How Do Hoverboards Work

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Looking at a hoverboard, you might think that it’s a very inconsequential device. Two wheels, a battery, and a frame and that’s it. It just magically runs like there is some force pushing it. The concept of the modern wheeled hoverboard is clearly inspired by Marty McFly and Back to the Future. However, how it really operates is a whole lot different.

When we take a closer look at the Back to the Future board, the way its run is very much like a skateboard. The difference is it doesn’t have wheels, and it levitates. That is clearly a technology that is out of our reach for now, and modern wheeled hoverboards look very distinct than their Back to the Future counterparts.

Today’s hoverboards look somewhat simple, if you can notice, it’s more like a skateboard that’s put to its side with the wheels rotated ninety degrees. At this orientation, you stand flat on top of the board with the wheels on either side, and you move in the direction you’re facing.

Two Wheels vs Four


This is the primary distinction between a skateboard and a hoverboard. Even though a hoverboard is more like a skateboard rotated to its side. You have to remember that with a skateboard you have four wheels, and that gives you a stable base that allows you to achieve balance quickly.

As for the hoverboard, your wheel count is halved, and two wheels do not give you the same stability as that of four. The wheels are generally larger, and that helps, but in terms of balancing you would have to give it more effort and focus as opposed to a skateboard.

Self-Balancing Act

You might think that balancing the entire system, you plus the board, falls on your shoulders. If that’s the case, then you would be falling every single time. Imagine balancing a very long stick on the palm of your hand. To keep it standing straight you’ll need to constantly adjust to make sure that it doesn’t fall down. Now try running forward and stop while still trying to maintain balance. Difficult, right?

Remember your adjustments? That’s what the hoverboard needs to do to keep you balanced and on it rather than tumbling on the ground. It’s a good thing that the technology to help you with balancing exists and this is what makes the hoverboard a unique piece of equipment that’s different to all other personal transportation devices.

How the Hoverboard Detects Movement

So now let’s take a look at how all of this tie together, how this self-balancing technology allows you to control the hoverboard. Without this, you might as well push it as it won’t get you to your destination.

When you go on your very first hoverboard ride, it might seem like magic. You will notice when you lean forward the board will speed up. The same is true when you lean back, it slows down. You will also feel that the board is sensitive in detecting even the slightest shifts in balance.

Sensors are what makes actions like these possible. Without these sensors, it will be impossible for hands-free motion. Gyroscopes, tilt, and speed sensors allow you to control the board without the use of a control device. It all depends on your center of gravity, which these sensors detect. If your center of gravity is forward, the board speeds up, if it’s directed backward, the board slows down.

In tandem with the sensors, there are also pressure pads. These are pads that are located on the area where your feet rests when you’re riding the hoverboard. They play a major part in detecting your tendencies. Each side of the board has a pad, and each pad has two switches, one at the front and another at the rear. What these do is they collaborate with the gyroscope to identify where your center of gravity is so the board will propel you the right way. These come in handy when you do the 180-degree turn spin trick.

So Many Sensors So Little Board


With all these sensors and switches, who makes sure that they all work together? The good news is that it’s not you. All you need to do is lean in the direction you want to go, and the hoverboard will simply go the right way.

The motherboard or the main logic board is what controls everything. It processes everything, all the inputs and all the readings from the different sensors and determines what to do with the electric motor. Think of it as a computer that’s inside your hoverboard. The sensor readings from the gyroscope and speed controls are processed, and it knows whether you’re accelerating, decelerating, or turning. It is also responsible for keeping the board balanced and upright at all times to avoid any untoward mishaps.

Remember different modes like learning and sport? The motherboard is also responsible for carrying those out. So if the learning mode of your particular model is capped at 6 mph, the motherboard detects the speed sensor readings and don’t allow you to go beyond the limit.

Hoverboard Horsepower

Now we know about the various sensors and how everything is managed by the motherboard, it’s time to look at where the power comes from. Modern self-balancing hoverboards are equipped with electric motors, one on each wheel. These motors are responsible for supplying you the power and determining the top speed of your board. The powerful the motors are the quicker your board goes.

Inside the wheels with the motors, are where the tilt and speed sensors are located. To determine your speed, they calculate the revolutions per minute of the wheel and sends that information to the motherboard, which converts that to miles per hour, a number that we can relate to.

Battery Juice

Every hoverboard needs its own gasoline equivalent. This is where the batteries come in. It provides the necessary power to the electric motors to turn them. It also produces the power so that the sensors can continue to collect vital data so that the motherboard knows whether to move forward, backward, or spin around.

Most hoverboard batteries are lithium-ion and the available space where they can be crammed into limits their performance. This, in turn, restricts the top speed and battery life. You might say that a bigger battery is the solution. But you have to remember that a larger battery means a heavier board, which means slower speeds. If you want to go fast, then you will have to sacrifice battery size and life. It’s a cycle that limits the overall performance of your hoverboard.

The length of your battery life depends on a lot of factors, and most especially how you are using your board. The more you travel at the board’s maximum speed, the quicker it will run out. The more hills you climb also affect how long your batteries will last.

The great thing about all this is that hoverboards are rechargeable, that means that all you need to do is plug the charging port to the wall socket and you will be all set after a few hours or so. Different boards mean varying charging times. Some boards have fast-charging technology built-in so you can charge them in one or two hours.

Software Secrets


Most of the hoverboard’s hardware components can be bought off the shelf. You see it with the influx of more affordable brands. If you perform a teardown of boards of different brands chances are you will find more of the same components on the inside.

The software that controls the hoverboard is more or less the difference maker. Premium board manufacturers invest a lot in the research and development of their software and can provide you a much smoother ride. They have the resources to test out their software. This is one of the main reasons why cheap hoverboards are often twitchy and behave weirdly depending on the circumstances.

This is where you’ll see the difference between cheap and premium boards. Some boards brake abruptly and can injure you, while other well-made boards decelerate smoothly.

Other Hoverboard Hardware

Apart from the sensors, motors, wheels, motherboard, and battery your typical hoverboard also has other parts that are crucial to its operation. The first and most obvious part is the steel frame, it comes with a pivot device that allows the board’s different sides to be independent of each other. This is important since it’s the pivot that enables you to do the 180-degree turn in place trick.

An important feature of this steel frame is that it serves as the base of your board. This is where everything is fitted in, including important safety compartments for batteries so fires could not spread and injure the rider. There is also the plastic outer shell that covers the entire board. This is mostly to look nice, but this also hides the internals like the wires and motherboard from the outside. For boards that are waterproof and weatherproof, this is where the outer case shines.

Other crucial hoverboard hardware includes LED lights that make you noticeable especially when you’re traveling at night. Some boards even have Bluetooth speakers installed, this is a nice premium addition that allows you to ride it and keep you safe since you won’t be wearing headphones.

Final Thoughts

Even though modern hoverboards won’t meet Marty McFly’s expectations, it is still an engineering marvel. No other personal transporter has a similar amount of technology crammed into a small space. There are other comparable personal transporters out there, like electric skateboards. However, they’re not as technologically advanced.

All of these moving parts work together to become a hoverboard. As you can see, there are a lot of mechanical components and sensors. That is one of the reasons why the costs of hoverboards are significantly costlier compared to other similar devices.

It is a complicated piece of machinery, and when you add other specialized features such as off-road capabilities or a high-performance mode, you’re are adding more layers of complexity to it.

Now you know how hoverboards work and the parts that you need, you can now fully understand what type of board you need to suit your lifestyle. You won’t be like Marty from Back to the Future, but you’ll be someone who will be flying down the sidewalk with the wind in your hair and zipping through other pedestrians on your way to work or school.