Two weeks ago at a journalism convention in San Francisco, a friend and I rented and nearly crashed some exhilarating electric scooters. These have since been banned. About a week ago I stumbled upon a build log for a skateboard powered by an electric motor. After binging DIY electric vehicle videos on youtube for a few hours, I was hooked. Over the last few days, I've began a project to engineer and build my own.

My idea is to build upon already existing design by changing the control system from the current standard of handheld RC controllers to a balance-driven system in which the user leans forward or backwards to set the throttle. This has several advantages-- it's simpler, more intuitive, and eliminates the need for a separate battery-powered device. In addition to this, I have laid out some other design goals. The board should be small and light enough to carry, blend in with regular longboards from a distance, and travel fast and far enough to be a useful means of transportation.

To accomplish this I will use a combination of commercially available RC-car parts and modified or custom designed ones. Power will be supplied by some high energy density rechargeable batteries (Li-ion, LiPo, or LiPoFe4) to a control system made of an RC speed controller and an additional microcontroller. This system will get input from sensors to detect the rider's balance and possibly a gyroscope or accelerometer. Turning will be accomplished through the trucks by leaning, as is standard on a skateboard.

I have never ridden a skateboard or longboard before, so riding this will certainly be a learning experience. I also have no idea if the balance control will mess with the rider's ability to balance on the skateboard, but I hope that with the right settings I can get this to work out. This project covers a wide array of disciplines - electrical & mechanical engineering, computer science, metal and composite fabrication, etc. - in which I have various levels of competence. As such, I'm prepared to invest a substantial amount of time and resources. My motivations in this are twofold -- I enjoy having projects to work on and challenges to struggle with, but I also just really want a fun means of transportation.

My next few posts in this series will cover the development (and hopefully success) of this project as I move towards a first prototype. For now, I'm calling the design ITC3 - Intuitive Throttle Control Compact Cruiser.