How Do Hoverboards Work?

It seems like everyone from kids to teens and adults wants to look really cool these days when out there having a good time. Everywhere you look there’s always some happy soul rolling around on some motor-driven board that looks like a segway without handlebars. But how do hoverboards work?

How do the various components of a hoverboard come together into this fully functioning device that’s modernized personal transportation?

In this post, I describe all the components a self-balancing scooter consists of, and I’m doing that so you can understand how this toy really works. And here’s a post that describes how to ride a hoverboard.


Hoverboards Don’t Hover, Right?

Right! I’ve always wondered why manufacturers and eager folks everywhere refer to self-balancing scooters as hoverboards. I mean, it’s kind of retarded to call a device that doesn’t actually fly or hover a hoverboard.

Here’s the thing. Hoverboards don’t exist, never have, and probably never will. But wait, maybe Elon Musk or someone crazy enough will someday soon give the world a real hoverboard — a motorized board that actually hovers. Until then, we’re stuck riding these pretentious balance boards. End of rant.

For the purpose of this post, though, I’ll use the name hoverboard, self-balancing scooter, and balance board to refer to that exact same object. But I want to be remembered as the girl online who thought the name hoverboard sounds nearly retarded.

To understand how hoverboards work, you first need to know the various parts that come together to make it all happen. And below is a list of those parts along with an explanation of how each contributes to the magic.

Video on Disassembling a Hoverboard

The 11 Main Components of a Hoverboard

  1. An outer plastic shell
  2. A sturdy frame made of steel or aluminum (the frame pivots at the middle)
  3. Gyroscopes/speed control boards (two, one on each side of the frame)
  4. Logic board
  5. Infrared LED sensors (2)
  6. Infrared sensors (2)
  7. Electric motors
  8. LED lights
  9. A battery pack
  10. A charging port
  11. A power button
  12. Pressure pads

Let’s now examine each of these 11 hoverboard components to understand its role.

The Outer Plastic Shell

This is the exterior shell that houses all of the delicate hardware and electronics inside your self-balancing scooter. Typically, the shell is constructed from tough, durable ABS plastic.

And usually, this outer shell boasts water-resistant properties. Still, it’s almost always a bad idea to ride electric devices such as hoverboards and electric skateboards when it’s raining outside.

The Two Gyroscopes

Have you ever calibrated a hoverboard? If you’ve owned a balance board for a considerable length of time, you’ve likely needed to calibrate it.

When calibrating a hoverboard, what you’re actually doing is giving instructions to the gyroscopes. And when you’re riding your hoverboard by leaning forward or backward via tilting your ankles a little, it’s the gyros that relay that information to the logic board.

When you calibrate a balance board, all you’re doing is setting the gyros back to zero. It’s pretty much like setting your smartphone or other similar devices back to default factory settings.

Two Electric Motors 

Just like an electric skateboard, a hoverboard runs on motors, usually two. And each electric motor stays inside a wheel as does each tilt sensor.

When you tilt your foot a certain way, the sensors in the hoverboard’s wheels detect that. But these speed/tilt sensors don’t stop there. These tilt sensors pass on that information to the gyroscopes which in turn deliver that information to the logic board. More on that down the road.

The Logic Board

The logic board operates pretty much like your PC’s motherboard. This board receives tilt information and processes it instantly. At least, that’s what should happen if your balance board is functioning properly.

This is an intelligent component that knows when to spin your board’s wheels and when to process a turn right or left. The logic board also decides when to accelerate or decelerate your device and when to reduce the rpm down to zero. Every other component reports to the logic board and the logic board responds accordingly.

Most hoverboards count on the almost ubiquitous TaoTao logic boards. However, some hoverboards run on different logic boards.

The Battery Pack

If there’s one thing you must pay enough attention to, it’s the battery pack. If the battery pack your board comes with isn’t a high-quality product, you’ll likely end up tossing your board in the attic.

Most of the best hoverboards I’ve seen come with UL2271-certified lithium-ion batteries. LG and Samsung seem to have dominated the entire hoverboard battery market.

The typical battery packs about 4,400 mAH of riding power. And an overwhelming majority of these 4,400 mAH battery packs are 36V batteries.

So, if your hoverboard offers a battery pack whose full charge doesn’t give you enough power, you’ll definitely start complaining about its overall performance.

You’ll most likely notice you can’t ride your hoverboard for more than a few minutes because the battery died on you. And that sucks.

When buying a hoverboard, be sure to read good hoverboard reviews so you won’t end up with endless problems. If you’re planning on buying a hoverboard and have never ridden one, look at these beginner hoverboard reviews.

And if you weigh a little heavier than most people, take a look at these hoverboards for heavy riders. You’ll surely get an option whose battery pack works somewhat less problematically.

Here’s one more thing to keep in mind— whether the battery is removable or not. Some batteries are removable while others are not. With the detachable kind, you can take the battery off and put in a fully-charged battery pack.

Most importantly, you can swap out the batteries easily and without needing a pair of super technical hands or any kind of specialized tools.

Charging Port

No explanation needed here. That’s the place that lets you plug in your device to mains to draw an electric charge. I strongly advise you to never leave your self-balancing scooter charging overnight. You never know what kind of battery you have in there.

Some batteries have been reported to overheat and explode during charge time. Even worse, some hoverboard batteries have overheated and exploded during rides, causing pain and damage.

Pressure Pads, Switches, and Infrared Sensors

Do you see that place on your board’s frame where your feet should sit? That’s the exact location where the pressure pads are. Except the footpads are on the underside, beneath your feet.

Now, each pressure pad or footpad sits above and between two switches. When you stretch out your toe forward and down, that pressure transfers to the switch on the front.

When that happens, it pushes the switch in question down. If you disassemble your board and watch what’s happening, you’ll see a small sort of plastic wall moving between the infrared sensor and the infrared LED sensor. And that’s when the magic begins.

When that plastic curtain comes between the infrared sensor and the infrared LED sensor, the LED sensor turns off. And when that happens, the other sensor gets triggered, notifying the logic board. Consequently, the logic board instructs the motor in the right wheel to spin forward.

When you lean forward, that puts pressure on the right switch while leaning backwards affects the left switch. And pushing the right switch causes forward propulsion while pushing down the left switch moves you backwards.

So, there’s a whole ton of electronic engineering stuff happening inside a hoverboard as it detects different actions.

The LED Light Stays On When the Feet Aren’t Tilted

When you stop applying pressure on the footpads, light starts reaching the infrared LED sensor again. And when the LED sensor detects light, it communicates to the other sensor which then notifies the logic board.

The logic board is intelligent enough to know it now needs to stop spinning the wheels. Hoverboards are super smart, huh?

But …

How Do Hoverboards Accelerate or Decelerate?

When you lean forward, the gyros tell the logic board that you’re doing so, and you move forward. And the more you lean forward, the logic board is intelligent enough to know you wish to move faster. As a result, the logic board requests the motors in the wheels to spin faster.

When you lean forward less, the gyros again relay that information to your device’s control board. And the control board interprets that to mean that you’d like to slow down a bit. Then, the control board gets the motors spinning a bit slower. And that forces your hoverboard to decelerate.

To stop your board, all you have to do is let your feet rest flat on the pressure pads. Your self-balancing scooter will know you want to step off the board, and it’ll instantly cut the motors. You see, it’s an amazing piece of technology.

The Power Button

The power button lets you turn your hoverboard on or off. It’s typically a silver button. If you want to switch to the beginner mode without trying too hard, push the power button two times instead of once. This trick works. Every single time.

You’ve learned how a hoverboard works. Now what?  It’s time you ordered one good one for traveling to your work and another one for your little, explorative boy or girl.