How an electric bike performs is highly dependent on the type of motor that powers it. When it comes to electric bike hub motor vs mid drive, most people only pay attention to nominal — and peak — power an e-bike's motor is able to generate when reading through the bike's specifications. To most of us, the more the power; the better the performance.
While this statement holds true, it's worth noting that motor type — whether it's a hub or mid-drive — determines how an electric bike performs under certain conditions.
To better explain this concept, let's find out how each motor-type's special features affect an electric bike's overall performance.
This guide will help you understand the differences between a hub motor and a mid-drive motor. You'll also come to learn how each motor works and how this affects their performance.
Find out our best recommended hub motor Ebikes Here
What is an electric bike hub motor
A hub motor is an electric motor integrated within the wheel(s) of a vehicle. In the case of electric bicycles, they are located in the middle of the hub (could be the front or rear wheel, sometimes even both).
How does a hub motor work
In electric bike hub-drive system, the controller sends power to the hub motor which causes the motor to spin. As the motor begins to spin, the wheel's spokes — which are connected to the motor — then stimulate the entire wheel to rotate, propelling the bike forward.
What is an electric bike Mid-drive motor
This is an electric motor that drives an e-bike forward using its chain drive. As the name — and application — suggests, it is located in the middle of the bike in-between the pedals.
How does electric bike Mid-drive motor work
A mid-drive motor uses electric power to engage the bike's chain drive. An electric motor inside the mid-drive system engages the chainring by spinning a shaft connected to it.
Electric Bike Hub motor VS Mid-drive efficiency
1) Hub motors are flexible
And that's why most DIY conversion kits are equipped with hub motors – because they're easy and affordable to install. Even e-bike manufacturers prefer to use hub motors because they are cheaper and faster to install, unlike mid-drive motors that, in most cases, require the e-bike's frame to be built around them.
2) Hub motors don't even require a chain-drive to work
Since electric bike hub-drive system has a motor integrated into its wheel, it doesn't require external assistance to push it forward. There's the exception of pedal-assist cheap ebike conversion kits like Swytch that come with smart control systems that act as connectors between the cadence – or torque – sensors and the hub motor.
However, if your e-bike is equipped with a throttle-assist feature you can enjoy this functionality.
Electric Bike Mid-drive motors
1) Mid-drive electric bikes are better for off-road riding.
In a mid-drive electric bike, the motor is located in the center of the bike. This facilitates better weight distribution than with hub-drive bicycles. Uneven weight distribution affects an e-bike's performance when climbing up steep hills or cruising through trails.
For example, imagine you're riding an e-bike with a rear hub motor up a steep hill. You're probably going to face more resistance climbing up that hill because of the e-bike's weight imbalance (since the motor is located in the rear wheel, that half of the e-bike will weigh more than the front half).
2) Maintaining a mid-drive e-bike is easy and cost-efficient
With mid-drive electric bikes, the one component that'll require a lot of maintenance — and probably a few replacements — is the chain. This is because a mid-drive motor places a lot of stress on the e-bike's chain just like a hub motor works the bike's spokes loose (more on this in a bit)
Replacing a bicycle's chain isn't exactly complicated nor is it expensive, respoking, on the other hand, is not just a complicated process, it requires professional assistance.
Which is better; mid-drive or hub-drive
This depends on your needs as a rider. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to resolving this dilemma. Each drive system has its perks and flaws. For example, mid-drive systems are perfect for off-road riding because of their gear ratio and balanced weight distribution.
Hub motors on the other hand offer riders a wider selection of riding options to choose from. Need a workout, pedal; Need to beat traffic and get to work without getting completely drenched in sweat, use your bike's throttle-assist feature; chain cut? No need to panic, keep riding with your independently-propelled hub motors.
As you might have already guessed, replacing flats on a hub motor isn't as straightforward as it is with a mid-drive motor.
If you're thinking about converting a traditional bike to an electric bike, you can easily get a hub motor DIY kit. However, converting to a mid-drive electric bike isn't going to be that easy.
Eventually, It all just boils down to your perspective of a perfect electric bike.
Are hub motors reliable
This depends on the caliber of the hub motor in question. Higher-end hub motors aren't just more powerful than standard hub motors, they can be ridden under harsher conditions and not deteriorate as quickly as basic models.
In instances where the wheel faces considerable rolling resistance, engaging the controller to release more power to a low-powered hub motor will cause it to spin faster than normal which might cause it to overheat and then burn.
You might want to consider going for a higher-powered hub motor if you're in the market for one that won't disappoint and leave you stranded after it gets fried.
How long do Electric Bike mid-drive motors last?
That depends on how well you maintain your e-bike. Mid-drive motors are more complicated – with multiple moving parts — than hub motors and should be treated as such.
Avoid pressure washing your e-bike. Just because the manufacturer says the e-bike is water-resistant doesn't mean you should shoot water from a pressure valve at it or immerse it in water to clean it.
As I mentioned earlier, one component of a mid-drive system that might require frequent replacing is the chain (you can always opt for a mid-drive e-bike with a belt drive – they can withstand more stress than chains)
How long do Electric Bike Hub motors last
Long enough! As long as you don't upgrade your battery to a higher-volt pack without replacing your e-bike's controller.
As with mid-drive motors, how long your hub motor lasts is largely dependent on how you maintain it. Replacing your battery pack with a higher-volt pack without upgrading your controller will burn the bike's motor.
Also, always remember to inflate your e-bike's tire every time the pressure drops. Do not ride on a flat tire, especially when it's the wheel housing the motor.
Differences Between a Hub Motor and a Mid-motor
This kind of motor is located in the center of the bike's wheel.
Mid-drive motors are fitted in-between the bike's cranks replacing the bottom bracket.
Since hub motors are integrated into e-bike wheels, they can propel the bike independent of any external forces.
They rotate the bike's tires by connecting to the rear wheel via a chain-drive
It is harder to replace a flat.
Replacing flats on mid-drive systems is as straightforward as doing so on a normal bike.
Hub motors have only one speed.
Mid-drive systems have various riding options Their gears can be adapted to any riding condition.
Hub-drive systems can function without a drivetrain. Even if your chain snapped, you'd still be able to ride.
Mid-drive motors place a lot of stress on a bike's chain. This will wear the chain quicker.
Hub motors cannot generate as much torque as mid-motors of the same power rating.
Switching to a low gear will convert a mid-motor's power into torque.
A hub motor's position in an e-bike (front or rear wheel) might throw the bike off balance.
Mid-drive motors are located in the center of the bike's frame.
What Is a Mid-drive Motor on an E-bike
A mid-drive motor is a battery-powered engine integrated into a bicycle's drivetrain. They are usually located between the cranks and propel the bike using its chain drive.
How Do Mid-drive Motors Work
Mid-drive motors work with a bike's gear system. Like the rear wheel on a conventional bike receives mechanical power via the chain drive, mid-drive motors also convey power to an e-bike's rear wheel through the same method.
The major difference between both systems is the mid-drive system converts electrical energy from the battery into mechanical energy (the motor spins a shaft connected to the chainring)
So, when a rider pedals — or activates the throttle — the engine amplifies his/her input and sends that power to the rear wheel using the chainring.
What Is a Hub Motor on an E-bike
Hub motors are located in the center of a bike's wheel. The wheel's spokes attach to this type of motor as they would a normal hub.
How Hub Motors Work
Hub motors spin when electric current flows into them. Because the wheel's spokes are attached to them, they cause the entire wheel to revolve.
A hub-drive system does not require a chain-drive to propel the bike's payload forward.
Which Motor Is More Efficient
Mid-drive motors tend to be more energy-efficient than hub motors. This is because they leverage the bike's natural gear system, giving riders the ability to switch between gears and select how much speed or torque they want the motor to provide.
For instance; climbing up a steep hill while throttling on a hub-drive system will drain your battery quicker - and you might not even make it to the top of the hill. This is because hub-drive systems have just one gear ratio.
They are powerful but don't have the torque required to climb steep hills. This is unless the rider pedals, supplementing the motor's efforts with the bike's natural gear system.
A mid-drive motor of the same power will perform better and more efficiently under such circumstances. As mentioned above, mid-drive motors integrate with a bike's chain-drive.
Switching to a lower gear will convert all that power the motor is generating into torque. So, throttling a mid-drive system on a low gear will give the rider enough torque to flatten steep hills without sacrificing battery power.
Disadvantages of a Hub Motor
1) Hub Motors Cause Imbalances in an Electric Bike's Weight Distribution
If the motor is integrated into the front wheel, it will cause the front half of the e-bike to weigh more than the other half. The same thing applies if it's fitted into the rear wheel.
This can drastically affect the e-bike's performance when climbing up steep inclines or traveling downhill.
2) Hub Motors Are More Likely to Get Burnt Than Mid-drive Motors
Hub motors are limited in their performance. Putting too much strain on a hub motor will cause it to burn.
The hill-climbing example above better explains this. If the e-bike is unable to travel any further, trying to push it past its limits will burn the hub motor rendering the entire wheel useless.
Disadvantages of a Mid-drive Motor
1) Mid-drive Motors Place a Lot of Stress on an E-bike's Chainring
This will eventually cause the chain to snap. And unlike hub-drive systems, mid-drive electric bikes depend 100% on their chainrings for propulsion.
So, unless you carry an extra chainring with you (and know how to install one), you're going to have to push your bike all the way home when the chain snaps.
2) Mid-drive Motors Are Harder to Maintain Than Hub Motors
Mid-drive motors are complicated machines. They consist of several moving parts tucked away into a case integrated into the frame of the electric bike.
If your mid-drive motor gets spoiled, replacing it isn't going to be as easy as replacing a burnt hub motor. Especially if the motor is fitted into the e-bike's frame.
Which Motor Is More Reliable
Hub motors drive an e-bike's payload directly. They don't rely on the bike's gears or chainring to push it forward.
This gives them an advantage over mid-drive motors in terms of reliability. An electric bike with a mid-drive motor will not budge unless the motor is connected to the bike's chain-drive.
Riding an e-bike with a hub motor gives you the peace of mind that even if your chain gets snapped, you can still ride home on your bike. The only difference is you won't be able to use the pedal-assist function till you replace that chain.
Best Ebikes With a Hub Motor
Bafang Hub Motors
Bafang manufactures some of the best hub motors in the market. Their engines are energy-efficient, powerful, quiet-running, and surprisingly pack up to 90Nm of torque.
Almost all their hub motors are compatible with disc brakes. Bafang hub motors are so reliable popular electric bike manufacturers like Evelo, Juiced, Pedego, Aventon, and Qwic incorporate their motors into almost all their products.
What Is Better Mid-drive or Hub Drive
Each motor-type has its pros and cons. Choosing the best drive system for your electric bike depends on your needs as a rider.
If you live in a mountainous area you might want to consider purchasing an e-bike with a mid-drive system. The same applies to anyone looking for an electric bike that can easily be adapted to any riding condition.
Hub-drive systems on the other hand are best for riders who just want an electric bike that can conveniently transport them between locations. You don't even have to understand how a bike's gear system works to ride an e-bike with a hub motor.
Choose a Hub Motor
Choose a Mid-drive Motor
If your riding is limited to urban roads and average gradients.
If you're looking for a more versatile electric bike.
If you're looking for an entry-level electric bike.
If you want more hill-climbing power.
If you're on a budget. Hub-drive e-bikes are usually cheaper because hub motors are mass-produced and aren't as complicated as mid-motors.
Because riding a mid-drive electric bike is more intuitive than riding a hub-drive e-bike.
In conclusion, e-bikes with mid-motors will appeal more to experienced cyclists. This is because they understand how gear ratios work and, if the need arises, know how to install a new chain.