One of the most amazing things about an electric skateboard is its capacity to get you up a hill, but what happens when you start to go down, can electric skateboards brake? This is certainly a very important question to ask as both you and the safety of your board will be at risk.
For the most part, electric skateboards do have systems that allow them to brake. However, it’s important that you realize that there are different types of braking systems, and some are more effective than others.
Additionally, there are a few safety considerations that you should be aware of when it comes to braking with your electric skateboard. Let’s take a look at how braking works and how to stay safe while riding your new electric skateboard.
Are Electric Skateboards Safe?
Are electric skateboards safe? This question is inextricably linked to wondering whether or not electric skateboards come with brakes. Well, not to worry, electric skateboards can and do brake.
If you’ve never ridden one before, let’s give you a little bit of background on how exactly an electric skateboard operates. It is operated by using a handheld and wireless remote. This remote controls the transmission of the electric skateboard and can start the motor and even increase speed. That said, there’s also a button or trigger for the skateboard to stop. That’s right, you can put on the brakes of the skateboard with a touch of your finger.
Now you might be picturing yourself flying off the front of your electric skateboard as it comes to a screeching halt. You can quell those fears, too as the brakes of an electric skateboard don’t make it come to a complete stop, but instead gradually lowers its speed until you put your foot down to make it stop fully.
If this sounds a little complicated, it is. Kind of. If you’re new to the electric skateboard world, it’s recommended that you give it some time to get used to going and stopping. Practice braking in an area where there’s little risk that you could injure yourself or the skateboard.
How Does Braking Work?
When it comes to an electric skateboard, you obviously don’t need to push with your leg to accelerate. Similarly, you don’t need to put your foot down to brake. How is this possible? You simply have to pull a trigger on the handheld remote control, and you’ll slowly start to come to a stop.
Let’s head back to a high school science class to explore how this happens. When you use the accelerate function on your handheld control, power will be pumped into the motor. Conversely, if you apply a load (i.e. low resistance) instead, you will get a braking effect.
This is what is known as regenerative braking and is one of the methods used by electric skateboards to get them to stop.
When you think of friction braking, think of what is used when it comes to conventional cars. Friction braking, as the name suggests, uses friction to convert kinetic energy into heat in order to slow the vehicle down. In a car or a bike wheel, this is what happens when the brake disc or brake pad moves against the wheel. The friction of the rubbing against the tires produces heat in order to slow the vehicle down.
Unlike a bicycle or car, an electric skateboard doesn’t have a lot of space for additional mechanical hardware. That said, the bulky components required to cause friction braking aren’t suitable for an electric skateboard.
Dynamic braking is a system that has been used for hundreds of years with train locomotives. Similar to friction heating, the kinetic energy is converted to heat. However, and the case of dynamic braking, that heat is generated through a current in copper wires. This could be better understood as the movement of your skateboard getting transformed into electricity.
When you push that button on your handheld device, the kinetic energy stored in the wheels during motion causes magnetics to spin around a copper wire. This creates an electrical current and a little bit of resistance. The current is transferred to a resistor (an electrical component that limits the flow of an electric current) before it is converted to heat.
Let’s try to put all of this into simpler terms. The heat produced during this process becomes dissipated energy. The resistance generated by the current in the copper wires is what can slow the motor spinning, AKA what can slow down the skateboard. While the electric skateboard will require a resistor as one of its components, this is one of the suitable braking systems for an electric skateboard.
If you aren’t familiar with braking systems for electric skateboards, you’d probably be safe to assume that yours uses regenerative braking. This is a system that is pretty similar to dynamic braking.
The main difference between the two is that the electric current is not directed towards the resistor, and no heat energy is dissipated. Instead that energy and that current are both redirected back into the battery. What does this mean?
You can recharge the battery simply by riding your electric skateboard.
Regenerative braking allows you to transform the motor into a generator of energy. Using the electric current that is induced with a copper wire (what normally becomes the resistance that causes breaking), regenerative braking allows you to do that and also transfer some of that electrical current back to the battery cells, allowing them to recharge.
This might sound too good to be true. And in some ways, it sort of is. The capacity for the battery to be recharged will depend on some settings and the battery management system. Not only that, but your riding style will also influence the regenerative braking capabilities. In some cases, the regenerative charge will be small to negligible.
It’s important to also note that this type of braking style could actually lead to problems. For instance, if your battery is full or almost full, the regenerative braking could overwhelm the battery cells with excess current which might negatively impact the longevity of your electric skateboard’s battery system.
In some cases, manufacturers like Boosted Board and Koowheel Boards have developed warning systems whereby riders are notified if the regen brakes are about to fail. This would likely happen on a steep hill with a full battery, where the excess current would overload the battery cells and lead to damage. Not only could this lead to damage with the battery, but a battery with 100% charge would actually mean a failed braking system as well.
Regenerative + Dynamic Braking
Fortunately for all you electric skateboarders out there, manufacturers have started to alleviate some of the problems brought on by regenerative braking systems. Mellow Boards has combined regenerative and dynamic braking to keep you and your board safe—and this is the best braking system available today.
How exactly does this work? Well, when regenerative braking is applied to a board like those from Mellow Boards, it’s actually recharging about twice as fast as what you get when you’re charging your electric skateboard the normal way. Simply put, it’s a lot of electricity.
At Mellow Boards, they have recognized that a fully charged battery cannot take in any more energy. They’ve created a system that incorporates a resistor that dissipates additional energy into heat (what is used in dynamic braking).This means that with a full battery the excess energy will not overwhelm the battery cells or cause the braking system to fail, but instead will be dissipated as heat that leaves the system. This not only adds a layer of redundancy to your braking capabilities, but also makes your electric skateboard safer as a whole.
Put on The Brakes
It’s really important to remember that unlike with a car or a bike, you won’t have friction braking to slow you down quickly. Especially as you reach speeds around or above 40 kph (24 mph) going down a big hill, you’ll likely reach a point at which your brakes are practically ineffective. At 50 kph or more (31 mph), you essentially don’t have brakes at all. That said, it’s always very important to stay within speeds at which the brakes can be applied. And don’t forget your helmet!