Mid-drive Vs Hub Motor in Electric Bikes
It’s important to know the differences between the two main types of motor positioning: mid-drive vs hub motor. In this article, we talk about the differences between mid-drive and hub motors.

Mid-drive Vs Hub Motor in Electric Bikes

Electric bikes are one of the fastest-growing modes of transportation, and it’s not hard to see why. They help riders go faster, further, and longer. Because of their popularity, there is a wide range of styles, motors, and price points that riders can choose from depending on their needs.

Motor positioning, and how it affects performance is one of the most discussed topics when it comes to e-bike purchases. It’s important to know the differences between the two main types of motor positioning: mid-drive vs hub motor.

At EbikeBC, we receive many questions about the difference between hub motors and mid-drive motors on electric bikes. We thought it would be a good idea to write an article outlining the differences between the two motor types. At EbikeBC, we sell both mid-drive and geared hub motor systems.

Mid-Drive Motors

A mid-drive motor gets its name from its position on the bike. Located in the middle of a bicycle’s frame near the bottom bracket where the cranks are connected. The mechanisms required to coordinate the motor’s power with pedaling and shifting are a bit more complicated than hub systems - it’s more important to be in the correct gear when riding an e-bike with a mid-drive motor.

Depending on the programming, the shifting may not feel as smooth as an e-bike with a hub motor. For example, if you don’t pedal with smooth, even pressure, you can experience power surges as you ride.

Some people love mid-drive motors, and in some instances, they absolutely make sense. Avid mountain bikers prefer mid-drive motors for technical riding because the centre of gravity is weighted at the lower-middle of the bike, which is preferable when navigating technical trails. The ability to better control the motor traction also fits well with the variable terrain encountered when mountain biking, particularly when climbing.

Generally, mid-drive motors require a specially designed frame to contain the motor in the center. For nearly all crank driven motor options on the market, such as Bosch, Shimano, Yamaha or Brose, or Bafang, the controller is integrated into the motor, making it simple for OEM electric bike manufacturers. On the other hand, this integration makes for maintenance and occasional repairs more of a challenge for the bike owner.

Hub Motors

A hub motor is located on the rear (or occaisionally front) hub of the e-bike. It is completely sealed and self-contained and requires no additional maintenance.

A hub motor seamlessly delivers power where and when it’s needed, working independently of your pedaling and gear shifting. Overall, hub motors end up being a smoother ride because you don't need to worry about shifting as much, or maintaining proper chain tension.

Hub motors can be activated by pedalling or using a throttle. The motor uses either a cadence or a torque sensor. A torque sensor supplies more power if you push harder. The cadence sensor simply detects when you are turning the pedals and at what rate. The e-bike's computer smoothly turns the motor on at whatever level of power you have selected, eliminating the need to monitor what gear you are in.

Mid-Drive vs Hub Motors: Which one is Better?

Generally speaking, hub motors have proven to be more reliable and durable. Even if your hub motor fails, in most cases you still have a regular bicycle to pedal back home. On the contrary, failure in mid-drive system or bicycle transmission means you are stuck with a bike that may not move.

Performance-wise, it doesn't matter for the casual rider or urban commuters as the differences are relatively subtle. After a month or so, whatever system you are riding, you will have adapted to it and will be riding without a single thought about sensors and motors. We recommend you take both types of motors out for a test ride and see which one you prefer.

Why do most international e-bike brands use mid-drive motors?

The preference for mid-drive motors in many international brands is more of a policy response than a technical benefit, particularly if a brand wants to sell in the European market. In that case, they must comply with Regulation 168/2013 which states that the maximum allowable power for an electric bicycle is 250W. A mid-drive system uses the gears on the bicycle, so their torque is variable and can be greater than a hub motor of comparable size. This is the reason why international brands are forced to use a mid-drive system due to power limitations. This is not because mid-drive motors are more efficient; rather it is due to the variable nature of torque output.

On the other hand, the North American market has less stricter regulations when it comes to e-bikes; the allowable motor power is twice that of the EU, making hub motors infinitely more practical.

But what about side-by-side comparison? We have compiled a table that compares a mid-drive motor with a geared hub motor of comparable power. Hopefully, it can help you can decide! 

 


 


Mid-drive


(BAFANG BBS02 500W)


Geared Hub Motor


(ENVO 500W)


Power


500W Rated, 800W peak power


500W Rated, 800W peak power


Speed


Up to 40km/h without speed limit setting


Up to 40km/h without speed limit setting


Torque at the wheel


100Nm peak if used in the lowest gear of bike with the 1:1 ratio


80Nm Peak no matter what gear is selected


Grade climbing


~25% with a 75KG rider without pedaling


~20% with a 75KG rider without pedaling


Weight


4.5Kg


3.3Kg


Pedal assist behavior


Motion sensor


Motion sensor


Ease of installation


Needs special tools and transmission adjustment skills


No special tools, No transmission interfere


Adaptability to various bikes


Bottom brackets of 68,73mm with no chain Mud-guard support


100mm, 135mm, 165mm axle length with 10mm drops out forks. It does not work on Thru-axles forks


Ease of maintenance


Motor and transmission need frequent maintenance, adjustment, and replacement of parts.


Maintenance-free


Durability and Reliability


Since the power and tension add up with the muscle tension and transfer through the chain to the rear cassette of freewheel, stress and wear are much more pronounced than normal conditions. The transmission is subjected to wear and breakage; especially when used in the improper gear or improper change of the gears.


Much more Reliable and durable with no mechanical part engaged in transmission. The motor’s internal parts are dis-engaged by the internal clutch when the motor is not in use. So, the worst-case scenario in case of a defect means that the motor acts as a set of ball bearings.


Dynamics


Motor weight is attached to the frame and the wheels have the normal weight


The difference between the regular hub and the hub motor weight is added to the wheel mass


Free wheeling


100% freewheels when the motor is not assisting


100% freewheels when the motor is not assisting with no gears noise or magnetic cogging torque.


Protection degree


It claims to be IP65, but near an IP54 in our experience.


IP65

 

So, which one is better? Mid-drive or Hub motor?

Well, it depends! Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. The final answer may depend on the sort of usage you have in mind for your e-bike. We believe that for a casual urban rider a geared hub motor is the best fit, as it requires less maintenance and provides a more reliable system. A few applications really need to lean toward mid-drive motor, but unless you are in that group of riders that ride technical single track and steep climbs, the reliability and maintenance-free features of the geared hub motors is your best choice.

6 comments

Stannoort

Stannoort

I would like someone to convert my mountain bike to electric using a hub motor, where can I have this done in Vancouver BC?

I would like someone to convert my mountain bike to electric using a hub motor, where can I have this done in Vancouver BC?

eBikebc

eBikebc

128-2323 Boundary Rd Vancouver BC
EbikeBC showroom and service center will help you with your electric bike installation, service, parts and repairs.
Week days 11am to 6pm,
Appointment helps us to serve you better.
604-445-3388

128-2323 Boundary Rd Vancouver BC
EbikeBC showroom and service center will help you with your electric bike installation, service, parts and repairs.
Week days 11am to 6pm,
Appointment helps us to serve you better.
604-445-3388

J

J

There are a few applications which really need to lean toward mid-drive motor, but if you are not in that group don’t trade reliability and maintenance free feature of the geared hub motors with anything.
So what are those “few applications” ??

There are a few applications which really need to lean toward mid-drive motor, but if you are not in that group don’t trade reliability and maintenance free feature of the geared hub motors with anything.
So what are those “few applications” ??

eBikebc

eBikebc

Like bikes with thru-axle forks, downhill mountain bikes, some tricycles, etc

Like bikes with thru-axle forks, downhill mountain bikes, some tricycles, etc

Dareck Faichuk

Dareck Faichuk

Why is it that all the big manufactures (Giant Bikes, Trek Bike, Specialized, Norco, Cannondale, Scott, Norco, Devinci, CUBE, Santa Cruz, Pivot, Rocky Mountain) use mid drive motors instead of hub motors? Just doing my homework!

Why is it that all the big manufactures (Giant Bikes, Trek Bike, Specialized, Norco, Cannondale, Scott, Norco, Devinci, CUBE, Santa Cruz, Pivot, Rocky Mountain) use mid drive motors instead of hub motors? Just doing my homework!

eBikebc

eBikebc

1- Many of those are offering electric mountain bikes. center motor is a necessity for mountain biking
2- The electric bike industry likes the idea of all in one integrated motor + controller add-on to a bike frame. ebike manufacturers are basically bicycle manufacturers and the e-system is supplied by Bosch, Shimano, etc. A standard mid-drive motor like what Bosch offers, can be used for a mountain, urban, cargo, road or foldable bike; No further motor variation is required. No need to a separate controller or pedal sensor installation. less wiring for production line.
3- Other than the production simplicity, Mid-drives have performance advantages too using bicycle transmission mechanical advantage and keeping wheels lumped mass low.

But the trade-offs of mid-drive systems remains for customers, not producers.
1- heavier build
2- lack of service-ability due to motor/controller/sensor integration
3- less general reliability due to transmission involvement

1- Many of those are offering electric mountain bikes. center motor is a necessity for mountain biking
2- The electric bike industry likes the idea of all in one integrated motor + controller add-on to a bike frame. ebike manufacturers are basically bicycle manufacturers and the e-system is supplied by Bosch, Shimano, etc. A standard mid-drive motor like what Bosch offers, can be used for a mountain, urban, cargo, road or foldable bike; No further motor variation is required. No need to a separate controller or pedal sensor installation. less wiring for production line.
3- Other than the production simplicity, Mid-drives have performance advantages too using bicycle transmission mechanical advantage and keeping wheels lumped mass low.

But the trade-offs of mid-drive systems remains for customers, not producers.
1- heavier build
2- lack of service-ability due to motor/controller/sensor integration
3- less general reliability due to transmission involvement

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