DIY OR BUY
Before reading this article, it’s important to have a grasp on the current trends forming in the semi-adolescent stages of the electric skateboard industry.
There are 3 primary categories that all electric skateboard can be put into.
DIY (Do It Yourself) = A self-built electric skateboard made with various parts (low or high-spec options), sourced from various suppliers. When combined together & tuned, you create a complete electric skateboard, potentially with superior features & performance, and maybe for a lower cost than a complete board.
COMPLETE (Proprietory System) = Purchased from a mainstream brand, a completely built board with proprietary electronics system that comes in a box, no work is required, simply turn it on and ride.
BUILT FOR PERFORMANCE COMPLETE (High-Spec Industry Standard Open Source Componentry) = A complete pre-built board, purchased from a specialist supplier/builder, made with the latest high-spec performance parts and custom-tuned. These parts are now considered standard and make doing maintenance and getting service very easy
Now you understand these categories, ask me this question:
DIY or BUY?
24 months ago I would have laughed at you, saying “Of course you should build DIY!”
24 months ago, the answer to this question was very simple, there were no high-performance electric skateboards on the Complete (proprietary system) market.
Maybe Boosted Boards? Was the best option… they are great boards, but they are not really high-performance. You couldn’t buy high performance completes, The answer was build DIY
So what do I mean by high-performance?
Here are a few key ingredients to achieving higher performance status:
- Top Speed 45km/h +
- Huge Range 30-40km+
- Reliable high-current high-voltage motor controllers
- Throttle Curve adjustments, power customization & performance controls, etc.
- Top brand battery packs, such as Samsung, LG, Sanyo, Panasonic
- Precision trucks
- Premium Wheels
24 months ago, most of these ingredients were being used commonly by the top tier builders in the DIY electric skateboard scene. These self-built boards were untouchable on the street. None of the mass-produced mainstream brands were catering to this segment of the market. DIY was out in front.
So 24 months later, what has changed?
The scene has evolved & the DIY industry has matured, the best builders worked out what gear was good & what gear to avoid.
Many of the best esk8 builders have skilled up & scaled up during the last 24 months. The little backyard hobby that started out as building boards for friends & family is now catering to complete strangers who just want raw performance.
The unique offerings from the top DIY builders were so good they were going viral on social media, to the extent where some guys had documentaries made about their work, and others were getting recognized by some of the leading skateboard magazines. The tides started to change, and people who would normally buy a complete brand name unit, like Boosted Boards or Evolve, started craving the custom performance machines us DIY guys were bragging about.
Question: So why buy from this handful of top level DIY builders and pay inflated prices if you can simply buy the same parts they use and build it yourself?
Answer: Building a high-quality high-performance electric skateboard at home is really hard work & can actually be very expensive.
> For anyone interested in business and marketing this is a really interesting case study…
People who want high-performance electric skateboards generally fall into two categories.
- That looks really cool; I’m going to build one myself.
- That looks really cool. I have no idea how to build stuff; I just want to buy it now.
Within these two categories, especially the first one, there are various other levels of thought & decision making processes that occur.
For now, let’s take a look at Category #1
The “I’m going to build one myself” Guy.
There are 3 distinct hurdles for this guy. With perseverance, anyone can build an awesome eboard at home. But considering the new High-Spec-Pre-Built-DIY-Offers in the market, is DIY the most efficient use of time & money?
1. All too hard: This guy starts researching, which can take 2-3 months of reading before you get a clear vision of what you want to build, then he realises that what he doesn’t know is vast, so he decides it’s better to just buy one pre-made from an expert builder before he wastes any more time. The dude just wants to ride!
2. Due diligence: If he doesn’t make the decision to abandon the DIY route early, the next phase of thinking involves costing out and buying all the gear.
This is a really interesting phase and can be a big trap for inexperienced builders. You need to be conscious about the false economy trap (read here).
One of the big problems comes down to tooling and miscellaneous expenses - how much does this add up to? If you start from nothing, the tooling cost to build a high-performance electric skateboard at home could easily be $300-400; that’s before you buy any of the actual parts that make the esk8.
- Spot welder $180
- Decent soldering station $100
- Heat gun $30
- Hot glue gun $30
- Wires, heat shrink, solder $50
- Connectors & switches $30
NOTE: Considering the cost of some tools, like the spot welder, it can often work out cheaper to pay someone to build your battery for you. Buying tools is smart if you plan to use them frequently; otherwise, it’s a waste of cash.
You add up the sums and realize you can buy a high-performance pre-built complete with modular DIY architecture for about the same cost, if not slightly less. So many months have passed, and you just want to ride, so you take a shortcut & buy the complete made by the expert DIY builder.
3. You love building as much as riding: Ok, so you know this is going to cost you a decent amount to get the job done properly, but you don’t care; you love building stuff and needed a new hobby anyways. So you make the decision to buy all the tools & all the parts! You are fully committed to making the best damn electric skateboard possible. Finally after 6 months of planning & waiting on parts to arrive you build the board. Of course, it won’t work first go because something has failed and you realize there is no warranty & you have to wait another 3 weeks for new parts to arrive at your door. Ok, that sucks, and you are a bit annoyed, but can accept that shit happens! Finally, after a few teething problems getting it running, it has all worked out perfectly and you love it… you had an amazing experience and learned lots.
The end result is your board is sweet and you feel satisfied with your accomplishment! It’s so good in fact your buddy John wants to build one too and he wants your help… Would you do it all again now you have the knowledge? If you could have just bought the same thing at a lower price & had it sooner & have it built by an expert & with 12 months warranty?
What does this case study tell us?
People will always choose the path of least resistance, the more convenient path, the one that offers more for less. People want better service & better products, that is undeniable. The category of “high-performance-electric-skateboards” is about to explode.
This is why In 2017 many people will choose not to buy parts & tools to build a DIY electric skateboard, They will buy a pre-built high-spec machine from the community members who raised the grassroots movement of the self-built electric skateboard. The innovators who pioneered this genre are the ones who will be pushing the envelope of performance in the years to come. These are the people who will get your order.
What’s my point?
24 months ago, there weren’t any established DIY builders making really good high-performance electrics skateboards and catering to the masses.
24 months ago the 3 scenarios above resulted in the person deciding the only way they can get amazing performance was to build the DIY board themselves at home.
Now it’s 2017 and the market has Evolved, there are several builders who can make extremely high-quality DIY-like builds with all the best-rated componentry with full warranty & support.
There is a new genre of Electric Skateboard and it is here now! The HIGH-SPEC-COMPLETE
So why would anyone build DIY?
I recommend building DIY if you want a fun project. Maybe you are interested in engineering and choose to build one for a school project, or maybe you want to be the raddest dad in the world and build one side-by-side with your son for his 14th birthday. I say do it!
The other great reason to build DIY is you can build really cheap, medium-performance electric skateboards. However, just remember, high-performance & high-quality are impossible to achieve if your primary goal is cheapness.
BUT IF YOU JUST WANT THE THRILL OF RIDING - you just want to ride high-powered electric skateboards NOW and you are feeling time poor - I recommend buying a complete unit made by an expert in the field of high-performance, high-tech electric skateboards.
If you want high-spec & high quality here are a few names to check out.
Long Haired Boy
Enertion, Raptor 2
Can you list anymore?