Electric bikes are becoming one of the most widespread ways of transportation. Like electric scooters, e-bicycles allow riders to travel faster and further without getting tired, and people are turning to them for anything from vehicle replacements to sheer fun. Their popularity means you now have a wide selection of designs, powertrains, and pricing ranges from which to choose.
But some specifications may also be confusing, particularly regarding motor placement and how it impacts performance. You must learn the differences between the two motor systems (hub-drive and mid-drive) to choose the one that best suits your needs.
Mid-Drive vs Hub-Motor Systems
The location of the motor on e bicycles is the primary distinction between the mid-drive and hub motor. Mid-drive motors are found in the middle of the frame, between the pedals while hub-drive motors are integrated into one of the wheels.
The way the motor transmits power is another distinction. Mid-drive motors push the bike through the drivetrain, similar to how you pedal. The cranks get torque from them, and the chain and back wheel are turned as a result. Simply said, hub motors deliver direct power to the wheel – they provide torque to the wheel.
Additionally, they may have various pedal aid mechanisms. Most mid-drive e-bikes come with a torque sensor that measures your pedalling effort. This allows the pedal assist level to be adjusted by the gadget on how hard you’re pedalling. A cadence sensor is a common feature of hub motors that determines if you are pedalling. The motor produces a consistent level of power while you pedal.
Another difference you can notice is the bike’s frame. Typically, these models need specialised frames with the motor mounted near the bottom bracket. The frames are made to accommodate a certain motor. On the other hand, those with a hub motor have a typical frame. The wheel with the motor integrated is the only non-standard component.
The price is another significant distinction. Bicycles with mid-drive motors cost a lot more than those with hub motors. This is due to the complexity and recent technological advancement of mid-drives.
Which Drive System Is Best on an Electric Bike?
At this point, you’ll be able to differentiate between mid-drive to hub-drive motors when shopping for e bicycles. But there are other characteristics you’ll want to consider to choose an e-bike that is right for your needs.
Mid-drive motors are frequently seen as the more “premium” choice because they work at the pedals. The chain or belt receives the motor’s torque, and the ride generally seems more comfortable.
Mid-drives also tend to feel more balanced and natural to maneuver than hub-drive bikes since they are positioned in the middle of the bike and right beneath you.
However, the drive mechanism is probably the main factor in why many mid-drive bikes seem more natural to ride. They frequently employ torque sensors whereas inexpensive hub drives usually have only cadence sensors. A cadence sensor merely determines if and how quickly you are cycling, while a torque sensor gauges how arduously you are pedalling.
Experts claim that a hub-drive e-bike will feel more natural to pedal than a mid-drive bike with a poorly integrated torque sensor. Some of the less expensive mid-drives don’t even include a torque sensor. However, most mid-drives do come with a good torque sensor, so they often triumph in this area.
A mid-drive bike has one significant advantage over a hub-drive, and that is the ability to use the bike’s gears. Electric motors perform better at higher RPMs and mid-drive motors are typically adjusted to work efficiently at a natural pedalling cadence. The engine will therefore be at its most efficient when you pedal in the right gear.
All this means that, provided you move into the right gear, a mid-drive motor will often be superior going up steep slopes, given similar power and torque. Other advantages of being able to cooperate with your gears include increased range, and it helps most mid-drive e-bikes seem more “natural” to ride.
Rear hub motors, however, can’t be used together with most internal gear hubs, which are frequently chosen for e-bikes due to their cheap maintenance requirements and ability to change from a stop.
Convenience and Maintenance
Sometimes, not having to pedal can be all you want. If looking for an e-bike with a throttle, a hub-drive type is the one to go for it. Throttles on mid-drive models are unusual, and on some hub drives, the presence of a throttle can somewhat compensate for the absence of a torque sensor.
Mid-drives, on the other hand, can be more practical for routine maintenance and repairs. On a mid-drive bike, changing a flat tire is just as simple as it is on a standard bike; however, changing a rear hub could need specialized tools.
On the other hand, you’ll have a problem if your chain breaks while you’re out riding. As long as you still have battery juice, you should be able to make it home with a hub drive because the motor powers the wheel directly. Due to the greater torque put on the chain, a mid-drive motor is also more prone to break a chain initially.
Mid-drive motors almost always offer more range than hub-drive motors of comparable power because they run at more efficient RPMs when coupled with your bike’s gears. This is particularly true when comparing an e-bike with a hub-drive motor and a torque sensor with one without.
Typically, a 500Wh battery on a hub drive e-bike only lasts for around 50 kilometres. The same size battery may last for 70 to 80 kilometres with the same effort on a mid-drive. Reaching an 80+ kilometres range is entirely doable in low-power settings.
A torque sensor on a hub drive will help to reduce that gap, and it’s far simpler to find hub-drive e-bikes with enormous 600+ Wh batteries than it is to get mid-drives with similar specifications. However, there are other subtleties at play here as well. Naturally, choosing a larger battery will increase the weight, making things quite uncomfortable if you run out of charge.