I use my electric skateboard a lot, usually to get from the last train stop to my university. The distance would take about 12 minutes to walk in a relaxed pace, but with the skateboard I can do it in about 5 minutes. That is a great time saver because this way I am way more likely to not miss my trains when I go home.
But somewhere in September of 2018 I encountered a slight issue: my motor axis broke while I was trying to chase a tram in Vienna. It was rather unspectacular, but it rendered my board completely useless. The backside axis is the one that has the two hub motors mounted to them and is a very special full metal part. To replace it I ordered an entire new axis from AliExpress, complete with some new motors. But since that takes a long time I decided to check the internet for other options and stumbled across a product I had seen before.
The Bolt Motion Electric Skateboard is by far the tiniest electric skateboard I know of that is commercially available. It is a little longer than a penny board, about 60 centimeters and weights an amazing 4 kilograms. the Italian company bolt motion got started with a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo in 2015. I found them probably when they where already funded, but with their price point at the time I was not happy at all. Over 800€ for this board was just too much, even for this really cool board. And then there was no guarantee that it would deliver on it's promises...
But now, a few years later, I found a brand new board on WillHaben.at, an Austrian second hand marketplace. And I decided to give it a try.
The board comes with a nice little case with the remote and the charger inside and also includes an extra pulley. Then there is the board: the battery is built into the board itself, it has normal skateboard wheels and is powered by a brush-less out-runner motor that is only connected to one of the rear wheels.
This also is one of the first things I had to get used to, because it means that you have to break more carefully. If you break too fast the board will drift harshly to the side with the motorized wheel and you might fall off of it. But after some time you get used to this.
The absolute amazing advantage of this board is it's size and weight. My old skateboard had about 6 kg, so 2 kg more and was a lot less practical to carry around, especially on the trains. This lead to me using it almost every day to get to university and really stress testing it. And there where several things I found that could be improved.
First of all the board has the charging port on the lower side of the deck, also the on off switch, a USB charger for your phone and a battery indicator. But apparently these fragile things are not protected at all against dust and most importantly water. And it IS going to rain at some point when you least expect it.
So I started to think about this problem and first came up with a simple laser cut cover that would mount into the USB jack. The problem is that you will have to open and close the flap a lot when you switch the board on and off...
And this first iteration just fell out at some point when I was trying to catch my train. So I decided to just not care about the issue.
That went well for a few times when it rained but then came the first big rain after the winter. I really tried to not ride through every puddle but after half the way to the university the Bolt stopped moving. Suspecting a problem I decided to switch it off immediately but that did not help anymore.
When disassembling it I discovered the amount of water that made its way inside and that made me worry. I cleaned everything and let it dry while it was opened but the next day it still did not work. But now comes the next thing I really like about this board: it is electronically simple and all schematics are online. The board uses the open source / open hardware VESC, a electronic speed controller (ESC designed by Benjamin Vedder). An all its datasheets, schematics and code are on github! So after studying the schematics, testing with my oscilloscope and checking that the main processor was still working fine I concluded that I have found the broken Power MOSFET and ordered a bunch for a few Euros on RS Components. It was a bit tricky to properly de-solder the old one but otherwise it was a pretty painless repair and I got it working again. If I would not have been able to do that I still could have bought the ESC Board from Bolts Website for about 120€, a fair price for a VESC. Also all the other components like the battery, charging circuit, receiver and Bluetooth module are available as spare parts.
After that I started to add magnets inside that would be able to hold a new flap construction. I also added a lot of rubber pieces inside the board to help against water spreading in the inside. The new flap design was now using s rubber lid and I screwed and taped it to the bottom of the board to save it from getting lost again. The design is still not ideal though since it opens for a short moment when I go over a bump on the street... but at least it is a bit more protection!
I managed to break the board 2 more times since then, one time the charge board got dirty from water that came inside again and I could not switch the board off anymore. I was able to fix this by cleaning the pins of the main power switching IC which had dust between them (from what I could see under my little microscope). The second time it was only heat and some dust that killed another MOSFET. After replacing it it burned through again after 10 seconds so I decided to replace both MOSFETs for that specific channel and that did the trick.
Another neat feature of the board is the integration with Austrian startup Metr.at, that provides a nice app that can record your driving data while your ride. The app is great and also allows you to record your rout via GPS. Unfortunately you will have to upload the data to the company's cloud service if you want to see the map visualization, all other data can be viewed and exported from the app. The app also allows you to change settings of the VESC and see errors and other data.
One other thing that sometimes happens is that the pulley of the motor rips. That is especially likely when you are driving after the winter and there are little stones on the pavement. The whole belt setup has almost no protection under the board... It happened to me 2 times but the belts are cheap and easy to replace, and I heard my friends with boosted boards tell me about the similar issues. Sometimes when you go over a sidewalk it can also scratch and harm the lower part of the motor mount, although those are only beauty issues it could have been built a little better, I started to add tape and rubber to protect it but after some time I got tired of replacing it...
The very last thing that I should mention is that the board does not have a kick tail. Now this still bugs my a little bit from time to time since this reduces its agility and sometimes I have to step down for a corner. The tail is still long enough that you can kick the board up for pickup, but using it for turning is pretty hard... But of course it also greatly reduces the size of the board and probably its weight too.
After all I really love this board and how it has reduced the weight I have to carry on the train. The speed is completely crazy for this size of a board and the battery lasts long enough. (Also the charger is easy to carry around)
- Water and dust are it`s enemies but this can be improved!
- The metal and pulley / motor construction is pretty unprotected under the board
- A great board with by far the best weight/power ratio
- The board is mostly open hardware, all info available online and can be repaired well
- Great and friendly email support !
I hope this review gave you some insights in how feels to use this board every day! Leave me an email of a coffee if you have any questions =D