Jason Leeman

Editor's 1st Choice

RadMission 1

Overall Rating:

  • Hub Motor: 500W
  • Range of 45+ miles
  • Top speed of 20 mph

Editor's 2nd Choice

PACE 500 Step-Through Ebike

Overall Rating:

  • Hub Motor: 750W
  • Range of 40+ miles
  • Top speed of 28 mph

Editor's 3rd Choice

PACE 500 Electric Bikes

Overall Rating:

  • Hub Motor: 750W
  • Range of 40+ miles
  • Top speed of 28 mph
Hub Motor vs Mid Drive Motor

You've done your research on electric bikes and all that's left now is selecting the drive system that best suits your riding style. Well, when it comes to drive systems for electric bikes there are only two options to choose from; hub-drive and mid-drive.

Both systems incorporate motors that perform differently under certain conditions. One offers more versatility while the other works independent of the bike's drivetrain.

This guide will help you understand the differences between a hub motor and a mid-drive motor. You'll also come to learn how each motor works and how this affects their performance.

Differences Between a Hub Motor and a Mid-motor

Hub Motor

Hub Motor

Mid-drive Motor

Mid-drive Motor

This kind of motor is located in the center of the bike's wheel.

Mid-drive motors are fitted in-between the bike's cranks replacing the bottom bracket.

Since hub motors are integrated into e-bike wheels, they can propel the bike independent of any external forces.

They rotate the bike's tires by connecting to the rear wheel via a chain-drive

It is harder to replace a flat.

Replacing flats on mid-drive systems is as straightforward as doing so on a normal bike.

Hub motors have only one speed.

Mid-drive systems have various riding options Their gears can be adapted to any riding condition.

Hub-drive systems can function without a drivetrain. Even if your chain snapped, you'd still be able to ride.

Mid-drive motors place a lot of stress on a bike's chain. This will wear the chain quicker.

Hub motors cannot generate as much torque as mid-motors of the same power rating.

Switching to a low gear will convert a mid-motor's power into torque.

A hub motor's position in an e-bike (front or rear wheel) might throw the bike off balance.

Mid-drive motors are located in the center of the bike's frame.

What Is a Mid-drive Motor on an E-bike

Mid Drive Motor

Photo Credit: bafangusadirect

A mid-drive motor is a battery-powered engine integrated into a bicycle's drivetrain. They are usually located between the cranks and propel the bike using its chain drive.

How Do Mid-drive Motors Work

Mid-drive motors work with a bike's gear system. Like the rear wheel on a conventional bike receives mechanical power via the chain drive, mid-drive motors also convey power to an e-bike's rear wheel through the same method.

The major difference between both systems is the mid-drive system converts electrical energy from the battery into mechanical energy (the motor spins a shaft connected to the chainring)

So, when a rider pedals — or activates the throttle — the engine amplifies his/her input and sends that power to the rear wheel using the chainring.

What Is a Hub Motor on an E-bike

Hub Motor

Photo Credit: unsplash

Hub motors are located in the center of a bike's wheel. The wheel's spokes attach to this type of motor as they would a normal hub.

How Hub Motors Work

Hub motors spin when electric current flows into them. Because the wheel's spokes are attached to them, they cause the entire wheel to revolve.

A hub-drive system does not require a chain-drive to propel the bike's payload forward. 

Which Motor Is More Efficient

Mid-drive motors tend to be more energy-efficient than hub motors. This is because they leverage the bike's natural gear system, giving riders the ability to switch between gears and select how much speed or torque they want the motor to provide.

For instance; climbing up a steep hill while throttling on a hub-drive system will drain your battery quicker - and you might not even make it to the top of the hill. This is because hub-drive systems have just one gear ratio.

They are powerful but don't have the torque required to climb steep hills. This is unless the rider pedals, supplementing the motor's efforts with the bike's natural gear system.

A mid-drive motor of the same power will perform better and more efficiently under such circumstances. As mentioned above, mid-drive motors integrate with a bike's chain-drive. 

Switching to a lower gear will convert all that power the motor is generating into torque. So, throttling a mid-drive system on a low gear will give the rider enough torque to flatten steep hills without sacrificing battery power.

Hub Motor Ebike

Photo Credit: ancheer

Disadvantages of a Hub Motor

1) Hub Motors Cause Imbalances in an Electric Bike's Weight Distribution

If the motor is integrated into the front wheel, it will cause the front half of the e-bike to weigh more than the other half. The same thing applies if it's fitted into the rear wheel.

This can drastically affect the e-bike's performance when climbing up steep inclines or traveling downhill.

2) Hub Motors Are More Likely to Get Burnt Than Mid-drive Motors

Hub motors are limited in their performance. Putting too much strain on a hub motor will cause it to burn.

The hill-climbing example above better explains this. If the e-bike is unable to travel any further, trying to push it past its limits will burn the hub motor rendering the entire wheel useless.

Mid Drive Motor Ebike

Photo Credit: feiruiebike

Disadvantages of a Mid-drive Motor

1) Mid-drive Motors Place a Lot of Stress on an E-bike's Chainring

This will eventually cause the chain to snap. And unlike hub-drive systems, mid-drive electric bikes depend 100% on their chainrings for propulsion.

So, unless you carry an extra chainring with you (and know how to install one), you're going to have to push your bike all the way home when the chain snaps.

2) Mid-drive Motors Are Harder to Maintain Than Hub Motors

Mid-drive motors are complicated machines. They consist of several moving parts tucked away into a case integrated into the frame of the electric bike.

If your mid-drive motor gets spoiled, replacing it isn't going to be as easy as replacing a burnt hub motor. Especially if the motor is fitted into the e-bike's frame.

Bafang Hub Motors

Photo Credit: bafangusadirect

Which Motor Is More Reliable

Hub motors drive an e-bike's payload directly. They don't rely on the bike's gears or chainring to push it forward.

This gives them an advantage over mid-drive motors in terms of reliability. An electric bike with a mid-drive motor will not budge unless the motor is connected to the bike's chain-drive.

Riding an e-bike with a hub motor gives you the peace of mind that even if your chain gets snapped, you can still ride home on your bike. The only difference is you won't be able to use the pedal-assist function till you replace that chain.

Best Ebikes With a Hub Motor

Bafang Hub Motors

Bafang manufactures some of the best hub motors in the market. Their engines are energy-efficient, powerful, quiet-running, and surprisingly pack up to 90Nm of torque.

Almost all their hub motors are compatible with disc brakes. Bafang hub motors are so reliable popular electric bike manufacturers like Evelo, Juiced, Pedego, Aventon, and Qwic incorporate their motors into almost all their products.

What Is Better Mid-drive or Hub Drive

Hub Motor vs Mid Drive Motor

Each motor-type has its pros and cons. Choosing the best drive system for your electric bike depends on your needs as a rider.

If you live in a mountainous area you might want to consider purchasing an e-bike with a mid-drive system. The same applies to anyone looking for an electric bike that can easily be adapted to any riding condition.

Hub-drive systems on the other hand are best for riders who just want an electric bike that can conveniently transport them between locations. You don't even have to understand how a bike's gear system works to ride an e-bike with a hub motor.

Choose a Hub Motor

Choose a Mid-drive Motor

If your riding is limited to urban roads and average gradients.

If you're looking for a more versatile electric bike.

If you're looking for an entry-level electric bike.

If you want more hill-climbing power.

If you're on a budget. Hub-drive e-bikes are usually cheaper because hub motors are mass-produced and aren't as complicated as mid-motors.

Because riding a mid-drive electric bike is more intuitive than riding a hub-drive e-bike.

Conclusion

In conclusion, e-bikes with mid-motors will appeal more to experienced cyclists. This is because they understand how gear ratios work and, if the need arises, know how to install a new chain.

About the author 

Jason Leeman

Jason Leeman is an engineer, tech geek and personal electric vehicle enthusiast. He loves testing the latest in urban personal transportation and sharing his love of wheels with his kids and his blog readers.