The Light Weight Commuter
( This article was written by @ducktaperules on esk8news & features some parts from esk8supply.)
I have recently moved closer to my place of work. Carrying my large AT board through a revolving door, past security checkpoint and up a few flights of stairs for a short commute gets old quickly.
I had slowly come to the conclusion that I needed a lightweight and simple “it just works” style board for my work commute. I would try and keep the battery as small as possible to keep the weight down. I also aimed to make the board somewhat waterproof so that it can be ridden on wet days, maybe not in the rain but when there is water on the ground.
Like most DIY’ers, I am slowly collecting a large number of spare parts, most of which are sat in my workshop collecting dust. I had a spare Trampa street carver, most the drive components and a prototype 12s1p 21700 battery pack sat around. All perfect for a lightweight board, I was just missing most of the electronics.
I love my unity in my big cruiser but they are not the easiest thing to source right now so decided I would try something else in this build. I looked at many ESC options but most require an external e-switch or loop key, both of which require space and add complexity.
Then I stumbled on a post by @Esk8supply looking for users to test their dual ESC based on VESC6.1.
There were a few main things that made me decide to try out one of these solutions for this build:
Its relativity small for an “all in one solution”.It has integrated e-switch.It comes with a built-in remote receiver.
In my mind, this ESC seems perfectly suited to smaller lightweight builds or first time builds. It is going to need close to no electronics skill to get this thing up and running and should be robust and reliable.
Full disclosure, I was offered one of these at a discounted rate in exchange for a fair review of the product. That said I still had to pay for it so you're going to get my honest thoughts about it. There are enough “un-boxing” reviews here about this product so I decided the best option would be to show my build and release the files so that others can copy it if they wish.
After ordering this was shipped from abroad but arrived pretty quick. it was well packaged and included remote feels great (but more on that later).
Maytech 6355 Motors
I went for these motors because they have good power to weight ratio but are a good cost. They are also widely reviewed as being quite reliable.
I used this because its what I had but I actually think it's great. As a bigger guy, I always have to be conscious that I sit outside the design parameters for most products. Trampa stuff is well built and I feel like I can trust it to not break or snap when I'm abusing it. That said if you trying to keep the cost down any board would do, as long as you can get mounts that fit well.
12s1p 21700 Pack.
I'm using a custom 12s1p pack to keep weight down. It has 21700 so that it can still provide a reasonable current. If you want more range this could be swapped for almost any larger pack
The first job was to design an enclose for the ES Dual ESC. I included spaces for the switch, remote antenna and cable entry. Fusion model is available here for printing or modifying.
This was then 3d printed on my Ender 3.
It looked ok straight out the printer but I decided it could do with a quicksand
Quick test fit
At this point, I could call it done but I wanted to use this build to test out “skinning” 3d printed parts. This involves coating the part in epoxy resin to seal it, then covering it in fabric and finally sealing this in more layers of epoxy. This should add more strength to the printed part as well as increasing water and impact resistance.
So after removing electronics and painting on the first layer of epoxy
A heat gun is used to pop any small bubbles on the surface. This is then left for 3 hours to partially harden to a tacky surface. material is then laid over the surface. More epoxy resin is painted on so that it soaks into the material. The brush is used to push the material into the contours of the part. honestly, it took a few attempts to get this right. Edges are then tucked under.
This is then left for 24 hours to achieve a full cure. You could add a few more layers of epoxy resin to get to a smooth finish but I liked the matt effect so decided to stop here.
Once dry I went at it with a Dremel to clear out the cable holes, cut off excess material and clear the hole for the power button
Motors & Drive
New motors were fitted onto my trucks and I reused a Trampa riser with cable slots that I had built for a previous build. sensor cables didn't quite fit so I put these through the centre of the trucks
Once the trucks were back on the board I started to connect up the electronics. This was as simple as plugging in the motor phase cables and sensor cables. That’s it, electronics done.
At this point, I decided to power up for the first time and set up the ESCs.
@Esk8supply has great instructions for this. Just download the latest VESC tool. Connect a battery, push the power button and all the lights come on. When you connect the USB it prompts you to perform an update, so do it. Then run motor calibration, set motor values and voltage cutoff for both ESCs. Connect the remote, and run the ppm calibration for both ESCs. You can also set up “current with smart reverse” which is great.
Once I had tested all of this I sealed the enclosure with a layer of foam to help keep the water out.
And bolted the whole thing down to the deck (with some threaded inserts i fitted earlier but forgot to picture)
The battery I'm using is somewhat temporary so has just been top-mounted for quick swapping in the future. I've run a temporary power cable down one side underneath so that I can test the board.
I'm still in the early stages of testing but after a few days of riding all seems good. Whilst not as much power as my AT carver I have been surprised by the performance of this board. Its making getting into work much easier and weighs loads less than my AT board.
So what's the verdict on the ES Dual ESC?
This was the easiest electronics build I have ever done, by far. You just plug the motors and battery in and your done, I don’t think it can get easier than this. Seems to perform well. Acceleration feels nice and smooth. I've not started pushing the settings yet to see what it's capable of but its currently working on 12s with FOC. The remote is very good. The throttle feels responsive. It sits well in the hand. The range seems great. It copy’s a lot from the boosted remote but that is not a bad thing. The built-in e-switch has more features than I expected. It has an inactivity timeout so that you can't leave the board switched on y accident. It seems like it also has some sort of low voltage shutdown to protect the battery, however I have not managed to work out what voltage this happens at, it's far below the 12s battery limits of the VESC tool.
My main frustration has been the lack of internal connectors. I knew this when I purchased it but I didn’t realise how important they were until I didn’t have them. The main problem is the lack of UART access. I live having a Bluetooth module connected to change settings whilst out on a ride, this doesn’t allow of that. The CAN is not connected between the 2 halves. This means that you cant connect through one ESC to the other. Its a small frustration but it makes the setup process more frustrating as you have to swap the USB between both USB ports. It also means you cant enable “traction control” as this requires a CAN connection. As others have discussed here it seems to run a little warm. If I was to do this build again I would consider attaching the ESC to a slightly larger aluminium heat-sink if I wanted to run larger motors or more current.
I think this ESC is ideal for a lightweight build or a first DIY build. The fact that it includes remote and e-switch make the build super simple.
It might not be suited to powerful builds or AT applications but its a good option for street boards and shortboards.
Also, it is a good value for money if that is something that’s important to you. When you consider you get 2x VESC6 hardware, a remote, receiver and e-switch for $200.
What lets it down is the connectivity options. Want to add a Bluetooth module? Tough. Want to try out the latest remote? Nope. Want to log your rides with your Metr? No way.
You basically have to accept that you can never upgrade this ESC and add your own things. Maybe that fine for some but its a deal-breaker for me.
Future Improvements . . .
@Esk8supply is a part of the community and seems to be receptive to taking feedback and making changes. It seems there are fixes int he works to address most of my complaints.
There is a better heat sink case in the works for this ESC which should address the issues with the heat that many users have seen.
There is also an upgraded version of this ESC in the works which as a higher current rating and also includes all the internal ports including UART, CAN and PPM connectors. This should open up compatibility with lots of 3rd party accessories.
If these new options hit a similar price point then they could be a very competitive option. Personally I think the UART and CAN are important for more advanced DIY builds but the new DUAL PRO looks like it could be a great option.