Skateboarding in Bellingham can be a painstaking task when it comes to battling hills, but recently electric longboards have been introduced to Western’s community.
Senior and computer science major Gavin Grob decided he was tired of pushing and foot braking and realized it was time he made an electric longboard.
This past quarter, within a couple days of considering the idea, Grob ordered all the parts online and was cruising around Bellingham after a few days assembly, remote in hand.
Unlike many electric longboards that have controllers tethered to the board, Grob’s remote is wireless with a single trigger that brakes when pushed forward and starts accelerating the board when pulled back.
There are many different electric board manufacturers online, like E-glide Electric Skateboard and Boosted Boards, but Grob said these are a lot more expensive than it is to custom build one.
On BoostedBoards.com, the cheapest model costs $999, travels 18 mph and can get up to eight miles per charge. By building the longboard himself, Grob saved $349 and reached a higher maximum speed.
Michael Truax, junior and member of Western’s longboarding club, said he loves longboarding but hates hills, so an electric longboard would be something he’d buy, but not at the current price they sell at.
“Taking hills out of the equation just expands the longboarding world, and the possibility for the commuting world,” Truax said. “Here in Bellingham we have a lot of hills, and even bikers complain about it.”
Finding the right parts online may be tricky, but Grob recommends HobbyKing.com, the source of all the electronics he used. The pre-welded mounting bracket to attach the motor to the wheels was the most expensive part, and was bought online from a shop in San Francisco called DIYElectricSkateboard.com.
Since Grob has a hobby working with radio control airplanes, he already had all of the batteries needed to support enough power for the motor.
On a full charge, Grob said the longboard can travel five to six miles. He calculated how much power the motor puts out and it runs just under five horsepower.
After riding the board for a while, Grob wanted to see what kind of power his electric longboard would have with two additional power cells, making that a total of 14 batteries with 2.2 AMP. He could feel the extra power it added, but it only took a few test runs up Indian Street before the motor started smoking then quit working.
Satisfying the curiosity of seeing what would happen with two extra cells was worth the $75 expense to replace the motor, Grob said.
Beside small motor problems, Grob said one thing that bothers him about the electric longboard is how it brakes.
“There’s this half-second delay from when you touch the brakes to when it activates,” Grob said. “I wish I could figure out how to fix that lag.”
There are three brake settings on Grob’s remote controller: soft, medium and hard. Soft braking is the only time he won’t slide out his board, Grob said.
He’s still tinkering with the delay on the motor to help with acceleration and braking from being jerky, he said.
Not only is Grob’s electric longboard efficient in navigating Bellingham’s rolling landscape, but a Plexiglass casing around the batteries make it 100 percent waterproof to work 365 days a year here in the Pacific Northwest, he said.
Senior Aydan Hart-Mylie said he thinks that electric longboards are convenient for the amount of hills in Bellingham, though it takes the exercise out of it. For him, the most important thing is that they have breaks.
“All of my friends that longboard have wiped themselves out and broke things, and that’s why I’m not a longboarder,” Hart-Mylie said. “If you have too much speed and you have nowhere to bail, you can slow down. Thank god there’s some kind of braking system.”
Grob said he’s noticed electric longboards in California and thinks they are popular, especially in Santa Barbara and surrounding areas where it’s flat.
Hart-Mylie said that if electric longboards became more affordable, they would be a lot more popular around Western.
Grob said if anyone interested in building their own electric longboard, do it. They aren’t cheap, and are frustrating to assemble at times, but there are no big engineering difficulties to overcome, he said.
“If you’ve got the willpower, it’s a lot easier than building an old motorcycle or something. It’s pretty simple, straight forward,” Grob said.