The power to weight ratio of you standing on this is around ~21W/kg (1500W/75kg) , about 1/3 of a Ford Fiest 1.6. Not earth-shattering, but certainly something.
The technology gets even more interesting in the offroad department. Boards with +5000W bring you up to ~55W/kg, equal to that Fiesta.
Notable mention at this stage is Evolve, who seemingly has captured the space left by Boosted, the premium high-performance street skate. 3000W and a top speed of 42km/h. Cleverly also a crossover, able to switch to offroad wheels, this seems to be the board of choice for those looking to splash but not go DIY. With a swanky carbon deck, they almost nailed it, but the double pivot trucks, still my least favourite skateboard “innovation”, are a real pity on an otherwise capable-looking skateboard. This being the only one of these things I’ve actually ridden, I was very impressed and wanted to buy one, but at the £1500 price tag, I’ve yet to pull the trigger (which is funnily enough how you control the speed, with a little Bluetooth trigger control).
Between the off-the-shelf Boosted board clone and the high-performance mountain board, there is an endless array of options. The industry of innovating for higher performance personal transport is in full swing, with hobbyists on the one side and entrepreneurs on the other all vying for position.
The commercially available boards are generally what you’d expect from something consumer-friendly. In broadly the same way that you’ll not find a suitable downhill skateboard ready-made, the same generally applies to off the shelf, and generally the more niche providers provide higher performance. I’ll unpack this further in the racing sections later.
Battery technology has become much cheaper in the past decade, trending towards around $100/kWh. This price decrease has coincided with increased energy density. Brushless motor technology has concurrently jumped in performance. These changes are part of the reason drone technology has surged, and obviously why electric cars are viable.
Currently, batteries are the start and end of the conversation with electric vehicles. They are volatile, susceptible to performance degradation.
They can be explosive when over-discharged, over-charged, incorrectly charged or stored. This leads to numerous fires. The only real consideration as this relates to racing is that fresh batteries are a performance advantage, so charging is a logistical consideration, as is the cost-benefit of having multiple batteries available.
Much like tyres in motor racing or wheels in longboard racing, this is one of your primary consumables and an important consideration for competitive racing.
Electric skateboards have equally adopted downhill skateboarding race wheels and mountain boarding pneumatic wheels in equal measure.
The pneumatic wheels have greater rolling resistance so have lower range and seemingly more grip.
Polyurethane wheels are mostly just ~80mm hubbed longboard wheels, which means the range includes downhill classics like Flywheels and Otangs.
Worth mentioning the Hub motor. A brushless motor with a urethane sleeve. Drawbacks are a harsher ride, reduced torque, positives are a quieter more efficient ride. I have doubts about the applicability for racing.
What I have yet to see is meaningful high speed slides on urethane wheels, and I’m interested to see how viable sliding as a racing technique is with electric skateboards. It seems likely that powered braking is will be more efficient, but I fancy seeming some late braking slides to attack the apex as a possible technique.
It seems that pneumatic wheels have more grip on tar than the boards and riders are able to overpower.
Like any serious hobby, there is a crossover point where the bland watered-down consumer products fail to satisfy, and one turns to the internet for improved performance in the domain required. Much like my early days of downhill skateboarding, pressing DIY skateboards in dodgy garage clamps and slide gloves made of kitchen equipment, the DIY scene is deep in the early innovation phase, rapidly building and iterating, with a combination of hobbyist suppliers and hobby turned backyard startup suppliers combining to maximise performance.
The DIY scene is the obvious source for the energy behind a race scene, and there are some murmurings of interest in the idea, and ironically, lustings over the EXACT board that many downhill skaters would have lusted over about 12 years ago on another now-extinct skateboard forum.
The DIY scene has much more advanced equipment, with boards reaching 80km/h and beyond. What isn’t clear is the cornering capability, but with the amount of power, cornering will be sufficiently interesting to make a race of it.
I’ve also come across rubber non-pnuematic wheels. Interesting.
What is quite interesting is that there is surprisingly little cross-over from downhill skateboarding in the DIY skate scene. Other than the trucks, the commercial boards are all very varyingly quite flat and wide, with long wheelbases and wide trucks. Much the same in the DIY division. I wonder when the split angle short wheelbase narrow truck grip machine boards of downhill racing today:
What I imagine is that the design will move in an entirely different direction.
@lucier7 machined some Baseplates based on the long rod #nkp3link. 130mm hanger On @riptidesports 85/90a bushings and #muirskatepodiums Ready DH shakedown.
Already some interesting esk8 trucks making it back into DH.
And Max Capps DIY downhill skater hitting 60mph on an electric board. Grabbing the nose too. Interesting.
What do “esk8 races” look like, compared to a downhill race
Grip racing, most familiar to me, is currently actively racing in two categories, go-karts and uphill.
Indoor Go-Kart tracks are well suited to ~40kph racing, as illustrated below. This looks like a close-fought race. Note the mix of pneumatic and urethane. If the guy in 2nd wasn’t riding some overly dippy trucks I’d have him in first in a re-race (skip to 1:35, 2:35 for the mid-corner wobs).
The above video is from a race put on by Evolve, graciously allowing non-brand boards to their event that is ultimately an exhibition of their technology. I’m sure they’re glad their riders placed first and second, but eventually one would hope the field to be open. I’ve read mixed reports of their 2020 racing being open to off-brands. Some further videos:
An interesting development in the race scene is esk8 hobbyists connecting with downhill skaters to use the closed roads for a “side-show” uphill race. This is run in the same way as downhill, knockout 4-6 man heats.
Behind the scenes, note Mr Abec11 Chris Chaput getting involved. Always a good sign.
The advantage of this is that there is no doubt some cross-pollination between downhill and electric skateboarders.
Disadvantages are that the races don’t seem to make for particularly close or interesting racing at this early stage, never mind the very fast speeds. Because of the power of the boards, aerodynamics seems to be of marginal importance, and bravery and the ability to keep the throttle pinned seem primary. This reminds me of the early days of downhill, when races didn’t quite push the limits of grip, and aerodynamic forces were not quite significant enough at the speed to create many passing opportunities.
I think the types of hills best suited to racing would be tighter, involve breaking and the edge of grip racing.
A production board here would be useless, as these custom boards are not limited in speed.
The offroad racing seems to mostly take place on either BMX tracks or junior motocross tracks as below.
The below video gives a good sense of where things are at. The boards in this clip are either modified 4 wheel drive Evolve GTR or 2 wheel drive Trampa mountainboards. (Probably an even match at a guess of around 6000Watts each.
|[![ELECTRIC SKATE RACING
|UK OPEN](http://img.youtube.com/vi/dyM5fTx3UdY/0.jpg)](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyM5fTx3UdY?t=157 “ELECTRIC SKATE RACING
Evolve has done a good job of allowing non-Evolve boards at their open races, and winning in both examples, here and in the Go-kart track.
That’s my back of the napkin analysis. I’m keeping an eye. I don’t want to mess my body up much more on a skateboard, but I’m curious to see where this goes
How is a self-sustaining scene built
The key to building a grassroots scene is accessibility and entertainment value. When running downhill skateboarding events, the most popular are the ones where speeds were low or constrained in some way. These are useful feeder events to the more high-performance races, where newcomers get a taste, which is generally all that is necessary to get someone hooked and coming back for more.
There seem to be a few demo-day style races, primarily from consumer-facing companies.
Summary of why there may be some interest in a niche race scene, happening in the shadows:
How does an underground race scene become something more
Why No, Not Now, give it a Decade:
This is where the analysis ends for now.
It does seem like a scooter racing thing is lined up. Pity as a scooter is ultimately a small motorbike, which I have less personal interest in.