to carry it on the bus, light rail or train and into the school or your office, you may want a smaller, lighter board. Otherwise, there really is no inherent advantage or disadvantage to the size of the board—it's just a matter of matching the board dimensions to your unique needs.

Wheels

Wheels come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and hardness. The type of wheels that will be best for you depends on what you will be using your electric skateboard for.

Wheel Material & Hardness

Electric skateboard wheels are usually made of either Polyurethane (PU), which is a synthetic crystalline compound that is both resilient and very durable, or rubber, which is much more well-suited for off-road riding that PU wheels. When you look at a set of PU wheels you will usually see two sets of numbers. The first set of numbers is the diameter size of the wheel in mm normally between 48mm and 112mm, the second set of numbers is the hardness measured by the durometer scale, and is normally between 78a and 104a; the higher the number the harder the wheel. (Sometimes wheel rating have a 'b' or a 'd' after the number instead of an 'a'. This makes the scale number scale higher, so a 100a wheel is the same as an 85b wheel or a 58d wheel. Pneumatic (inflatable) rubber tires, on the other hand, are usually measured simply by diameter and width.

Harder wheels slide easier, whereas softer wheels have more grip and give you a smoother ride.

Thus, most technical skateboarders prefer a harder wheel for durability, speed, and controlled sliding ability. Softer wheels, on the other hand, will give you a smoother ride and are better if the skater is using the skateboard for cruising and riding on rougher ground. Of course, the softest wheel of all are pneumatic rubber tires, which are the best choice for off-road riding.

Wheel Size

Narrow wheels are more responsive, have less friction and are lighter in weight. This can be great for street boarding, but wider wheels will grip the ground better and are the best for cruising. Smaller wheels won’t last quite as long or ride as smoothly as wider wheels. A larger wheel maintains its speed longer and actually will roll faster when it gets going and are designed mainly for cruising or transportation. This would also go for dirt wheels, which, as the name implies, are meant for dirt or cross-terrain riding. Anytime you are looking to ride over dirt, grass, gravel or other uneven surfaces, it is recommended to use the larger pneumatic tires.

Controller

While not critical to the overall functionality of the electric skateboard, the controller may include a variety of features that are nice to have. Those features include ability to charge via a USB connection, auto-shutoff, multi-position speed control, LED battery life indicator, trigger-grip control versus slider control, etc.

However, the biggest difference to watch for is whether the controller is wired, wireless, or foot controlled. Most electric skateboards boards include wireless controllers, but one company (ZBoard) uses a convenient foot controller. A wireless controller is certainly the most popular controller, but ZBoard might be on to something.

Features

Every electric skateboard comes with a variety of unique features. None of them are necessarily critical to the usability of your skateboard, but some of them are really nice to have. Which ones you want (or need) is up to you. Some of these features include: regenerative braking, multi-speed settings, forward and reverse modes, speedometers, battery indicators, lights, auto shut-off (in case you forget to), auto-braking (so when you fall off your board it doesn’t keep going), and even USB charging ports to charge your cell phone.

The Bottom Line

There is not right or wrong, or even good, better and best. The electric skateboard you choose is largely a matter of personal preference, budget and intended use. At ElectricRideables.com we carry ALL types of boards to meet the needs of ALL types of buyers. As you browse through our store, be sure to read the detailed information about each board found in the tabs next to the main description tab. Our objective is to provide you with the most information and the widest selection of electric skateboards anywhere on the Internet. We ARE the electric skateboard experts!

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