Electric Skateboard Batteries: A Comprehensive Guide
May 12, 2023
- Different types of electric skateboard batteries
- Explanation of important battery metrics
- Battery maintenance best practices
- Common battery-related issues
- Impact of battery technology on the future of electric skateboarding
Electric skateboard batteries power your ride, so understanding them is crucial for any e-skateboard rider. The battery type, specifications, and care have a significant impact on factors like performance, range, weight, cost, and safety. Understanding the distinctions between battery options and best practices for maintaining battery health empowers you to make informed decisions, maximize the potential of your current battery, and avert issues down the road.
Different types of electric skateboard batteries
Li-Po (Lithium Polymer) batteries:
- Cheaper, smaller and lighter than Li-ion batteries but less safe and have shorter lifespans.
- Require careful handling and charging.
- More voltage sag and self-discharge than Li-ion batteries. Need to be drained/stored properly.
- Difficult and dangerous for non-technical users to handle and charge. Limits mainstream use.
Li-ion (Lithium-Ion) batteries:
- Longer lifespan, safer and easier to handle/charge than Li-Po batteries. However, larger, heavier and more expensive.
- Less voltage sag and self-discharge than Li-Po batteries. Can be stored charged for longer.
- Common types are 18650 and 26650 cells. Li-Po packs also use these cells but in different configurations.
- Balanced safety, lifespan and affordability for most applications. Li-Po may be used when minimum size/weight and lowest cost are priorities but with more safety precautions.
LiFePo4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries:
- Provides the best of both Li-Po and Li-ion batteries but most expensive to produce and difficult to source. Few companies use them.
- Long lifespan, safe, minimal voltage sag and high power/energy density. However, higher costs due to complicated chemistry and limited production.
- Remaining a promising technology but not yet mainstream due to higher costs. Widespread adoption could enable more applications.
Using battery types:
- Li-ion is optimal for most applications, providing the best balance of capabilities and viability.
- Li-Po may be used when minimal size/weight and lowest cost are most important but require additional safety precautions.
- LiFePo4 is ideal but limited by higher costs, remaining a niche technology on the path to mainstream adoption.
- Battery management systems help balance, charge and protect Li-Po and LiFePo4 packs but most Li-ion batteries have one included or do not require it.
Explanation of important battery metrics
Battery metrics like voltage, capacity, and discharge rate have a significant impact on the performance of an electric skateboard. Here is how they influence your ride:
- Voltage: The voltage of a battery determines how much power it can provide. Higher voltage batteries produce more power over longer distances.
- For e-skateboards, common battery voltages range from 12V up to 48V or more. A higher voltage battery, or using multiple batteries in series, results in higher top speed, faster acceleration, the ability to climb steeper hills, and a longer range on a single charge. However, higher voltage also means higher costs, more complex wiring, and a heavier overall weight. Voltage must match the requirements of your e-skateboard's motor(s) and controller.
- Capacity (mAh): The capacity or milliamp-hour rating indicates how much energy a battery can store and provide before recharging is needed. A larger capacity means more range on a single charge, which is important for long-distance riding. However, higher capacity also means higher costs, larger physical size, and greater weight. You need enough capacity for your typical riding needs, without getting a pack that is too large and heavy.
- Discharge rate (C rating): The discharge rate shows how much power a battery can continuously provide. A higher C rating, like 10C or 20C, means less voltage sag under load so more power is available for heavy accelerating or climbing hills without slowing down as much. However, a faster discharge also means a shorter overall lifespan. Lower C ratings, around 2-5C, offer slower discharge for lighter performance and longer lifespan, although more voltage sag will be noticed when demanding maximum power.
- Self-discharge rate: This refers to the rate at which a battery or energy storage device loses its charge when not in use. All batteries, even rechargeable ones, gradually lose charge over time due to internal chemical reactions. Self-discharge rate is usually measured as a percentage of charge lost per unit of time. It is an important consideration for devices that are used infrequently or left unused for extended periods. To put it simply, a lower self-discharge rate means that your battery loses less power when you're not using it.
The right balance of voltage, capacity, and discharge rate for your needs will ensure optimal performance, range, and responsiveness without excessive costs, weight, or reduced lifespan.
Battery maintenance best practices
Proper battery maintenance is important to maximize lifespan and performance. Here are some key practices for charging, storage, and prolonging your e-skateboard batteries:
- Charge batteries correctly. Follow the recommended charging settings for your specific battery type. For Li-ion, charge to around 80% for everyday riding and storage. NiMH charges to 100% but without overcharging. Lead-acid can charge to 100% but equalize occasionally. Fast charging reduces lifespan so limit high-speed charging when possible.
- Avoid complete discharges when storing. Store batteries at 30-50% charge for the best lifespan. Fully discharging damages NiMH and lead-acid batteries which can suffer "memory effects" that reduce capacity.
- Keep batteries in a cool place. Store e-skateboard batteries in a cool area away from extreme heat or cold. Temperatures over 95°F or below 32°F reduce lifespan faster. Higher heat causes faster chemical breakdown.
- Balanced charging for series batteries. When charging multiple batteries in series as used in many e-skateboards, ensure the charger properly balances voltage to prevent some batteries from becoming over/undercharged. Imbalanced charging significantly reduces overall lifespan.
- Equalize lead-acid batteries occasionally. For lead-acid batteries specifically, perform an equalized charge cycle once a month or every 25 charge cycles. Equalization balances cell voltage and prevents a weaker cell from limiting capacity. It prolongs the lifespan of lead-acid batteries.
- Consider storage winters if not riding year-round. If you only ride seasonally, consider storing batteries at 30-50% charge during off-seasons. This prevents unnecessary aging and chemical breakdown, allowing for better lifespan and performance when taking your e-skateboard out again.
- Protect from environmental damage. Prevent battery casing and terminals from corrosion by storing them in a dry location away from extreme temperatures and humidity. Moisture and environmental damage reduce conductivity and capacity over time.
- Avoid deep discharges and recharges when possible. Although occasional deep discharges or recharges will not permanently damage batteries, frequent full discharges and recharges reduce lifespan over time due to extra stress. Try to avoid when you can for best results.
- Properly insulate or replace damaged cells. Inspect batteries regularly for any damage or corrosion of cells or terminals. Properly insulate or replace damaged components to prevent shorts that could lead to fire or other safety issues.
- Consider battery replacement when needed. Monitor capacity over time to determine when it makes sense to replace your batteries for the best performance. Most batteries will last 2-5 years before needing replacement depending on usage and care. Replace when they no longer achieve acceptable range.
Following battery maintenance best practices will keep your e-skateboard performing safely and maximize the lifespan of your batteries.
Common battery-related issues
- Overcharging occurs when batteries are charged beyond the recommended maximum level, typically around 80% for Li-ion or lead-acid and 100% for NiMH.
- It reduces the overall lifespan of the batteries by causing extra stress and faster degradation of cells. Over time, overcharging significantly limits the total number of charges possible before needing replacement.
- To troubleshoot, stop charging the batteries immediately if they become very hot, start ballooning, or show other signs of overcharging. Allow them to cool completely before charging again.
- To prevent overcharging, always charge batteries according to specifications and recommendations. Use a charger designed for your specific battery type with built-in charge control and cut-off to properly limit charging. Never leave batteries charging unattended.
- Overheating can happen if batteries are overcharged, charging/discharging at too high of a rate, shorted, or damaged. Excessive heat damages batteries and in extreme cases can lead to fire.
- Overheating causes permanent damage to the cells inside the batteries, destroying their ability to hold a charge. Batteries that frequently overheat will rapidly lose capacity and may become unusable.
- To troubleshoot, immediately stop charging or discharging batteries if they become very hot to the touch. Allow them to cool completely before any further use. Visually inspect for any damage or swelling. If issues persist or damage is found, the batteries likely need replacement.
- To prevent, charge/discharge batteries at proper rates based on specifications, do not exceed maximum limits. Properly insulate any loose or exposed wires to prevent shorts. Replace any damaged or swollen batteries immediately to avoid overheating risks. Monitor batteries during charging for any excessive heat buildup.
- Several factors can cause electric skateboard batteries to fail prematurely, including overcharging/discharging, high heat exposure, damage/corruption, and low-quality batteries. Premature failure means batteries lose a significant portion of capacity or become unusable within 1-3 years, rather than the typical 2-5 year lifespan.
- To troubleshoot, test battery capacity regularly to determine if it is decreasing faster than expected. Frequently check for any physical damage or signs of overheating/overcharging. If troublesome issues are found or capacity does drop rapidly with minimal usage, the batteries likely need a replacement immediately for safety.
- To prevent premature failure, follow all recommendations for charging, storage, and maintenance closely. Use high-quality batteries from a reputable brand for the best lifespan. Avoid dropping, crushing or otherwise damaging batteries. Do not expose to excessive heat or cold temperature extremes when possible. Charge/discharge batteries at proper rates. Monitor capacity regularly to determine if it is sustaining for how you use your e-skateboard and consider replacement when needed.
With an understanding of potential battery issues, how to identify problems, and best practices to follow, you can keep your electric skateboard batteries operating safely and maximize their lifespan.
Impact of battery technology on the future of electric skateboarding
Battery technology is crucial to the future progress and possibilities of electric skateboarding. Improved batteries will enable:
- Longer range on a single charge. New high-energy density battery chemistries or cell designs could provide 50-100% more range per charge than current options. This would reduce range anxiety and open up more opportunities for long-distance riding.
- Faster charging. Batteries that can charge at higher rates, or even wirelessly for convenience, will minimize downtime waiting for a recharge. Some can provide an 80% recharge in under 30 minutes. Faster charging expands spontaneous riding possibilities.
- Lighter weight. Lighter-weight batteries mean less strain on the rider and greater portability. New materials and pack designs have achieved under 10Wh/kg which could reduce total e-skateboard weight substantially. Lighter boards are more enjoyable and practical for many riders.
- Higher performance. Batteries with greater power density provide more torque and acceleration for an exciting riding experience. Higher voltage battery options also allow for larger component selection, improving speed and hill climbing ability. Performance improvements inspire thrilling riding adventures.
- Emerging technologies. New battery types like solid-state, lithium-sulfur, and lithium-air promise major benefits but are not quite ready for mainstream use. They could eventually deliver higher energy density than today's best li-ion, more stable performance in extreme heat or cold, faster charging, and greater safety. They represent the edge of future possibilities for e-skateboards.
- Fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells generate electrical power from a renewable fuel source. They only emit water as a byproduct so could provide an enormous range and sustainability. However, fuel cell technology is more complex, expensive, and not yet suitable for consumer e-skateboards. Although promising for the long-term future, fuel cells are not practical or necessary for most riders at this point.
In summary, battery technology will continue improving to make electric skateboards more capable, convenient, sustainable, and thrilling.
Batteries are fundamental to how your electric skateboard performs, lasts, and fits within your budget. By becoming fluent in battery basics, metrics, trade-offs for different types, best practices, lifespan monitoring, and advancement opportunities, you will accomplish more adventures with your e-skateboard and fewer regrets over the choices you make regarding its power source. With a healthy grasp of battery knowledge, the possibilities of electric skateboarding can be truly unlocked for you. Make the most of every ride thanks to batteries and an informed perspective on their role in your board. The future of electric skateboarding may eventually be limitless, but only if you understand the technology that brings it to life from the start. Batteries empower your rides, so learn all you can about them.