Different Types of eBikes Based on Motor

January 3, 2017 10:15 pm Published by

Phantom 400 eBikeThis is a two-part series on the different types of eBikes. In this article, we will talk about the different types of electric bikes based on the type of motor. Next week we will talk about the different types of eBikes based on the terrain the bike will be used on.

As consumers, we love options. Just as there are options in the type of traditional bike you would purchase, so too are there options in the type of eBike you may want to purchase. Most of these options are centered around the motor of your electric bike. The motor is a crucial part of any electric bike, so you need to understand a little about the different types of eBike motors, and how each type of motor is engineered. There are broadly two main types of electric bikes and they are based on how the bike activates and controls the motor. The two main types of bikes are throttle and Pedelec (pedal-assisted) eBikes. Although this is generalizing a large and rapidly growing range of electric bikes, it is a good place to begin when comparing the power and range needs in the different types of eBikes available today.

Throttle Electric Bikes
“Throttle only” electric bikes offer riders some sort of throttle, like the variable throttle switch on the handlebar you see on a motorcycle or moped, to manually turn the motor on or off and to control the power of the motor. Using a throttle allows the rider to take control of when the motor turns on or off and to use as much or as little power as they prefer, making it very easy to ride in either pedal-only or motor-only mode. Applying the brakes help to cut the power and slows down the bike, so you cannot be carried away when you want to stop.

When deciding on the type of electric bike that best suits your needs, one of the most important factors to consider is the type and degree of control you want over the motor. If you know that you will be riding your eBike in varying road conditions and terrains, or if you’re looking for comprehensive control to enable you to quickly switch from pedal-only to motor-only modes, then you should pick a throttle-only eBike. You can also use the throttle and pedal simultaneously to really get your eBike moving.

Pedelec Electric Bikes
Pedal-assist eBikes, also commonly referred to as “pedelecs,” have no throttle to control the motor directly. Instead these eBikes use some sort of pedal assist system (PAS) to detect and respond to your pedaling. When the bike is being used, it activates the automatic motor assistance accordingly to sense how much power you are applying to the pedals, to add to it so that you get adequate help. There are two levels of sophistication among pedal-assisted electric bikes; at the higher end is the ‘torque sensing pedelec’, that requires very little effort to operate because the boost system automatically responds as you pedal. It is good at assisting from a standing start because you can generate a lot of power with a strong push. The sensors needed to monitor pedal rotation, force and road speed and its complex control systems add to the cost of a torque sensing pedelec eBike.

There is also the less elaborate ‘rotation sensing pedelec’, where only one sensor is used to check how fast you’re pedaling forwards. In these bikes, the motor cuts in or turns on fully at whatever assist level you have set once you’ve started pedaling for a few seconds. Similarly, the motor cuts out a few fractions of a second after you stop pedaling. Generally, the motor is also connected to the brake levers in this type of eBike to cut out the motor power the instant the brakes are squeezed.

If you are definably going to be using some motor assist each and every time you ride, but don’t want to deal with using a variable throttle, then you should consider getting a pedal-assist eBike, which does not provide direct throttle experience. This eBike works by the power and frequency of the rider’s pedaling.

Hub Electric Bikes
eBikes can also be grouped into two main types, based on the location of their motor. Hub motors are located in the wheel whereas mid-drive electric bicycles have the motor located on the frame.

There are two kinds of hub motors in the market—direct drive hub motors and geared hub motors. Direct drive hub motors are larger, faster and more durable but they have less torque. It uses the entire hub shell as the motor and is heavier. Direct drive hub motors have a bit of drag resulting in less efficiency. Since these motors are always engaged, they can have regenerative braking to recharge the battery while riding. They are noiseless because there are no moving parts. Geared hub motors are smaller and lighter than similarly powered direct drive motors. They have greater torque, but less top speed than direct drive. Since there is no resistance when the motor is not being used there cannot be regenerative braking. There is hum associated with geared hub motors because it has engaged moving parts. Electric bikes can have hub motors located on either on the front or rear wheel, with each option having its own benefits and drawbacks.

  • Front Hub Electric Bikes: Front hub motors provide additional power directly to the front wheel and the rider’s pedaling propels the back wheel, to give an “all-wheel drive” sensation. Front hub motors are much easier to install, maintain or repair because they don’t have to work around chains, gears or cassettes.
  • Rear Hub Electric Bikes: Electric bikes with rear hub motors have stronger frames to handle higher power options from the extra torque to the rear wheel from the motor. Rear hub motors “push” the bike forward so that it feels more natural to riders who are used to riding traditional bicycles—which work on similar principles using a chain and gear. Rear hub motors also provide throttle, cadence, and/or torque sensor pedal assist for a smoother riding experience, whereas front hubs cannot offer torque sensor pedal assist. Most of the rider’s weight is above the rear wheel so rear hub motors do not spin out as often as front hub motors. Rear hub motors are harder to install and maintain as they need to be worked around the drivetrain.

To Each Their Own
Each type of motor has its unique advantages and disadvantages; however, power is the primary factor that dictates a motor’s price. Most basic electric bike motors come with a power rating of 250-300 watts and typically increase to as high as 500-750 Watts. ProdecoTech makes off-road mountain bikes with 1200 Watt motor, taking riders up to 28mph. Higher-rated motors generate more power than those with lower ratings, and thus, provide a snappier, more responsive, and more versatile motorized riding experience. Whether or not you need a more powerful motor depends primarily on the type of riding you’re planning to do, the terrain on which you’ll be riding, and your weight. Regardless, we have the right bike for you. Call us so we can help you get started on your eBike explorations today.

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This post was written by Jason Behfar

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