This is a repost from another forum, so sorry if you’re there too. I think this is information worth sharing broadly so that’s why I’m reposting.
I wanted to share my experience as the owner of two brand new eLofty Direct Drive motors V2 (the one with the groove heatsink on the motor) for a period of about or a bit more than 1 year, riding around 3000km through city, smooth asphalt and occasionally and shortly through gravel. After this experience I’m switching to belts, and then go gear drive next. Read until the end to understand why.
My setup is as such (see a photo of it on my profile):
- Loaded Cantellated Tesseract Deck
- Direct-drive motors and trucks from eLofty
- Riptide bushings instead of stock
- 110mm Torqueboards PU wheels
- 10-13S ~20Ah battery pack
- FSESC 6.6 Plus Mini
I used to own a small hub motor board, with not bad range, but having to carry 4 battery packs around. After riding for about a year I decided I wanted to do an upgrade to something significantly better. After doing a bunch of research on commercial boards, I decided going DIY because I didn’t like the form and function of most commercial boards.
For what I wanted to get out of having an electric skateboard, some of them did really well on one thing but poorly in others, and finding a good compromises was hard. I’m an electronics and computer nerd so with COVID I thought it would be great opportunity to occupy my time and brain with something cool.
What I learned with ride buddies
Thanks to the amazing Vancouver ESK8 group, I got to know a lot of knowledgeable folks in the PEV community, and learn a lot of things from them about ESK8 beyond my board, and DIY as well. I learned that they had gone through a variety of crazy issues with their boards, like screws getting loose, belt issues (tensioning, replacement, etc) and motor clearance issues. I ended up experiencing a lot of this while riding with the group, and this was valuable to help me make a decision.
How and why I got into Direct Drive
I learned about DD once again through the group and even saw some folks that had boards using it. I was amazed by the solution and thought it was a smart way around the limitations of hub motors, while still reducing the number of moving parts (2 belts + 12 screws + 2 mounts + tools with you all the time) and so reducing a) the points of failure b) headaches with mid-ride issues.
Coming from a small and portable board, one of my goals was to make my build portable. Not pocket portable or backpack portable, but carry-able whenever needed. Boards have an amazing mechanism called wheels that are great at rolling so I wanted to be able to drag the board around through the front truck. Hub and DD allowed me to do this, and belts could potentially allow me if I chose all the wrong parts.
I wanted something simple. While planning with a belt drive system there was a lot going on, with lots of decisions to be made about things I wasn’t even sure about. I could learn them, but I could also try the new thing that would supposedly solve lots of problems I found with belts in record time. And that’s what I did.
What I consciously traded off
When I went with DD I knew I was trading off two very important things: torque and ecosystem. Let’s address them separately.
Coming from hub motors, I started without really knowing what actual torque felt. I tried some belt driven boards and I got super scared of how sensitive and aggressive they were compared to my board. I know VESC Tool can be used to solve this problem, but I also saw buddies going through lots of trial and error, and I just wanted to keep riding safely when I had all the parts to assemble the new board.
I consciously decided that torque (both higher torque and torque flexibility) was not my priority at the time, and with this is one of the main advantages of belt drive, it makes no difference in the evaluation.
This seems to be the only thread on the entire western internet that knows about eLofty. There is no other vendor that makes parts for this motor, and this could become a big problem. Things like bearings will be damaged with the time, and having proprietary parts isn’t great.
I was concerned about this because coming from a belt drive research I saw lots of options and parts that works exchangeably, and this was cool. Although going from Hub to DD allowed me to change wheels, it didn’t allow me to change trucks, and the only trucks I could ever buy are the ones sold by eLofty, that aren’t even available anywhere, so would need to directly inquire them. The same goes for couplers, they also not listed anywhere.
I ended up thinking that this could not be a problem given that there are less parts involved in the motor assembly - it’s literally just the truck and 2 motors, no more bullshit. What could go wrong here? If the motors break, I could order just the broken motor at least.
My experience and why I’m switching to belts (and beyond)
In the beginning these motors were absolutely amazing. Pure love.
They don’t have a lot of initial torque (so forget going from 0 to anything if you’re uphill), but they are absolutely silent even on the highest speeds, have a nice and smooth gradual acceleration, and breaking feels like ABS - I have never had a wheel slip while pulling the break all the way. First few weeks of belts and I wiped twice because of this.
The motors are also super easy installation. Just put them on the deck and they are good to go which was great. There was no maintenance and I just cleaned them with a dry cloth from time to time. It also looked super sick because it was a clean look compared to the board full of complicated contraptions.
The first failure
After many months using this motor with a 100mm TB wheel and going through some rough pavement (a mix of asphalt and damn bumpy sidewalks, one day one of the motors start to make a weird sound, much louder than normal, and sometimes jerk a bit when accelerating. I thought it could be that the VESC ended up losing configuration and hall sensors position, so I tried to calibrate everything again, but I noticed that the VESCTool was struggling to move the motors slowly, and that the L and R values for one of the motors changed significantly from the stock values (see how one of them have way bigger R, it was not the case before this issue):
I contacted the seller sending pictures and videos and ended up getting new motors. I installed them again and got rolling back again.
The second failure
I travelled to 3 different countries with the board and motors, ridden around 1000km on it, and then one day, while riding, I look at my wheel and it looked like it was loose. I stop by to take a look and this is what I realized happened:
THE HANGER BROKE. Have you thought how dangerous this is??? And worse, once again I’m unable to ride! But at least now the problem seemed less bad, as the motors were working and only the hanger needed a repair. So I contacted the seller, who talked to the factory and the factory said that this shouldn’t happen and that it happened because of “aggressive use” of the board and refused to replace it. I convinced them to send me just the trucks with the hanger and they agreed. So I waited for 3 more months…
And I’m back! With the help from folks here and Maker Labs in Vancouver with a hydraulic press, I was able to securely replace the truck with the existing motors. So I did it, and once again I was rolling. Winter was almost finishing and for Vancouver this means no more 1 month of rain, which means folks started to meet and do long rides again (60+km).
The third failure
Since I was moving out of Vancouver I had lots of fun on my last days, and they were some really nice sunny ones. Since all of my ride buddies in Vancouver seem to now be into EUCs, folks were getting a lot into gravel, and so I took some ambitious moves, even with my TB 110 wheels. Well, ambitious or dumb? Or both?
I find on the other day that the motors were making a weird noise. There were no changes to their electrical characteristics this time though, and no jerks too. At maximum acceleration the sound goes away, but left a noise that resembled the sound of bearings, so I thought it would probably be a good idea of where to start from, right?
Well, it happens that yes and no. Fully disassembling the V2 motors doesn’t seem like a straightforward operation, and I have no idea about the types of bearing they are using, and if I were to need replacement parts, if the seller would sell (my guess is yes, but still at a 1 email reply per day rate, so quite frustrating)
You know what? I’m over this shit.
I went with DD to avoid headaches and I realized that I ended up having lots of headaches for 1+ year. When it was working, it was amazing and delightful (if you remove the annoying and dangerous lack of torque for breaking), but when it broke I felt I was tied because of the lack of an open ecosystem of parts, and that made me remember that with belts I had just so many options…
But at the same time I didn’t want headache, so I just order a kit from Flipsky containing everything I needed to assemble a working belt drive, without me needing to match pieces and stuff together or make too many decisions.
I’m kind of satisfied with the kit, but I had to, unfortunately trade off portability (dragging the board now isn’t fully possible anymore), efficiency (DD was giving 10kwh/km, belts are in the 14-18), silence (these belt thing whines loud at high speeds) and maintainability (had already to tighten bolts and belts multiple times, I guess I now need Locktite?).
So who is DD NOT for?
I don’t think we need to trash DD completely I wish I could use them as a hardcore rider without the pain I have gone through. Instead of telling who is this for, which is a much broader set of profiles, I want to share when NOT to buy them based on my experience, so use this advice with a grain of salt.
- If you ride through hard and bumpy terrain and/or will be using big PU wheels (100-120mm) DO NOT BUY these motors. There are two main reasons why something will go wrong: a) It seems like the trucks weren’t designed to take huge wheels like these. There’s a lot of force being applied to it and it will eventually break. I believe that what caused my hanger axle to break was doing 0s at high speed. b) It seems like these big wheel capture a lot of the bumps on the street and transfers them to the motors. If you end up riding a bit of gravel with large PU wheels, the vibration will be transferred to the motors and either the magnets inside the motors (my first failure) or the hard to repair bearings will cease (my 3rd failure).
- If you live in a place with a lot of uphills and downhills DO NOT BUY these motors. You will encounter two major problems: a) The lack of torque won’t allow you to go from zero to moving if you’re uphill. It will struggle and won’t get moving. b) The lack of torque won’t a allow you to break without lots of planning. It might not even be possible to actually break (I experienced some really scary situations because of this)
- If you prefer to have fast acceleration DO NOT BUY these motors. They won’t give you fast acceleration, they will instead give you a pleasant smooth start - that is, if you’re in a flat.
This was a good ride, and I miss many aspects of DD, and hate many aspects of belts . I hope to migrate to gear drive at some point to reduce maintenance burden, but then I need to start thinking about clearance and other issues. Perhaps when I’m over belts and on gears I can come here share my experience with them too
Kudos to you if you actually read this huge wall of text. Please let me know if there’s anything I missed/made-up/misunderstood. I hope you learned something and that I could help you to make better decisions.