Motor control of a hub motor for electric skateboard propulsion : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters in Engineering at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
An electric powered skateboard was designed and built for testing and development of an innovative hub motor propulsion system and motor controller. The electric skateboard prototype is able to reach speeds of over 50km/h and achieve a range of over 35km on a single battery charge. The prototype weighs 8.6kg and can easily be carried by the user. This mode of transport has potential uses in recreational use, motor sports (racing), short commutes, and most notably, in ‘the last mile’ of public transport – getting to and from a train station, bus stop, etc. to the user’s final destination.
Typical electric powered skateboards use external motors(s) requiring a power transmission assembly to drive the wheels. The hub motor design places the motor(s) inside the skateboard wheels and drives the wheels directly. This removes the need for power transmission assemblies therefore reductions in size, weight, cost, audible noise, and maintenance are realised. The hub motor built for this prototype has proven to be a highly feasible option over typical drive systems and further improvements to the design are discussed in this report.
Advances in the processor capability of low cost microcontrollers has allowed for advanced motor control techniques to be implemented on low cost consumer level motor controllers which, until recent times, have been using the basic ‘Six-Step Control’ technique to drive Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors. The custom built motor controllers allow for firmware to be flashed to the microcontroller. Firmware was written for the basic motor control technique, Six-Step Control and for the advanced motor control technique, ‘Field Oriented Control’ (FOC). This allowed for the two control techniques to be tested and compared using identical hardware for each.
Six-Step Control drives a three phase motor by controlling the inverter output to six discrete states. The states are stepped through sequentially. This results in a square wave AC waveform. Theory shows that this is not optimal as the magnetic flux produced in the stator is not always perpendicular to the magnet poles but rather aligned to the nearest 60°. FOC addresses this by controlling the magnetic flux to always be perpendicular to the magnet poles in order to maximise torque. The inverter is essentially controlled to produce a continuously variable voltage vector output in terms of both magnitude and direction (vector control).
Bench testing of the control techniques was performed using two motors coupled together with one motor driving and the other motor running as a generator. The generator motor was shown to provide a highly consistent and repeatable load on the driving motor under test and therefore comparisons could be made between the performance of the motor while controlled under Six-Step Control and FOC. This test indicated that FOC was able to drive the motor more efficiently than Six-Step Control, however the FOC implementation requires further development to achieve greater efficiency under high load demands. Furthermore, on-road testing was performed using the motor controllers in the electric skateboard prototype to compare the performance of the two control techniques in a real world application. The results from this test were inconclusive due to large variation in the results between repeated tests.
Redacted for copyright reasons: Appendix A - Journal Article Published in IEEE International Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference (I2MTC 2012). Rowe, A. & Sen Gupta, G. (2012). Instrumentation and control of a high power BLDC motor for small vehicle applications.