Electric Bike Motors – Hub-Drive vs. Mid-Drive

August 26, 2021

With electric bikes becoming more  popular, the market has subsequently expanded to supply the increased demand, and it is getting tougher and tougher for the customer to make  the right choices when buying an ebike. There are so many options to choose from, and many perhaps above your budget, which makes your buying journey even more complicated.

We believe that electric bikes can be customized to your individual choices without leaving you penniless. However, there are many important things that you will have to learn to choose the right bike for you. 

As we were saying, the market is growing rapidly. Not only are there many electric bikes to choose from, but you can also get hundreds and hundreds of different electric bike parts to build your own bike. Some people prefer premium customization, while some enjoy buying an electric bike for under $1000. We are not prescriptive about your choice, but we encourage you to learn about different electric bike parts and the maintenance of such.  That's why today we will be discussing electric bike motors, one of the most complex and expensive parts of an electric bike.

 Many experienced bikers like to joke and say that the bike's motor makes up almost half of the e-bike costs. Similarly, getting a poor electric bike battery can be a bad choice for your wallet, at least in the long run. This is why we generally motivate people to invest in a product of good value and maintain it properly, as it will keep you satisfied for many years to come.

An Intro To Electric Bike Motors

Electric bikes are an eco-friendly way to be independent when it comes to movement and traveling. They are cheaper to maintain than most cars, they are practical, and you can customize them without worrying about insurance policies and unexpected costs. Regular bikes are great, but we're not all fitness enthusiasts who can bike for long periods. In addition, some of us live in areas with uneven and leveled terrain, and biking becomes even more of a struggle. This is why adding an electric motor to your bike is a good idea.

An electric motor is the part of the bike that connects the power source with the rest of the wiring and the mechanical components, including your pedals. This connection allows you to use battery power for pedaling assistance. Still, it depends on the electric bike model whether you have to activate the motor assistance with a throttle or via pedaling. Sometimes engaging the throttle seems to be enough. But, at the same time, in other cases, you have to pedal, and the motor makes a note of the rotational momentum you're creating - it assists if the momentum is not sufficient.

There are often control buttons that help you manage the amount of assistance you are getting, but make sure that you are not turning your throttle to maximum settings because you will empty your battery in no time. It's tempting, we know, to move without pedaling, but keep in mind you have to return to your home safely.

There are several types of electric bike motors, and the classification has been made by taking into account the location of the motor, as well as some mechanical differences. First, let's check out two of the most popular categories of motors, hub-drive motors and mid-drive motors. By the end of this post, you'll be able to decide which one is better for you.

Hub-Drive Motors

Hub-drive Motors

About

If you are looking for hub-drive motors, you will first have to decide whether you want a direct-drive hub-motor or a geared hub motor. However, the principles both follow are almost the same, which is why we begin by discussing the direct-drive hub-motor.

For this model, the hub of the motor rotates around the shaft, which helps you move by creating rotational momentum - the bigger the motor, the bigger the hub, and the bigger the torque (the momentum). That's why direct-drive hub motors seem to be larger, and they are usually a little bit tougher to maintain.

On the other hand, geared hub-motors have an additional motor in the hub itself, which will generate more torque, to begin with. It's a little bit easier to pedal with this type of motor, and these are also smaller in general - their diameter is smaller, and they seem to be more practical if you don't mind their width. Geared hub-motors do not entertain the idea of regenerative braking, which makes them seem more like traditional bikes in a way.

Advantages

A hub-drive motor (both the direct-drive and the geared model) works outside of the chain drive, and they won't be causing constant friction and problems with your chains and the cogs. This prevents additional wear and tear and can be quite practical for those looking to save a little bit of cash.

In addition, this type of motor is usually a little bit cheaper to produce and maintain, and most of them can be installed right away without any customization. They look pretty minimalistic and won't bother you visually, as they don't get in the way of the bike's aesthetic.

The motor itself is well encased, and it requires very, very little maintenance! All the components are in the casing, and you don't need to worry about them breaking. Obviously, these are installed on the wheels, so keep in mind that those who like to engage in very dirty terrain might have to wipe them more often, but this goes for the whole bike!

Disadvantages

Hub-motors sadly cannot provide the climb a mid-drive gives you. The mechanical nature of this motor, especially the direct-drive hub-motor, will convert some of the mechanical energy into heat, and this will be treated as energy loss. This is why going uphill won't be that much easier for you, although you will get assistance.

Although this type of motor looks nice on the wheel, it can cause uneven weight distribution, especially if you got yourself a model that works on higher wattage. Higher wattage means more components, and this means larger dimensions and bigger weight.

Also, keep in mind that changing your tires can be quite an annoyance when you have a hub-drive motor , as you have to make sure you disconnect all of the wirings before you continue with the rest of the process.

Summary

Though they might give you an advantage by assisting you on your daily ride, keep in mind that hub motors also have flaws. The rotational momentum created when you're biking, because this motor is located on your wheels, provides support, but it often won't be enough for heavy uphill pedaling.

This motor looks great, minimal, and aesthetic, but it will probably make your life more complicated when replacing your tires. Keep in mind that you always have to make compromises of some kind, though.

Mid-Drive Motors

Mid drive Electric Bike Chains.

About

A mid-drive motor is located between the cranks of an electric bike. It is connected to your chainring, and by following the laws of electromagnetism, your motor supplements you with sufficient power to pedal. Usually, you can expect anywhere between 50 and 80 times per minute, and the generated mechanical energy is turned into electric energy. Thus, it gives you a bit of leverage while you are driving.

The chain connection between the motor and the pedals lies in the chain is sometimes boosted by gear sensors for energy saving, but this is included only with pricier electric bike models. You mount this type of motor on the bottom bracket, and you have to make sure that it fits your bike properly, making your buying journey a bit tougher.

Advantages

Mid-drive motors usually provide a more efficient uphill climb. That's because of the better connection to the drivetrain, which ensures easier additional power supplementation. In addition, they are lighter and will provide more power for equal dimensions, at least when compared to the hub-drive motors.

The position they take up in the center is much more practical for those who like to do tricks and usually ride tricky terrain. You don't need to be worried about mountain biking either, as there are no pressure points on the tires, and you get an even weight distribution that will keep you safe during your drive.

Changing your tires is not an issue here, and these motors work well with true torque sensors! However, if you're big on regulating motor power and saving energy, a hub-drive motor won't do much for you, as they have to work with cadence sensors, and these regulate speed based on your pedals, not the motor.

Disadvantages

With this type of motor, you can definitely expect more wear and tear. The direct connection, which gives you an advantage while climbing, is now giving you additional issues with friction. These types of motors are more expensive to buy and maintain, especially when you consider the effect it has on other parts of your bike.

Keep in mind that these motors, and the power that they hold, create a lot of wear-and-tear on your bike, especially if you have a motor with a power output of 300 W - 700 W. This will impact the maintenance and cause for example the chain to snap, if you have opted for the cheapest one.

Summary

Mid-drive motors are a far better option when it comes to balance and power, but you must be ready to pay the price for those! Take into account the advantages and keep in mind your style of biking and whether these will be of any practical use to you. If not, keep an extra dollar in your pocket.

Which Motor Is Best For You?

Which Motor Is Best For

Price

Mid-drive motors are pricier, and although there are pricey hub-drive motors, it's much tougher to find a budget-friendly mid-drive model. So, be ready for pricier maintenance as well, but you're paying for the quality and the strength!

Strength

Obviously, each model is different, but in general, mid-drive motors can provide far more power output, and they even tend to be lighter for the same amount of power output. Of course, keep in mind that getting the strongest motor possible isn't even the best choice for those with cheaper electric bikes, so don't go ham on the statistics!

Looks

Hub-drive motors tend to be smaller, prettier, and more practical for aesthetics, but keep in mind that they create a disbalance that you will feel if you're riding uneven terrain, performing stunts, or riding a mountain bike.

Maintenance

Long story short, price-wise and practicality-wise, hub-drive motors are easier and cheaper to maintain. In addition, since all of the parts are encased, and there is less friction with the chain, which is on the outside, there are few to none "what could go wrong" options.

Tips And Tricks

Is The Power Rating Important?

Not really. Let us tell you why - the power rating won't tell you what your bike's actual power output is. Depending on the weight of your bike, the weight of the rider, the controller, and the way you pedal, the output of your motor will be very different. Only when you consider the Voltage and the current through the motor, you get a more realistic image of the whole story. So we suggest you think more about the category of the motor, rather than the power rating!

The Most Important Motor Specification

While many people focus on the physics of the motor and the numbers that tell you more about the rotational momentum, the Wattage, the Voltage, and more, we suggest you check out the warranty information! In addition, your electric bike must have a thermal rollback, which is essentially the option of preventing your motor from overheating. This can be a detrimental issue that will cause your motor to deteriorate over time - make sure that the store where you get your motor has your back in case of any trouble!

You Can Turn Your Bike Into An Electric One

Getting a motor is usually the first step for converting regular bikes into electric bikes. Make sure to get a good e-bike conversion kit and start your adventure - it's often cheaper, and you get to customize everything, but you need to keep in mind that you'll spend quite a lot of your time on the process.


Summary

Hub-drive motors and mid-drive motors both have their advantages, as well as their disadvantages. If you're not crazy about statistics, and you don't plan on doing anything wild with your bike, save some money and choose a good hub-drive motor. For others, we would suggest a stronger, more reliable mid-drive model.

About the author

Emma was born and raised in the UK, studied in Amsterdam (where she discovered her passion for biking), and is currently living in Ohio. Her main passion is cycling, that's why she is always looking for an amazing new e-bike to make her journey even more unforgettable!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Want to learn more?

Check out these articles below