Probably the most advanced skateboard in the world – made by thyssenkrupp!
What do California and the quiet little town of Ilsenburg in the heart of Germany’s Harz region have in common?
Probably not a lot – until the two apprentices Sarah Vogel and Max Jäger hatched an audacious plan.
Legend has it that the skateboard was invented in the 1950s in sunny California. The first boards were little more than just a piece of wood with steel rollers – and pretty questionable handling. Who would have even dreamt back then what would be created around 70 years later and 14,000 kilometers away in Ilsenburg in Germany? As part of an apprenticeship project at thyssenkrupp Camshafts in Ilsenburg, the apprentices Sarah Vogel and Max Jäger developed a skateboard equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Apart from the traditional basics (deck and two axles, each with two wheels), it has virtually nothing in common with the boards from the last century.
Innovative mobility solution for the “last mile”
And because thyssenkrupp Camshafts in Ilsenburg is one of the world’s most innovative and successful companies in the area of camshafts, valve train components and cylinder head covers for cars, trucks and motorcycles, Sarah and Max didn’t want to do things by halves. They needed to come up with a really innovative and spectacular concept. As a new, urban mobility solution for the “last mile” and with a certain coolness factor, the idea of an e-longboard – an electrically powered, slightly longer version of a skateboard particularly well suited to cruising – pretty much suggested itself.
Rethinking the skateboard in Ilsenburg
And the more the two mechatronics apprentices thought about their joint project, the longer the list of technical specifications became, ultimately resulting in one of the world’s most advanced skateboards. You could say the pair have done nothing less than write skateboard history.
“We began by gaining an overview,” says Sarah. “What is available on the market, what do people want and above all: What can we do better?” Evidently quite a lot.
Perfectly equipped training shop
In just over six weeks Sarah and Max designed, developed, produced and optimized their longboard, which has a raft of features. Firstly they designed the longboard using advanced CAD software and carried out static load simulations. The two apprentices then manufactured all the parts in the training shop in Ilsenburg: some required casting, others CNC milling. Last but not least the control system and communication environment needed to be programmed. Throughout the process they benefitted from the optimum resources at their training shop. “Our company is very well equipped and we have all the machinery we need,” says training manager Immo Fricke.
E-drive unit is the centerpiece
The centerpiece of the electrically powered longboard is the drive unit. As the pair based their concept on conventional skateboard axles which the rider also uses to steer by transferring their weight across them, the drive concept needed to be carefully thought out. As the axle structure made it impossible to use a single drive unit for both wheels on one axle, the budding mechatronics specialists selected a “DualDriveUnit” with offset individual electric motors to drive each wheel.
“We decided to use a toothed belt for the drive unit as it offers several advantages, for example compared with a wheel hub drive,” says Max. “On the one hand it provides a further reduction ratio and on the other hand it enables the drive to run more smoothly, resulting in a more comfortable ride and above all preventing jolting when setting ff”. The system offers a peak output of 8,800 watts. Clearly visible black lines on the floor of the training shop are testament to the performance of the longboard – much to the satisfaction of the training manager. It’s a good thing that the top speed is limited to 27 km/h.
KERS, cruise control and traction control…
The Ilsenburg apprentices also included a kinetic energy recovery system for the brakes (KERS). This system converts the kinetic energy generated when braking into electrical energy, which is stored in the lithium polymer battery and can then be used for the drive unit or other purposes. This flat aluminum battery installed under the deck not only offers a range of up to 45 kilometers, it can also be used to power external devices up to 800W. “It was important to us to be able to use the energy elsewhere too. When you aren’t riding the board, it can be used to charge or operate other electrical devices such as a cellphone or even a hedge trimmer,” says Max, who wants to study mechanical engineering after completing his apprenticeship, with a grin.
The features of the e-longboard read like those of a modern car. After all, the thyssenkrupp apprentices weren’t about to miss the opportunity to fit the board with traction control, cruise control and ABS. As a modern device, the e-longboard can also be connected with a smartphone or smartwatch. Despite the numerous technical gadgets, “the board weighs just 14.21 kilograms fully assembled,” Max is delighted to report.
The result is a truly spectacular product. Training manager Immo Fricke says, not without pride: “A longboard like this with this type of battery and such a high power output is unique. Everyone who has seen the board thinks it’s great. And I’m sure that many people didn’t think we could come up with something like that here.” Under the supervision of Immo Fricke the apprentices in Ilsenburg work on practical projects in each year of their apprenticeships. He strongly believes that “such projects are important for developing teamwork skills, craftsmanship and creativity. We want to motivate our apprentices to make an active contribution, develop something and spark a fire in them, so to speak.” That worked extremely well in the case of Sarah and Max: “The project was great fun,” says Max. “Everything we’ve learnt in our training we have been able to repeat from A to Z in practice.”
The e-longboard is now available to other apprentices as a modular concept for further development. That’s if optimization potential can actually be found anywhere …