Onewheel: A Turbocharged Skateboard Powered by ANSYS

Most people occasionally have dreams of flying — without the aid of an airplane or other mechanical device — just soaring through the air on their own power. The thrill ends with dream, unfortunately. Closer down to earth, many of us enjoy the feeling of gliding effortlessly across the snow on skis or a snowboard, over the ice on skates, or on a surfboard cutting through the water. There is something about the effortless gliding sensation that can’t be approached by the more mundane act of walking — though walking has its pleasures too.

Onewheel skateboard

Kyle Doerksen used to enjoy his one-mile walk to work in Silicon Valley, but he couldn’t help thinking about the snowboarding he used to do while growing up in the Canadian Rockies. Soon he was pondering a ground-based alternative — a motorized board with one wheel in the middle, like a turbocharged skateboard. Before he knew it he was quitting his job to form the startup company Future Motion, with the first product being Onewheel, a motorized skateboard with a single 11.5-inch tire and a battery-powered 2-horsepower motor that could travel across pavement, grass, dirt and sand.

Initial progress was slow because he had to build physical prototypes of each new idea he developed. He estimates that each physical prototype cost the company about $10,000. Still, he managed to get the first product to market using only physical prototyping. But when he learned about the ANSYS Startup Program, which gives startups with little or no revenue a chance to use ANSYS simulation solutions for a much reduced rate while getting the company off the ground, he jumped at the chance.

The opportunity to use ANSYS digital prototyping is helping Doerksen to meet the challenges of improving Onewheel as other “me-too” companies form to try to get a share of the business. Future Motion is using ANSYS electromagnetic simulations to improve on the sensors on the surface of the board that the rider’s feet manipulate to make a turn or slow down. The company is also trying to lightweight the board using simulation to make Onewheel more portable and to extend the range of its battery powered motor — less weight equals more distance.

Onewheel fender displacement simulation

By using ANSYS digital prototyping instead of physical prototyping, the company is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in physical testing while pushing an improved version of Onewheel to the market faster, before any new companies have a chance to grab market share. Kyle Doerksen is enjoying the feeling of gliding again — gliding over technological challenges with the help of simulation, and over the ground, grass and sand on his Onewheel.

To learn more about Doerksen’s journey and his success in using engineering simulation to build Onewheel, read the latest issue of ANSYS Advantage.

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