When talking about modern ways of traveling, e-bikes will definitely be on the list. The electric ride has seen a drastic change when it comes to popularity over the last few years. Its patrons have varied from professional cyclists to hobbyists, environmentalists, and even those who are just looking for alternative ways of getting their daily chores done. Whatever the reason is, electric bikes have seen a surge in customers and sales, that’s why they’re also presenting a bright future for all types of electric rides.
If you are planning to buy your first ever electric bike, chances are there are a million questions in your head. One of the questions is probably “What are e-bike motors and motor placements and how are they different from each other?” Trust us, we were once as clueless as you too. But with much research and firsthand experiences, we were able to understand what these parts were, and what use they have for our e-bikes.
Unbeknownst to some, an electric bike motor is the component of the bike that helps it propel over hills and terrains. It is definitely one of the most important parts of the electric ride, and without it, you wouldn’t have an e-bike at all. In this article, we will give you the ultimate guide to motor placements, and you might just find what you’re looking for!
Electric Bike Motors Defined
An electric motor is a component that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. Simply speaking, its main purpose is to set your bike in motion. E-bikes use “brushless” motors—which means that they no longer use brushes for the motor to operate. The brushes that old motors used are usually less efficient and are more subject to wear and tear over time. For more than a decade now, brushless motors have been the standard for e-bikes.
Aside from the motor itself, e-bike motors have controllers and batteries. All three elements are interrelated—as the controller lets you modulate the amount of power flowing into the motor. This input is then transferred as current to the battery, and then to the motor itself. The power and speed of an e-bike rely on how efficient its motor is, and there are different types of motors and motor placements that can directly affect this attribute.
Two Common Types of E-Bike Motors
There are two most common types of motors equipped in today’s e-bikes. These are the mid-drive motors and hub motors.
Mid-drive motors place the electric motor closer to the center of the e-bike and use the bike’s chain drive to transfer power from the motor to its rear wheel. Hub motors, on the other hand, are attached directly to the wheel’s hub. This attachment makes the motor and wheel one and the same.
In this explainer, we will take a closer look at these electric bike motors and their various placements within an e-bike’s anatomy.
What are Hub Motors?
Hub motors are more commonly found in electric bicycles than mid-drive motors. Technically speaking, they are the more independent type of motor, as all components are held inside its motor casing, requiring less maintenance than mid-drives.
Hub motors also come in 3 different kinds, and they all depend on where they’re placed at. The front hub motor, for one, is placed on the front wheel. It is probably the simplest implementation in an e-bike and is usually the most affordable.
If you want to learn more about these hubs and their placement in an e-bike, then you can read on.
Types of Hub Motors and their Differences
Now that you have decided to buy your own electric bike, you might ask, what is the best type of e-bike motor and why should you get it? The answer depends on how you intend to use your bike, as well as how much you are willing to spend. In this part, we will take a look at the kinds of hub motor placements, and their pros and cons.
Front Hub Motors
As aforementioned, the front hub is the simplest and most straightforward e-bike motor attachment. It is placed on the front wheel and uses the power from the wheel’s turning to make the bicycle move. Installation of wires and the battery is usually easier in this type of hub motor. Simply put, this kind of motor pulls its rider to go forward.
There’s usually no complicated gear system in this type of motor, therefore making it easier to install and configure.
It can provide a more balanced weight distribution for your e-ride. This characteristic makes it easier for a cyclist to bring the e-bike around, especially when carrying the bike up the stairs. Some electric trike bikes like Eurowheel's Electric Folding Trike Bike sport front hub motors.
It can create an all-wheel-drive because the wheels are powered by the motor and the rider’s pedal-power. This feature is perfectly exhausted when riding in dense paths like snow or sand.
Front hub motors are the most affordable among the list, due to its power rating and simplicity.
It’s most likely to have the least power and torque. Most front hub motors only come in 250W -350W, giving the rider a limited choice when it comes to motor capacity.
Some e-bike riders do not like the feeling of being “pulled” just to power up the motor.
They tend to get stuck on steep climbs.
Rear Hub Motors
Unlike the front hub motor which pulls the rider for the motor to move, rear hub motors push the rider and have a wider range of power options. Because power is transferred directly to the rear wheel, this makes rear motors ideal for use with a throttle. Compared to front motors, this type is more complicated, and DIY customizations can be a bit trickier.
Its power option ranges from 250W to 750W. This gives you a wider selection of e-bikes equipped with this kind of motor. One example is the Metro 7 Speed Electric Mountain Bike from Ryder.
Most e-cyclists are familiar with this type of electric bike motor attachment, as this is the way the majority of e-bikes are built.
It can provide more power to those who are looking to incorporate a throttle and has better cadence or torque pedal assist.
An e-bike’s rear wheel is less likely to spin on wobbly road conditions, as most of the rider’s weight is distributed over the rear wheel.
A rear hub motor is more complicated to work around with. It is also a bit heavier when it comes to weight, making it less suitable for full suspension.
Because of its weight combined with a rear battery rack, some riders get conscious and it affects handling the bike. This makes it harder for a rider to bring the bike around, especially carrying it up the stairs. You can remove the battery to help with this, but that would be more time-consuming.
Just like front hub-powered e-bikes, those that sport rear hub motors tend to get stuck on steep climbs too.
It is more expensive compared to front hub motors.
Overall, both front hub and rear hub motors have their fair share of pros and cons. However, it depends on the rider’s preference (and budget) which they think best suits them. While the disadvantages may seem like a problem, most e-ride owners have gotten used to them and have found ways to deal with such cons, for a better and enjoyable ride.
An Overview of Mid-Drive Motors
Now that you have an idea about hub motors and its types, you might want to know more about mid-drives too. Mid-drive motors (or center-drive motors) seem to have the most advantage and are considered to be the best options. Aside from electric bikes, most electric trikes are equipped with this motor type too.
Here are some pros and cons that you might want to consider:
Mid-drives have nicer weight distribution. Because the motor is low and centered in the frame, the bike would seem like it’s a more standard bike.
Since mid-drives power cranks just like a human-powered bike, it gives a more natural-feeling assist. This works to the advantage of the rider, as it gives them a more comfortable and performance-oriented ride.
Unlike rear hub and front hub-powered bikes, those that are furnished with a mid-drive motor are more able to climb long, steep paths, and are proven to be more stable.
Center-drive systems tend to put stress on an e-bike’s component (i.e. chains, cogs, derailleur, etc.) therefore making them more susceptible to wear over time. This might lead to frequent replacement of the affected accessories.
Mid-drive motors can be very sensitive. Some mid-drive systems can sense when the rider is shifting gears and reduces the bike's power for a smoother gear shift.
Among all types of electric motor placements, mid-drives are considered the most expensive. Since most of the motors and bikes are usually made in Europe, it is understandable that they come at a higher price point. However, this is slowly changing with the rise of brands like Bafang from China.
Now, there’s clearly a variety of electric motor placements you can choose from when it comes to an e-bike’s performance. However, it is important which of these choices fits your needs best. If you have already decided on which one you want or need, you can head on to online e-bike stores like E-Ride Solutions to further assist you with your purchase! Their staff would be more than happy to help you so that you are sure that you get only the best for your money’s worth.
Visit E-Ride Solutions’ website today at eridesolutions.com.au!