Hub drives and mid drives are two types of ebike motor placements. Hub drives have enjoyed success as the leading ebike drive type until a recent industry shift towards mid drive placement. There are several reasons one might choose either the hub or mid drive.
A hub drive is an ebike motor that’s situated in the wheel hub of either the front or back bike wheel. The motor propels the bike by spinning one tire directly.
Hub Drive Pros
Hub drives are relatively simple in design and don’t require any specialized framing. They are essentially an addition to the wheel hub. Virtually any bike can be retrofitted with a hub drive using a conversion kit. Many riders prefer this option because it can drastically reduce the cost of the ebike.
Hub Drive Cons
If the motor is positioned on the rear wheel, it can feel like the bike is being pushed. When positioned on the front wheel, a hub drive can affect steering and feel like the bike is being pulled. This awkward shift in balance can be difficult for new riders.
Drive motors perform best when they’re allowed to spin at high speeds. When a hub drive is ascending a hill or is otherwise forcibly slowed due to terrain while the rider is requesting drive assistance, the motor can burn out.
A burned-out motor can either shut off temporarily, leaving the rider without assistance in terrain that is likely rough, or take permanent damage to the internal magnets, leaving the rider without assistance for the remainder of the ride.
Another issue with hub drives is that a flat tire, which is generally an easily-solved problem, can turn into a lengthy and complex process. If the tire that’s flat is the tire with the hub drive on it, it won’t be as simple as replacing the tire as usual.
Mid drive motors are located directly under the rider, between the pedals. It sends power directly to the drivetrain.
Mid Drive Pros
Central placement and weight distribution are optimal for biking, as they don’t create any push or pull sensation and don’t affect balance. Mid drives allow the rider to use gears that improve efficiency and lengthen the range of each charge.
Mid Drive Cons
Mid drive designs are generally more expensive than hub drives because they require a bit more engineering. This also means that mid drives usually require specially designed frames and are often unable to be retrofitted.
Hub drives versus mid drives comes down to both personal preferences and experience. An inexperienced rider would definitely be better served by a mid-drive that won’t complicate flat tires, won’t affect balance, and won’t burn out on inclines; but he or she might also consider sacrificing certain aspects for the lower cost of the hub drive. An experienced rider might prefer the ability to retrofit the hub drive to an existing bicycle, but will most likely favor the better quality, balance, and performance of the mid drive.