Just like cars, electric bikes come with a variety of drivetrain and engine configurations. There’s a hub motor or mid-drive motor — but which one takes the crown for your e-biking needs? If this question has you scratching your head, look no further. This comprehensive guide is designed just for you.
In this article, we will deeply explain the hub motor and mid-drive motor setup in electrics, how they are different, and what ebike is better for your needs.
What is the Hub Motor Electric Bike?
A hub motor ebike has a motor located in the center of one of the wheels, either the front or the back (usually rear setup is common). When you turn on the power, the motor spins the wheel and propels the bike forward. Its system is similar to a conventional bike, which is propelled by the power of the back wheels.
Hub motors can be geared or gearless. In the gearless case, the motor is directly engaged to the drivetrain; this setup is mostly seen on entry-level bikes. Geared hub motors usually have the planetary gear train and even a small motor can produce more power.
Speaking of sensors, these bikes usually come coupled with cadence sensors that let the bike know when to provide pedal assistance. Plus, they do support throttle, which lets you power the bike without pedaling the bike.
This type of system is quite common in the ebike segment. It is straightforward and readily fits on the existing frame, so it’s available at a budget-friendly price.
Pros of Hub Motor Electric Bike
- Low Maintenance: With fewer moving parts than mid-drive motors, hub motors are more durable and require minimal maintenance, which means lower costs and less hassle over the life of the ebikes.
- Cost-Efficiency: Hub motors are not only cheaper to maintain but also more affordable to purchase upfront. This makes them a budget-friendly option for those looking to enter the ebikes market.
- Quiet Operation: These motors run quietly, offering a more pleasant ride, particularly in urban or residential settings where noise can be a concern.
- Daily Commuting:Ideal for flat terrains and everyday urban commuting, hub motor ebikes offer consistent and reliable power delivery, making them a practical choice for the daily rider.
- Throttle:Many hub-motor electric bikes also offer throttle control; it means you twist the throttle and move the bike like a motorcycle.
Cons of Hub Motor Electric Bike
- Handling and Weight Distribution:The motor’s placement leads to a heavier wheel. This affects the bike’s overall balance and makes handling slightly cumbersome at higher speeds or on uneven terrain.
- Inefficiency on Inclines:Hub motors can struggle on steep inclines, potentially requiring more effort from the rider to climb.
What is Mid-Drive Motor Electric Bike?
A mid-drive motor ebike has the motor placed in the middle of the bike, right where the pedals are. This motor works together with the bike’s gears, so when you pedal, the motor adds extra power to your pedaling; making it feel like you have super strength.
Mid-drive setup is great for climbing hills or riding on rough terrain because it can use the bike’s gears to work more efficiently. This type of ebike feels more balanced and natural to ride, like a regular bike, but with an extra boost.
The setup is costly and often found on high-end mountain ebikes. For daily commuter ebikes, they may be something extra, and using them would add a lot more cost.
Pros of Mid-Drive Motor
- Nice Balance:The motor sits right in the middle. This keeps the bike steady and easy to handle. It's like the bike just 'gets' how to stay upright.
- Go the Distance:These bikes are great on battery life. Think of it as the little engine that could get you further on every charge.
- Power Where It Counts:The motor boosts your pedaling right at the crank, so it feels strong, especially when you're climbing hills or on a tricky trail.
- Trail Friendly:Love the rough stuff? Mid-drive ebikes are built for bumpy, wild rides. They are exceptional in uphill assistance
Cons of Mid-Drive Motors
- Often Require Maintenance:They can be a bit more work to keep up. Things tend to wear out a bit quicker, so you might get to know your bike mechanic pretty well.
- Picky with Parts:These motors can be choosy with gear systems. Not all derailleurs will play nice with them.
- Costs a Penny:They are not cheap. Both buying and maintaining them might have your wallet feeling a little lighter.
- No Throttle:You will find these bikes coupled with a pedal assistance system; no throttling option is available.
Hub vs Mid Drive Motor Ebike
Let’s put both bikes side by side and compare them in their ride quality durability, price, frame design, and overall price value for money.
The first and most evident difference is the placement of the motor. In mid-drive, it’s centrally located, just below the pedal. This distributes the weight evenly among the wheels. However, this setup may not fit right in the existing/standard frame; you’ll need a dedicated derailleur and make design changes.
Hub motors are placed on the wheels, either on the front or the rear. The rear setup is more common and is coupled with a throttle system for without-pedal movement. They easily fit in standard ebike without any design changes.
In this segment, opinions are mixed. People say that mid-drive is centrally located on the crank, so it gives them a more natural and balanced ride. But for those who want to take a motorbike feel, hub motors are better as they can move without physical input with their throttle feature.
Durability and Reliability
Hub motors are more robust due to their simplicity. Whereas, mid-drives, due to their complexity and the additional torque they exert on the bike’s chain are likely to wear and tear more. So, they are prone to getting issues.
Mid-drive motors typically offer a better range because they operate more efficiently through the use of the bike’s gears and often include high-quality torque sensors. Hub motors, especially those without torque sensors, usually provide a shorter range and direct power and utilize more battery capacity. But the difference is very subtle.
Maintenance and Repairs
Hub motors are simpler to maintain and repair since not many parts are involved. Mid-drives require more complex maintenance and need special tools for repairs.
Hub Motor vs Mid Drive Motor: Which One is Better?
The choice between a hub motor and a mid-drive motor is largely dependent on your budget and use case. If you need an ebike for daily commutes and will likely use it on paved or unpaved tracks, then a hub motor is a better, more value-for-money-for option. However, if you need a superior ebike with exceptional off-roading and uphill capabilities, a premium mountain ebike with mid-drives would be better.
At Maxfoot, we aim to make daily commutes much more convenient, simple, and affordable. So, we focus primarily on hub motors. All our ebike models, MF-17, 18, 19, and MF-30 have premium quality Bafang hub motors.