Self balancing personal transportation devices have been growing in popularity since the release of the Segway almost fifteen years ago. Since then we’ve seen self balancing tech grow in leaps and bounds, and with the recent explosion in popularity of the hoverboard and electric longboard, cruising around town on battery powered boards has never been cooler.
The Onewheel takes things to the next level by doing away with everything but the bare essentials. Consisting of a board with a single fat wheel placed in the middle, this physics-defying kickstarter success story has been turning heads since the culmination of their crowdfunding campaign in 2014. In this article we’ll break down the design and construction of the Onewheel and find out if one wheel really is better than four.
What Is the Onewheel?
The Onewheel promises to revolutionise the experience of riding. At first glance, the Onewheel consists of a regular-looking skateboard deck with a huge wheel placed in the middle. Onewheel label their product as a self balancing electric skateboard, and despite the strange appearance, it does exactly what it says on the box.
Packing a 2 horsepower hub mounted engine fast enough to propel riders at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour and balanced by a gyroscopic system stable enough to keep users upright at standstill or max speed, the Onewheel is the ultimate digital vehicle. The onewheel unlocks all kinds of surfaces for hands free one wheel cruising- grass, sand, gravel or dirt, it’s all the same to the Onewheel.
The Onewheel has a top speed of 15MPH, a maximum range on one charge of 7 miles, can be customized with an iOS or Android app, and only takes 20 minutes to charge from completely dead to completely ready to go.
Design and Construction
Onewheel has put a lot of love and care into the design of their flagship product. The frame of the Onewheel is CNC machined from solid billet 6061 aluminum, ensuring the lightest possible structural skeleton while providing a reliable and strong base for the core of the machine. The deck itself is made from Canadian maple, like most quality skateboard decks. The motor of the Onewheel is built into the center of the wheel itself, with the other components installed into the body of the deck.
The Onewheel board is powered by 48V Lithium Nano-phosphate batteries that are stored within the rear side of the Oneboard, providing maximum power density for weight, fast charging, and a long overall lifetime. Control electronics for the Oneboard are stored within the forward portion of the deck, on the other side of the wheel. The control array contains motion sensors similar to those found within modern smartphones. The control system uses custom 6 DOF MEMS IMU, BLDC driver and a PID control system to detect changes in the user’s balance and steer the board.
The hub motor drive that pushes the Onewheel is a specially designed brushless transverse flux motor that provides plenty of torque to push the Onewheel up hills, and has a 2,000-watt peak, or about 500 watts of continuous power. The riding experience of the Onewheel is controlled by a bespoke algorithm that Onewheel has been perfecting for years. Accelerometers and gyro sensors feed feed a powerful processor positional information on the rider to determine the exact speed to push the Onewheel, and advanced power electronics provide smooth and responsive acceleration and regenerative braking.
The Onewheel Experience
Onewheel claims that first time Onewheel riders are able to pick up the feel for the Onewheel and get to carving within just a few minutes, even people unfamiliar with boardsports. Onewheel is designed to feel just like surfing or snowboarding, with the balance of the rider doing the lion’s share of the steering. A suite of sensors take the hard work out of managing the balancing act of riding the board, allowing the user to focus on ride itself.
The Onewheel is controlled by leaning forward to accelerate, leaning back to brake, and left and right respectively to steer in an intuitive fashion. Onewheel also provide a custom made app that connects wirelessly with the Onewheel to allow users to ‘shape’ their Onewheel. Users can switch between Extreme and Classic riding modes, monitor their battery status, control the LED lighting on their Onewheel, watch riding videos and more
The Onewheel Story
The company behind the Onewheel, Future Motion, was founded in 2013. The founder of Future Motion, Kyle Doerksen, holds multiple engineering degrees from Stanford University and has 8 years designing consumer and technical products for global design firms.
Growing up in the Canadian Rockies, Kyle is an avid snowboarder and came up with the idea for the Oneboard one day while walking to work. Seeking a way to bring the fluidity and freedom of snowboarding to the pavement, Kyle created the Oneboard.
Oneboard launched their Kickstarter campaign on the 6th of January 2014 and in 21 days blew their original funding goal out of the water, finding over a thousand backers to bring Oneboard $630,862 in funding. Onewheel has now released the fifth generation of their Onewheel board and is shipping Onewheel boards worldwide.
Future motion is based out of Santa Cruz, California, and all Onewheel boards are assembled in the United States, with components sourced both locally and from Europe and Asia.
Pricing and Availability
The onewheel is available to order from the Onewheel website, and carries with it a hefty price tag. Upfront, a Onewheel will cost $1,499 USD, but multiple payment options are available starting from $132 monthly. Onewheel also offer a range of accessories for the Onewheel via their website such as fender kits, bumpers, helmets, shirts and Onewheel Stands.
Servicing can also be organised through the Onewheel website, with a tyre change setting frequent riders back $99 USD and a tune-up $145 USD. Onewheel is also available for retail purchase via a number of dealerships across the United States, which can be found on a handy map via their site.