The vast majority of ground vehicles utilize wheels for a reason: they’re extremely efficient over flat ground. One of the best examples of that principle is the humble bicycle. The average person can travel on a bicycle many times further — and faster — than they could while running or walking. Skateboards aren’t quite as efficient, but they do have the benefit of being lightweight and portable. Josh Geating and his team are trying to improve on typical electric skateboards to build the “most agile, rideable flatground wheeled vehicle in the world.”
A key word in that quote is “agile.” That means speed in a straight line isn’t the primary goal of this project. Instead, Geating’s team is try to build a skateboard-style vehicle that can maneuver better than any other. Power and speed are certainly a factor, but the ability to turn on a dime is just as important. To make it happen, they’ve designed three prototypes so far. All of them are using massive 80mm brushless DC motors that are controlled by an Arduino Due board through VESCs (Vedder Electronic Speed Controllers). Those motor controllers have additional features when compared to a conventional ESC, including regenerative braking.
The first of the prototypes was designed with omniwheels in order to facilitate extremely tight turns. Unfortunately, those wheels are normally intended for slow speed robots and were quickly torn to shreds by the power from the large motors. The following two designs utilized swerve drives and hard wheels, which allow each wheel to be turned and powered independently. The first of those had three wheels, but ended up being unwieldy. The second of those had four wheels and fared better, but still didn’t perform at the level they’re hoping for.
The Kinetik project is, however, still underway. Be sure to follow along with their build logs as they continue to push towards their goal.
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Author: Cameron Coward