Electric Self Balancing Unicycle – Motorized

Buying guide to purchase self balancing unicycle

Sustainable transportation is an important component to address the environmental issues being faced by the modern world. As millions of people from all over the globe travel every day to work and other places, the ecological footprint due to the vehicular emissions is high especially since most transport systems depend on fossil fuel for operations. Any alternative that reduces carbon emissions provides sustainable transportation using renewable source or a greener source of energy. Hybrid cars, conventional cars using traditional and modern fuel, and electric-based transport modes are some examples of sustainable transport.

self balancing unicycle

Electric-based transportation systems
Almost 20% of the global carbon emission is due to the transportation modes across the world. To reduce the negative effect of this situation, several countries have commenced using electric-based transport systems. These vehicles use batteries that can be electrically charged instead of traditional fuel or petroleum. With an increasing use of such products, the carbon emissions can be significantly reduced. Some examples for electric public transport include the CRH5 Train in China, BYD ebus or K9 in China, and Nissan Leaf all-electric car. Individuals can choose electric unicycle, scooters, and bicycles to move from one place to another.

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A self balancing unicycle
A self balancing unicycle is an electric vehicle using sensors, accelerometers, and gyros along with motors to assist the riders balance on the single wheel system. This is a non-linear control mechanism like a two-dimensional inverted pendulum having a unicycle cart at the base. There are numerous high-end features needed to model the complete system. The rotation of the drive wheel provides control in one dimension (backward and forward movement). Other dimensional controls require additional actuators like gyroscopes, auxiliary pendulum, and reaction wheels attached to the main pendulum of the unicycles.

Various parts in the unicycle
A typical electric unicycle scooter comprises four components. These include the mainboard, tire or pedal assembly with motored hub, one or more batteries, and the shell to comprise all these parts.

  • Battery– stores the energy to move the motor and provide power to the electronic parts. Most of these utilize battery pack made from Lithium Ion cells (these are available in several varieties). Generally, 16 cells in a series to be able to receive 50 to 70V voltage is used for driving the motors. Total capacity of the battery packs is shown as Watt hours (Wh) with an average being between 10 and 20 Wh is required for every kilometer. This can vary according to the weather conditions, riders, and the type of the unicycle. Products with more battery capacity do not travel longer distances but are beneficial in providing higher torque even if the battery charge is depleted.
  • The battery management system– is a printed circuit board within one or more battery packs. In certain models, this is integrated directly within the mainboard. The BMS controls the battery charge, balances the cells, and provides certain protection like over-discharge, short circuit, over-current, and overcharging. A common issue with such protection is the power cut-off when the battery voltage decreases too low.
  • Firmware – is the program within the mainboard comprising the logics of the alarms, balancing wheels, speed limits, tilt-back using Bluetooth technology or mobile application. Except the Ninebot Ones (offering firmware updates) all other unicycles require purchasing new mainboards to update or upgrade the firmware.
  • Hall sensors – are parts within the motor and detect the position and measure the rotations per minute of the motor. This data is needed by the mainboard to drive the motor and control the balance of the wheel.
  • Mainboard – is the most important component of the motorized unicycle. It is typically single printed circuit board although sometimes there may be more than one (like the Firewheel providing two boards where the secondary board controls battery display and lights). The mainboard comprises driving logics and power feed for the motor, acceleration sensor and gyroscope for balancing, various kinds of alarms, display control, and
  • Bluetooth chip for application support.
    Motor – is used to move the unicycle and is typically direct current brushless hub motors with direct drive placed in the center of the tire rim. These have peak and rated power in wattage with the general rule being “bigger is better”. However, bigger wattage does not necessarily imply higher speed because various motors are built with different objectives in mind. There are maximum speed limitations within the firmware; higher powered motors provide added balance especially in extreme situation. Heavy riders are advised to choose high powered (over 500 watts) motors for their safety.
  • Pedal – is the part located on the top of where riders place their feet during riding. These are made from steel or aluminum and are available in different sizes and shapes. These significantly affect the comfort of the riders of the wheel sustainability during long drives. The pedal clearance has an important role during the rides because low clearance may result in the pedal hitting the ground while you are leaning.
  • Other – shell is the plastic covering for parts like the motor tire assembly, batteries, and mainboard. The strap is a ribbon that comes with the wheel. The objective is attaching the strap to the wheel to prevent its falling and getting away while you are dismounting especially at the beginning. Tire is the outermost rubber component of the tire but also implies the inner tube.

Technical aspects
Cut-offs in the self-balancing electric unicycle scooter is of two types. First is the mainboard-induced cutoff also known as motor shutdown. The second type is BMS cutoff.

Mainboard-induced cutoff occurs when the firmware cuts the power off to the motor for any reason to prevent the wheel from moving further. These could be over speeding, excessive passing of the current through the board, or tilting of the wheel by over 45 degrees. In instances when the main board cuts off the power, the wheel does not power down but emits warning alarms to inform the riders to reset the unicycle to reuse.

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Battery management system induced cutoff is the result of over discharge protection circuitry within the battery. This cutoff results in the entire power to the wheel being stopped instantly and could be extremely dangerous. Because it occurs unexpectedly, most riders fall of their unicycles in the situation. Generally, if the protection is latched and wheel shuts off without turning back on until you plug-in the charger is often due to the over discharge protection triggered by the system.

Different kinds of unicycling
Resetting the wheel primarily implies turning it off and on again. Most products need this to be done when motor shutdown has occurred. Rotations per minute measures the speed of the motors to determine the number of rounds completed in one minute. Shunting means circumventing discharge protection circuits within the battery to prevent BMS cutoff.

Idling is the terminology used for denoting forward and backward movement on the unicycle staying in the same place. This can be taxing for the motor and will consume battery quicker but is very useful in some situations like waiting for the traffic light to change.

Leaning primarily refers to using your body to move the center of gravity and gain control on the unicycle. The riders lean forward and backward to accelerate and decelerate or for moving directions. For turning the device, you will need to lean in the direction you want to turn although using the hips to swivel for in-place turns is also good.

Out-lean is a situation when the riders lean forward when the wheel is unable to help him or her maintain the balance and often results in the dismounting of the riders and in some instances they actually fall down. This usually occurs while going uphill when the motor is unable to produce sufficient torque for keeping the wheel upright when the rider is leaning forward.

Overpowering the wheel means a similar situation but with out-leans and is used to describe situations when the wheel is unable to maintain the balance on ground level. Such instances could be hitting the potholes causing the wheel to tilt way too forward or simply out-lean.

Power braking is a term used to describe kind of braking when the wheel is pushed in front of the riders while their legs are simultaneously leaning back. At the same time, the rider is pushing the pedal downwards to brake as fast as he or she can. This requires practice but is not difficult and is a useful technique to know when you need to brake on a dime.

Tilt back is a safety protocol when the wheel commences to tilt the pedal backward at high speeds as a warning to the rider and preventing him or her from leaning further forward. Although you can acquire more speed by leaning forward, it is not wise because it can result in mainboard-included cutoff from over speeding. Most of the wheels are provided with this measure and some models even allow the riders to adjust the tilt back speeds with an application.
Over speed occurs when main board cuts the power to the motor because excessive power is needed to run the motor at faster speeds or because it has reached it maximum RPM. This must be prevented because it will always result in the fall of the riders.

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