Electric bike technology continues to evolve as the world adopts more green transportation methods. The team here at Himiway continues to scan the horizon for new and exciting ways of building our electric bikes. One area we’ve looked at recently is our electric motors.
Are you aware that electric bikes can have different styles of motors? Well, some e-bikes are designed with a “geared hub” motor, while others are designed with a “mid-drive” motor. The differences are important, as we will see, and they impact the price, weight, loudness, and general operation of the bike.
As these two different types of motors compete for the top spot among e-bike manufacturers, it’s important to know what the advantages and disadvantages of each are so that you can confidently compare two or more e-bikes. For example, electric bikes with a mid-drive motor will likely be more expensive than a bike with a geared hub motor, but it is for good reasons, which we will explain below.
Geared Hub Motor
Definition: Geared hub motors can be identified because the motor is housed inside the hub of the back or front wheel of the bike. Most e-bikes house the motor in the rear wheel, while some may even house a motor in both wheels, but it is not as common. You may also see geared hub motors called “direct-drive”, “hub-drive” or “geared” motors when reviewing different e-bike sites. These hub motors supply torque (which means force) directly to the wheel and operate separately from the bike’s gear system. Geared hub motors work most efficiently at high speeds and can accelerate quite quickly.
Advantages of the Geared Hub Motor
A few advantages of the geared hub motor are:
Affordability – Because geared hub motors are not as complex, they are usually found on relatively affordable electric bikes and until recently, have been the most common motor type so parts will be more abundant should you need to replace one.
Low-maintenance – Because these motors are not attached to the gear system of the bike and are enclosed, they are easier to maintain. They often require less overall maintenance than mid-drive motors.
Redundancy – Because the hub motor is separate from the chain system at the pedals, losing power to the hub motor will not usually affect the ability for you to pedal with the gear system.
Weight – Hub motors are heavy, but this could be a good thing if you desire a stable ride with lots of traction.
Low noise – Geared hub motors are not as loud as most mid-drive motors. The difference may not be giant, but some people will notice the higher amount of noise that comes from a mid-drive motor. Getting a bike with a geared hub motor may solve this.
Disadvantages of the Geared Hub Motor
A few disadvantages of geared hub motors are:
One gear ratio – Only having a single gear ratio means hilly or mountainous terrain is not handled as efficiently as a motor that takes advantage of different gear.
Weight – As mentioned above, geared hub motors weigh more than mid-drive motors. This may be an issue for loading and unloading bikes or for those that want a lightweight bike.
Standard size – Hub motors that come with your bike may limit the options you have when it comes to tires, wheels, and replacements. Changing your tire may be more difficult as well if you need to unplug the motor wire.
Definition: Mid-drive motors are placed in the middle of the e-bike, between the pedals. Instead of supplying torque (force) to the wheel like a geared-hub motor, mid-drive motors supply torque directly to the gear system of the bike. Mid-drive motors work efficiently at all speeds and accelerate evenly no matter the starting speed.
Advantages of the Mid-drive Motor
A few advantages of mid-drive motors are:
Ride-quality – Many individuals will experience a more premium feel and higher ride quality with a mid-drive motor. This is because the motor is directly beneath your center of gravity and will feel more natural to accelerate from that position.
Different gears – Having your motor take advantage of different gears will make your bike more efficient when climbing hills, as long as you shift to the proper gear.
Range - This may also contribute to a longer range so if you are looking for a long-range e-bike, consider one with a mid-drive motor. As long-range e-bike experts, we like the additional range mid-drive motors can provide due to their increased efficiency.
Tire maintenance – Tire maintenance will be easier with mid-drive motors because you do not need to worry about a heavy motor in the center of your tire. This may also allow you to use different tires or different sizes to suit your needs.
Disadvantages of the Mid-drive Motor
A couple disadvantages of the mid-drive motor are:
Price - Because mid-drive motors are considered higher quality, the e-bikes that come equipped with them will generally cost more upfront or be more costly to replace. Electric bikes with mid-drive motors are generally in the $2,000 and up price bracket. But remember, the price may be high, while the total cost of ownership may be low. If the bike is of higher quality, the higher price tag may be worth it.
General maintenance and repairs – Maintenance of e-bikes with mid-drive motors might be more expensive or difficult because the motor is combined with the gear system. This is not a guarantee, but it will depend on the type of maintenance you are performing.
After all the comparisons are said and done, it’s clear both motor types have their pros and cons. In fact, Himiway manufacturers different bikes with different types of motors. It all depends on what you are looking for in your ride, what price you are willing to pay, and what type of bike you think you will enjoy owning.