Electric skateboards are way faster compared to regular skateboards on a flat surface. There are several ways to stop the movement on a regular skateboard, but what about electric skateboards that are way faster? Are they able to brake, and how?
That is a categorical yes. Electric skateboards have brakes and for an important reason, which is safety. As a ride that can go as fast as over 25 mph (40 km/h) or more on a downhill ride, this personal transporter would require a braking mechanism to prevent riders to go crashing at high speeds that can cause serious injuries.
Unlike regular skateboards that rely on manual braking through skidding, using foot breaks or bringing your ride to an ascending slant or grassy surface, electric skateboards use an electric motor to slow down and stop. However, learning how to manually decelerate and to stop them is still important for a safe ride. Here we discuss braking electric skateboards and other important concepts that you need to learn if you are planning to ride one.
How to Brake Electric Skateboards?
Electric skateboards use a handheld remote control to operate the equipment including starting, moving to accelerate, decelerating and stopping. The procedure for breaking the e-skateboard is comparatively the opposite act of starting the throttle. You simply pull the throttle in reverse on your remote control to switch to the braking process.
However, much like riding a skateboard, you should position your weight to be shifted forward before administering the break to maintain your balance. To do this, you should bend backward and squat a little to be more stable by reducing the center of your gravity to prepare for the brake. The e-board will not stop suddenly but will gradually slow down until it finally brings into a halt.
Although it may sound easy, the procedure for braking is a bit tricky in reality and may require some time to practice to perfect. You should practice in a safe place off the street to avoid accidents instead of going immediately on the streets. You should include in your practice making hard breaks to prepare yourself in more demanding situations.
Dynamic and Regenerative Braking Systems
You don’t need to put your foot down on the ground to slow down or brake an e-board like in a kick skateboard. The braking process in e-skateboards is performed within the electric motor that runs and accelerates the same. Thus, it can stop on its own independently by merely clicking the trigger in your remote control.
There are two basic types of braking systems used inside the motor to facilitate the deceleration of an e-board namely: regenerative braking and dynamic braking. Both systems use a traction motor to slow down the e-board. When the rider presses on the brake button in the remote control, the electric motor that runs the electric board forward is placed into reverse mode. This means that the rotor will rotate backward, hence reducing the speed of the board’s wheels.
In regenerative braking systems or regen, the motor functions as an electric generator at the same time while the rotor spins backward, producing electricity like an alternator, that is fed back into the battery thereby recharging it. In dynamic braking, the energy generated is dispersed as heat through the braking resistor.
The regenerative braking system, therefore, is more efficient as no energy is wasted. However, there is a big downside to this. Once the battery becomes fully charged, it can no longer absorb additional electricity. And if this happens, the system will drop its ability to stop the board.
This problem is not found in the dynamic braking system because the braking process does not charge the batteries. It does not cut out its braking function. Because of these limitations, some electric skateboards have built-in dynamic and regenerative braking systems to get the best of both worlds.
While at this topic, you might wonder why electric skateboards do not use the friction braking system instead, which is the standard braking system used in ordinary petrol-fueled cars. In this system, a brake disc is used to get in contact with the rotating gears causing friction that slows down the wheels. The reason for this is because the configuration of a friction braking system entails heavy and large mechanical hardware that is relatively cumbersome for small riding equipment like a skateboard.
Regenerative Braking and The Charging Back of Batteries
As per the principles of regenerative braking, once the brake is applied, the motor also generates electricity while its rotor spins backward, which in turn recharges the batteries. This improves the fuel economy of e-boards and extends the battery charge.
Many vendors of e-boards use this feature as a selling point to drive sales. However, experimental research shows that the regenerative capacity of electric skateboards to charge the batteries while braking was only small.
The amount of electricity that is recharged in the battery when braking was way less than the amount of electricity that is used to cover the same distance. In short, regeneration is slow charging. While the regeneration doesn’t add too much back to the battery, it is nevertheless better and safer than quickly charging your batteries because a fully charged battery loses its braking ability.
Fast charging the battery through braking in your e-board can be very dangerous especially when going downhill.
Preparing to Foot Brake or Jump off the Board
Even if electric skateboards have built-in brake systems, riders should still be capable and always be ready to use manual foot brake and jump off the board if necessary. Hereunder are instances when manually stopping is needed:
The battery gets fully charged because of braking – As mentioned earlier, regenerative brake systems have the potential of cutting their braking capability once the battery gets 100% charged. And this happens when a rider inadvertently or intentionally extended the braking condition long. For instance, holding the brake button for over a minute and a half, could potentially fully charge the battery causing the regenerative brake system to momentarily halt its ability to brake to prevent overloading the battery. In which case, manually stopping or jumping off the board are the only options to prevent crashing.
Dead or Drained Battery – Your battery may become drained or dead in the middle of a ride. If that happens, all the functionalities of your electric motor including braking also end. In which case, the only way to stop is by a foot brake.
Remote Control Problems – Your remote control is the device that bridges your control of the board. Sometimes, your remote control becomes low-bat because you forgot to charge it. It is also possible that it suddenly fails to function due to wear and tear or because you drop it hard before and got it broken. There is no way for you to switch the brakes to the motors or command your skateboard to slow down without a well-functioning remote control.
Fast Speeds – Electric skateboards that reach speeds of over 25 mph (40 km/h), has the potential to significantly reduce its braking power. Electric boards are not designed for this speed. Thus, it is important for riders to be cautious and to maintain a manageable speed to prevent this from happening and avoid mishaps.
Manually decelerating or braking your electric skateboard can be facilitated by a foot brake, carving o swinging in big wide turns, heel brakes, power sliding or rolling to a rough surface.
Hub Motor and Belt Motor
There are two principal types of motor architectures used in electric skateboards; the belt motor and the hub motor.
Often characterized by an externally mounted motor, a belt drive motor involves two separate gears – a motor gear or pulley and a wheel gear that are connected by a belt so that if the motor gear spins, the wheel gear also rotates. Braking the belt motor is less efficient because the motor gear which performs the braking still needs to translate the process to the separate wheel gear, which can also be affected by the strain in the belt. This type of electric skateboard has restricted free-rolling ability and requires regular maintenance especially around the belt.
In the case of the hub motor, the wheels are directly attached to the motor so that the rotor inside the motor directly spins the wheel of the e-board. There is greater efficiency when braking in this mechanical architecture because the reversing rotor in the hub will also directly stop the wheels connected to it. Many E-skaters prefer this type of electric skateboards because they are cheap, easy to maintain and are easily available.
Remote Controller Handling
Since the throttle for controlling the speed and braking the electric skateboard lies on the remote control, it is extremely important for riders to familiarize themselves with remote control handling. This means that you should learn how to master the controls on your remote. Abrupt pressing and rapidly switching controls can potentially jolt or jerk your e-board, which can make you off balance.
Like learning how to turn throttles on a scooter or to press the accelerator pedals in an automatic car, you need to learn how to adjust on pressing the remote in a measured manner. Moreover, you also need to synchronize your physical movements on the board while handling the controls to ride and enjoy the e-board safely and competently. Riding electric skateboards still require skills of balancing and handling the remote control which can only be achieved through practice.
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