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Hub-drive vs. Mid-drive Electric Bikes: What Are the Differences that Matter?

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Comparing a hub-drive and mid-drive electric bike? You’ll want to consider power, performance, and price. Because when it comes down to it, these are the differences that really matter.

How your electric bike is propelled has a significant impact on its ability to climb hills, on how it feels to ride (what we’re calling performance), and on how much it costs. Here is what you should consider.

Hub-drive vs. Mid-drive: Power

A hub-drive electric bike motor (sometimes called simply a hub motor) is situated in a bike’s rear hub — thus its name.

These rear hub motors “push” the bike forward, spinning the wheel in accordance with a controller and a cadence sensor or torque sensor.

In contrast, mid-drive motors power the bike’s drivetrain directly at the crankset. So, a mid-drive motor will work in tight coordination with the bike’s gears, amplifying the mechanical advantage they provide. This becomes particularly helpful for climbing steep hills or navigating extended inclines. On these types of terrain, mid-drive motors can leverage the gears and keep the bike’s revolutions per minute (RPMs) in an efficient range without getting bogged down.

Detail of a mid-drive e-bike
The mid-drive motor on this electric bike works with the bicycle’s gears to propel the e-bike forward in a natural and powerful way.

 

Given two electric motors of the same wattage, 750W continuous as an example, the mid-drive electric bike motor will likely provide more torque and more power than the hub-drive electric bike motor will.

Hub-drive vs. Mid-drive: Performance

For our context, we are going to describe e-bike performance as how it feels to ride.

Hub-drive electric bike motors feel like they have a lot of pep or liveliness. While this is not an indication of actual performance, the sensation is real. In this way, they are similar to a rear-wheel drive car or, as some riders have said, riding a Bird or Lime electric scooter. Frankly, the ride can be fun or even thrilling. That’s a big plus for hub-drive motors.

Hub-drive electric bike
A hub-drive electric bike can be a fun, value-priced option.

However, placing a relatively heavy motor right in the middle of the wheel makes hub-drive e-bikes a bit harder to keep balanced than a conventional bicycle or a mid-drive electric bike.

Mid-drive electric bikes feel like bicycles. The power that the motor provides is channeled through the bike’s drivetrain, so a rider might not notice the power as much as he or she would on a hub-drive e-bike. Instead, a mid-drive bike will simply go fast and climb hills with ease. It is also worth noting that a mid-drive motor tends to “ramp up” more smoothly, giving it a natural feel and protecting the bike’s drivetrain.

Mid-drive motors position all of the additional weight at the center of the bike, so they can feel more balanced than a hub-drive e-bike will.

Hub-drive vs. Mid-drive: Price

Hub-drive electric bikes cost significantly less than mid-drive electric bikes. There are a number of reasons for this, including design, manufacturability, and the technology itself.

For example, a hub-drive motor can be added to just about any bicycle frame while a mid-drive motor must be integrated, so the frame is always custom designed for that particular motor. What’s more, mid-drive motors are a newer technology which can make them more expensive than a hub-drive motor.

Hub-drive vs. Mid-drive: You Decide

Like so many things, choosing between a hub-drive and mid-drive electric bike requires you to weigh the options and pick the best one for your particular riding situation.

For example, if you live in an area with many hills or if you are a heavier rider, you might want to pay a bit more for a mid-drive e-bike’s superior climbing ability. If you live someplace relatively flat, why not save a little money and get the fun-to-ride hub-drive.

If you still have questions, contact us. EVELO’s sales and support teams are available every day at 877-991-7272 or online.

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