Open Source Openwheel

Image of an imagined DIY onewheel

The story is one we’ve all lived: We see a piece of commercial technology and we want it, but the price tag makes us wonder if it isn’t made with gold pressed latinum. The object of [Zach]’s desire? A single wheel powered skateboard sold by a company called Onewheel. But as you can see in the video below the break, and his excellent website, Zach took the wallet-light but time-heavy approach and built his own prototype he calls the Openwheel.

Starting with a single powered wheel, [Zach] used aluminum, very large 3D printed pieces, and a really slick off the shelf controller package to control the Openwheel. Balance is handled by the controller, while a massive 48 V LiPo battery is fed through a beefy electronic speed controller that allows advanced features like regenerative braking.

We won’t spoil the results, but [Zach]’s Openwheel came out very nice, even exceeding some specifications of the commercial unit. You’ll want to watch his YouTube series about the build to get an idea of all the work that goes into such a device even as a prototype.

If tank track tread is more your jam, check out this tank track skateboard that we featured some time back!

18 thoughts on “Open Source Openwheel

  1. That’s how OneWheel started, building a board around an old go-kart tire and wheel. Apparently the prototype scored the guy $$$$$ to develop it for commercial production.

  2. I’ve seen plenty of cheaper knockoffs of the onewheel, but after watching videos comparing them to the original, the consensus was they weren’t as good. Unexpected starts/stops and motor control issues that I’m guessing were the result of unfiltered inputs to the controller. After the initial hardware development I’m sure onewheel put a lot of effort into the firmware control and I’d love to hear how this one stacks up against theirs by a professional rider.

    1. That seems very true based on my experience. A YouTuber by the name of surfdado has been doing some seemingly great work on vesc firmware for diy one wheels which is freely available on GitHub. His videos provide some good insights into how much more it takes than just simple PIDs to make these ride nice.

      I have a “genuine” Onewheel, but still interested in building an open source one due to Future Motion’s (the makers of Onewheel) move towards making their stuff more and more proprietary. Availability of good motors is not great though.

  3. Just as an FYI to anyone attempting this – in the video he is using a FlipSky VESC. In the electric skateboard community, the flipsky VESC’s have a pretty middling reputation. They are viewed as hit or miss silicon-wise — some are good, some go out really quickly.

    That’s annoying enough on a skateboard, but on a one wheel it could mean a nasty spill. I would strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with VESC providers as far as quality / safety goes.

    I’m not going to make a recommendation as far as VESC’s, as I come from the skateboard world and I suspect the OneWheel hobbiest’s have their own preferences. I just wanted to point this out since debating whether or not I wanted to gamble on a FlipSky VESC or pay for a top notch one for my skateboard build recently.

    1. This is very true. I debated for several months whether I should buy the cheap FlipSky VESC, the more expensive ones from Benjamin Vedder’s VESC Project, or build my own. I went down the path of downloading the design files for the PCB and trying to source the parts. Ultimately I decided that since I would only be building one of these and that it is a prototype platform that I would start with the FlipSky VESC. I plan to (and want others) to tinker with this open source design and improve it over many iterations. I couldn’t find any good open source onewheel projects out there so I started this one. I’ve had lots of interest, and hopefully this picks up and matures into a more reliable design.

  4. I understand the plans are for sale for $20. That makes it a bit less than open source, I suppose. Still a great project and cool to see that VESC even supports connecting IMUs directly.
    A couple things I add to the list of proposed changes would be to better balance out the board. That 1KWh battery sits in the back and the front only contains a few PCBs and some wiring. When we puts together the next version, I’m sure that’s also high on the list.
    In my opinion, nothing beats the freedom of long range! Especially when the board would be too heavy to carry around regardless of how much capacity is on board. Seeing that 1KWh pack in there warms my eskaters heart :)

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