Hub Motor Brands: The Complete Guide
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Hub Motor Types, Brands, and the E-Bikes That Use Them
All consumer-ready e-bikes provide assistance to their riders through either a mid-drive motor or a hub motor. While mid-drive motors are placed centrally at the bottom bracket and tie into their e-bike’s cranks, hub motors – as their name suggests – are mounted at the center of either the front or rear wheel. We’ll FOCUS on the latter type in this complete guide to e-bike hub motors; read on to learn the differences between types of motors, and keep scrolling to examine some of the best hub motors on the market!
At the present time, electric hub motors are much more affordable than mid-drives, and are subsequently much more prevalent. Additionally, hub motors are often much lighter than their cousins, and make practical additions to urban e-bikes or folding frames that need to be carried often. They also function well in conjunction with belt drives and internal gear systems that are nearly maintenance-free. In fact, you’ll find hub motors on some of the best electric bikes we have had the pleasure of reviewing.
Mid-drive motors, on the other hand, have a reputation for being more efficient and responsive than hub motors – though hub motor technology is improving constantly and coming ever closer to bridging the gap. Mid-drives are also known for their ability to replicate or approach the feel of non-electric bikes. They are, however, much more expensive, and as such are most commonly found on higher-end models.
The topic of e-bike motors is complex enough that we have a separate guide to mid-drive motors. In this article, focused exclusively on e-bike hub motors, we will dive into the most common manufacturers, discuss some of the best e-bike brands who use their products, and also cover some unique one-offs.
Rev your engines and get ready to read!
Hub Motor Types
We discussed the two main types of motors already, but when looking closer at the category of hub motors, the subject can be divided even further.
Front Hub and Rear Hub Motors
The first sub-category of hub motors is divided by their placement – either in the front or rear wheel hub. There are a few e-bikes out there that use dual (both front and rear) hub motors, but these tend to be special cases. The vast majority of e-bikes with hub motors have them mounted on the rear wheel. These types are known to give their riders the feeling of being pushed from behind, though this characteristic is often subtle and easy to get used to.
Front-hub motors, however, offer the opposite experience; the feeling of being pulled along. These have an advantage over rear-hub motors in that they are often smaller and lighter, but they can suffer from a tendency to lack traction.
The Eunorau Defender S is a rare example of an e-bike with both front and rear hub motors.
Geared and Direct Drive Motors
Regardless of their placement, hub motors can transfer power to drive their e-bikes in two different ways, and so have two further divisions or sub-categories; e-bike hub motors can be either direct drive or geared. We have a full article that goes into detail about direct drive and geared hub motors, but a brief mention of their distinctions is appropriate here.
In a nutshell, geared hub motors use a system of internal gears that drive (and turn) the shell of the motor. These are the most common type of hub motor, and are typically smaller, lighter, more efficient, and better at climbing hills than direct drive motors. They are also less expensive.
Direct drive motors are gearless, and use magnets to turn their shell, which is an essential part of the motor itself. Direct drives are larger and heavier, but are quiet and incredibly long lasting. Direct drive motors are also typically most efficient when operating at high speeds, and so are most often used only on Class 3 (speed pedelec) e-bikes.
Torque and Cadence Sensors
All e-bike motors require input from a sensor in order to provide assistance appropriately. There are two types of sensors used with e-bike motors: either torque or cadence. Usually, just one type is used at a time, but some e-bikes use a combination of both.
Cadence sensors are the most common variety used with hub motors. Again, they are also less expensive. These require only that the pedals be moving in order to activate their motor, and as such are less efficient than torque sensors that rely on rider input. Responsive cadence sensors can trigger motor assistance after only a quarter-turn of an e-bike’s cranks, while slower versions take a half or even up to a full turn.
Torque sensors are less common and more expensive than cadence sensors, but generally regarded as better. They are also more efficient, because they sense how much effort the rider is choosing to give (or HAVING to give, depending on gearing, terrain, etc), and respond accordingly. We often say that they allow the motor to meet the rider halfway at whatever level of effort they choose.This allows torque sensors to provide a level of responsiveness similar to that of a non-electric bike – a feature that, when combined with a mid-drive motor, adds to its already natural feel. For this reason, they are most commonly paired with mid-drives, though the technology is becoming cheaper, and seen more often with hub motors. For example, we have appreciated seeing torque sensors on the updated lineup of Aventon e-bikes.
Popular Hub Motor Brands
While we will provide information on some of the largest hub motor manufacturers out there, the full list of them is far too long for this article already, and continues to grow rapidly. The companies on this list produce some of the best hub motors on the market.
While their branding is not always so obvious, Bafang motors can be found on e-bikes in each corner of the market.
Previously known as Suzhou Bafang (due to their home office in the city of Suzhou near Shanghai) and 8Fun, Bafang is arguably the largest manufacturer of e-bike hub motors in the world. They are well-established at this point, having been established in 2003. The company’s philosophy is a commitment to quality and innovation. While their main manufacturing center is located with their home office in China, the company has a dedicated mid-drive motor factory in Poland, as well as sales and service centers in the USA and across Europe.
In addition to producing motors, they also manufacture batteries, sensors, controllers, and HMIs (human machine interfaces – displays and button pads) for e-bikes, as well as a range of products for electric scooters. At the time of writing, Bafang offers roughly a dozen models of rear hub motor ranging from 250W to 1000W, nearly as many mid-drives, and a handful of front hub motors.
Due to their quality and affordability, Bafang products have been used on a massive range of e-bikes; from small startup companies to large name brands like Pedego, Juiced, Aventon, and Charge.
The Suzhou Shengyi Motor Company, usually shortened to just Shengyi, is another large and well-established company with a home office and development center in Suzhou, China. Founded in 2003, the company surpassed sales of over 800k units in 2020, and by now is likely to be approaching 1 million (if they have not passed that mark already). Shengyi has manufacturing facilities in Suzhou and Taiwan, and sales offices in Germany and Tianjin, China.
In addition to both mid-drive and hub motors for e-bikes, the company builds other motors for electric scooters and motorcycles. Currently, they have a lineup of over a dozen rear hub motors, around 10 front hub motors, a few mid-drive options, and a couple of brushless single-piece wheel units with integrated motors. These range in output from 180W up to 1000W.
Shengyi products have been found on e-bikes past and present from globally-recognized companies such as Giant, Rad Power Bikes, MFC, and Aventon.
Aventon has been known to use Bafang and Shengyi products on their e-bikes, such as the Level 2 commuter.
Dapu, also known as the Chuo Bussan Group, is a Japanese-owned company with over a decade of experience in producing e-bike components. They place a FOCUS on making durable, powerful products with precision. Dapu has manufacturing plants in Japan, China, and Vietnam, which supply e-bike companies in the US and Europe.
Like Bafang, Dapu’s portfolio is diverse. They FOCUS exclusively on e-bike products, but currently produce an expansive selection of front and rear hub motors, torque sensors, HMIs, controllers, and a few mid-drive models. Dapu’s catalog of nearly 20 motor models range from 250W-1000W of output.
Well-known e-bike brands such as Pedego and Evelo have used Dapu products.
Founded originally as the Changzhou Huayuxinfeng Motor Company in 1996, this manufacturer began to FOCUS on e-bike products in 2004. They later changed their name to the Changzhou MXUS Import and Export Company, and have since expanded throughout Asia, Europe, and both North and South America.
MXUS offers a wide range of products for both e-bikes and e-scooters. Their full catalog of e-bike components includes batteries, chargers, controllers, HMIs, throttles, and even cargo racks. When it comes to motors, the company focuses exclusively on producing front and rear hub systems. They have a total of over 25 models between the two types, in both geared and direct drive models. Interestingly, MXUS makes one of the most powerful hub motors available; their products range from 180W of output all the way up to a staggering 5000W system.
MXUS products have been seen on e-bikes from the Electric Bike Company and other brands.
Electric Bike Company e-bikes like the decked-out Model Y have sported MXUS rear hub motors.
The Taiwan-based company TranzX makes a full range of e-bike components – nearly everything but frames. They offer a small selection of motors (two hub motor options and two mid-drives), some of which have been found on Raleigh folding e-bikes and models from Diamondback, Bergamont, and Lapiere.
Unique Hub Motor Brands
As opposed to the ubiquitous, previously mentioned large-scale manufacturers, the companies in this next section stand out due to their tendency to approach things differently.
Karbon Kinetics / GoCycle
In 2002, Karbon Kinetics was founded by Richard Thorpe, with the goal of creating the perfect e-bike. Thorpe combined cycling passion and design experience from his history as a designer of McLaren racing components to create the GoCycle. The first generation of this lightweight, folding e-bike was released in 2009, and was designed to be elegant, fun, and highly functional. Since then, the company has continuously released updated models that frequently set new standards due to their fast folding, inclusion of bluetooth technology, and their use of innovative materials and manufacturing methods.
One of the core elements of the GoCycle in its current iteration is its proprietary G4drive front hub motor. This 500W unit is tiny and unobtrusive, but packs a surprising amount of power for speed and uphill travel. We loved the motor’s performance when we had the chance to review the GoCycle G4 – and due to its proprietary nature, it’s only available on this specific e-bike.
EXPLAINED: MAHLE Smart Bike Systems X35 drive unit and iWOC One controller
The GoCycle’s proprietary front-hub motor is small enough to go almost unnoticed but manages some impressive power.
As a division of the MAHLE Group, which focuses on the development of automotive technologies and components, MAHLE SmartBike Systems designs both hardware and software for use by e-bike owners, dealers, and manufacturers. MAHLE is based out of Palencia, Spain, and prioritizes innovation in their cutting-edge products, with the goal of making transportation comfortable, efficient, and environmentally-friendly.
While they manufacture components like batteries, chargers, shifters, and displays, all of these elements are designed to be used exclusively in conjunction with MAHLE’s limited selection of two drive systems, the X20 and X35. Both of these rear hub motors are extremely small and lightweight, and all of their unobtrusive components are designed to fit seamlessly into an e-bike’s frame. In fact, MAHLE advertises the X20 system as the lightest drive system on the market.
The X35 was originally manufactured by Ebikemotion prior to MAHLE’s purchase of the company in 2018. It is still sometimes referred to as the Ebikemotion X35 for this reason.
Considering their high-performance nature and intended use with electric mountain, urban, gravel, and road bikes, MAHLE products can be found on more sophisticated models from BMC, Orbea, Cannondale, and SCOTT.
Owned by an automotive technology company called Eldor Corporation since 2019, ZEHUS is able to leverage international development and manufacturing resources to produce innovative EV, e-scooter, and e-bike drivetrains.
Prior to 2023, the Italian-based ZEHUS were known solely for their cable-free BIKE all-in-one system that combines a motor, battery, sensors, and Bluetooth connectivity in a single package. This 250W system provides 40 Nm of torque, and can travel a minimum distance of 35 km / 22 miles in Turbo mode, or a maximum of 60 km / 37 miles in Eco mode. It is available in a single speed version, as well as a cassette version with either 4, 7, or 9 gears.
At the CES in 2023, the company unveiled an upgraded version called BIKE with a claimed unlimited range, thanks to the unit’s Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) that uses regenerative braking when backpedaling to recharge the battery.
ZEHUS systems are primarily found on European e-bikes such as those made by Cooper Bikes, Neomouv, and Hummingbird.
Velotric’s proprietary Velopower motor was designed by the company’s team of engineers and is built by a leading but unnamed motor manufacturer.
Globe / Electra / Volt / VanMoof / Velotric / Etc.
These names are listed together due to the fact that they likely all have a similar approach: partnering with one of the larger, previously mentioned companies for the production of their own proprietary systems. We say “likely,” because in the case of Globe (which is a subsidiary of Specialized), VanMoof, and Electra (which is owned by Trek), details about their motor manufacture are not readily available through their respective websites. With Globe, this is more understandable, since (as of the time of writing) details about their first e-bike are still scarce. Electra, on the other hand, advertises their use of Bosch mid-drives, but their less expensive line of “Go!” e-bikes use proprietary rear hub motors.
After light comes lighter
Apparently, Mahle does not want to give in that easily when it comes to the question of which ebike drive features the best power-to-weight ratio. In the battle for this title, the new system actually has its say. Fazua has come out on top with a total weight of 4.26 kilograms and 60 Newton metres. Mahle counters with 3.2 kilograms and a converted 55 Newton metres. In terms of weight, the winner is clear. However, it remains to be seen how meaningful the comparison of a mid-mounted motor with a unit installed in the rear wheel hub is. And we will come back to the 55 Newton metres as well.
Single components of the new Mahle X20 drive
Usually the entire industry benefits from such rivalry. If not the entire industry, then at least you as riders. One could agree on that in this case, too. For with the X20, Mahle shows that when it comes to sportiness, a drive like the X35 is by no means the end of the road. Naturally, the manufacturer himself is absolutely convinced of his product. Jochen Sommer, head of MAHLE Smart Bike Systems, for example, speaks of an “unprecedented drive solution”. And for Marco de la Serna, head of strategy and business development at MAHLE Smart Bike Systems, the innovation embodies “the ultimate cycling experience”.
The X20 motor: the AI always rides along
Looking at it objectively, it can be stated that the manufacturer is very much trying to bundle the most modern technologies into the drive. Basically, it is a search for a system that gathers information from the way you ride and, with the help of the collected knowledge, highly individualises the support of the motor. To do this, the drive constantly receives data from a multitude of sensors that record acceleration, speed, torque, cadence and temperature. A mix of artificial intelligence and machine learning ensures that the X20 reacts appropriately. The result should be a highly personalised one that recognises exactly which person is sitting in the saddle, what physical condition they are in and what the general conditions of the current ride are. The goal above all is the ideal of a natural riding experience. Only a test ride can ultimately show how the implementation of all this will feel on the bike.
Artificial intelligence can be helpful in the interaction of an ebike system.
Less punchy than before
Until then, we will confine ourselves to the verifiable facts. And they indicate that the motor, at exactly 1.375 kilograms, has indeed become pretty light. It produces the usual 250 watts in continuous operation and offers you a torque of 23 Newton metres. This value is clearly below the 40 Newton metres that the X35 has to offer. Of course, you should always bear in mind that this is the torque that pretty much 100 percent reaches the rear wheel. With mid-mounted motors, a significant part is lost during transmission via chain or belt.
So far, Mahle has kept the exact dimensions of the rear wheel hub motor to itself.
Nevertheless, Mahle dares to make a comparison with the mid-mounted motor and brings a torque of 55 Newton metres into play, to which the 23 Newton metres of the X20 would correspond. According to the manufacturer, this was derived from measurements on the test bench. However, various factors play a role in such a comparison. One example is the selected chain transmission. What is indisputable is that the performance data show that Mahle has chosen a niche among e-road bikes, e-gravel bikes and urban ebikes as its target market.
Ebike with Mahle Ebikemotion X35 and X35 motors where the Ghost tuning device has been successfully installed
(this list is illustrative and not exhaustive)
– Bianchi Aria – SuperSix EVO Neo 3 – Bianchi Aria E-Road (to install the device you need to remove the cover that goes from the battery to the engine)
– Orbea Gain – Orbea Vibe H10, H10 Mud e H10 EQ – Orbea Vibe H30, Vibe H30, H30 Mud e H30 EQ – Olmo e.vento sport – SuperSix EVO Neo 3
External (visible from the outside)
Equipped with original and/or compatible connectors (does not require any physical modification to the ebike wiring)
Mahle Ebikemotion X35, Mahle Ebikemotion X35
Any display and handlebar control
Altered (variables above a certain threshold)
No external power supply required
Assembly and use instructions
SpeedFun GHOST assembly instructions for Ebikemotion X35 and X35
ATTENTION, IMPORTANT NOTICE
Once the SpeedFun speed release device has been installed, the electric bicycle, exceeding the limit of 25 kmH, is treated as a moped and as such, if circulating in public places, requires approval-registration by the Civil Motorization, it is subject to payment of road tax and insurance coverage, must have a license plate, cannot circulate on cycle paths and the driver is required to have a driving license and must use a helmet. Furthermore, driving a motor bicycle equivalent to a moped that does not comply with the aforementioned provisions will result in the administrative seizure of the vehicle and pecuniary penalties which vary according to the infringement committed. The manufacturer of the speed release system declines all responsibility relating to any damage caused to pedal assisted bicycles on which the device is mounted as well as direct or indirect damage to people or things. SpeedFun – Phase B snc declines all responsibility for any anomalies caused by the anti-tuning defenses that the engine manufacturers could activate. Please note that modifying your bicycle could invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty.
10 things you should know about eBike Motors
How does the SpeedFun work?
The tuning kit for Ebikemotion X35 will be active right away after installation. If you do use app or display with your ebike, you will not be able to see real data. Assistance is slightly reduced beyond 16mph (25kmh).
After installing your SpeedFun, due to the constructive characteristics of this type of motor it is possible to reach around 18/19mph (29/30 km/h) depending on the ebike model and gearing.
Which SpeedFun Tuning Kit do I need?
The Chip for Ebikemotion x35 SpeedFun Ghost is available in only one version:. Slim Version: this round section version measures ∅14 x 170 mm and is slightly flexible. It can be inserted partially or totally inside the tubes in the frame or be fixed externally. Before buying, please check the size on your ebike.
Tuning kit was testes with these ebike models:. Orbea Gain. Orbea Vibe H10, H10 Mud e H10 EQ. Orbea Vibe H30, Vibe H30, H30 Mud e H30 EQ. Olmo e.vento sport. SuperSix EVO Neo 3. Bianchi Aria. SuperSix EVO Neo 3. Bianchi Aria E-Road (to install the device you need to remove the cover that goes from the battery to the engine)
How to Install this tuning kit?
Follow these steps for the installation: 1. Remove the zip tie holding the connector cable. 2. Unplug the connector. DO NOT ROTATE THE CABLE WHILE UNPLUGGING 3. Slide the female connector wire into the frame (9-10cm.) 4. Connect the Ghost tuning kit as shown. PAY ATTENTION TO THE ARROWS 5. Secure the tuning kit using zip tie.
If you are planning to install SpeedFun on a brand-new bike, make sure you ride it for at least 0.6 miles (1 km) before the chip is activated.
Important legal note!
Please note that the operation of this type of modified electric bikes on public roads may be against the law in some countries. The manufacturer takes no responsibility for damages resulting from the use SpeedFun products. Electric bikes equipped with SpeedFun products are not allowed to be used on public roads, cycling paths and public places. Electric bikes equipped with SpeedFun products can be used exclusively on private property and entirely at one’s own risk. The use of SpeedFun may void the warranty of your ebike. We strongly recommend using other safety features and protective gear to prevent injuries in higher speeds.
In case of updating the software of your e-bike, uninstall the tuning kit from the e-bike first, update the software and reinstall tuning kit back. Product’s warranty does not cover eBike software updates. We recommend to contact us before updating the software.
How good is the app in practice? – Reviews
Good e-bike apps are not primarily defined by their range of functions or by the most important app features. It is much more important that an app works reliably in practice, starting with the set-up and communication between the app and the e-bike. However, it is risky for a manufacturer to replace an app with one that is significantly less powerful. Many users criticise in particular the fact that the My SmartBike app, unlike its predecessor, no longer has a navigation function.
In addition, there have been connection problems, faulty displays and system crashes until recently. Overall, e-bike riders give the app a damning report card.
Mahle’s My SmartBike app is unfortunately disappointing in terms of both functionality and quality.
Alternatives to the Mahle app
As far as apps are concerned, most e-bike owners currently have no choice. There are very few apps from independent developers, even though they often offer better performance than the manufacturer’s products.
Even if you own an e-bike with a Mahle drive and want to use your smartphone as a bike computer, your only option is the My SmartBike app.
But wait, there is an app that works across systems. What’s more, it combines route recording functions with the best anti-theft protection currently available for e-bikes.
Independent of the manufacturer and with powerful theft protection – the PowUnity App
Whether Mahle, Bosch or any other brand, the “duo” consisting of the PowUnity App and BikeTrax GPS tracker works across different motor systems.
Once the GPS tracker is installed inside your e-bike drive, you benefit from highly effective theft protection:
- As soon as someone moves your bike without permission, you will be informed via the app.
- You can also track the location of your bike in real time and report it directly to the police via the app.
- You can collect details about your e-bike in an integrated bike passport.
The PowUnity app automatically records all your routes. You can analyse them, share them on social media and export them to apps like Komoot and Strava.
In 2023, our app will be upgraded even more. You will be able to use the PowUnity app as an e-bike display, view performance data such as speed and battery consumption or plan services in the maintenance area. This also applies regardless of the motor of your e-bike.
And to e-bike manufacturers who cooperate with PowUnity, we offer a white label solution for the PowUnity app.
Conclusion on the Mahle app – unconvincing solution
Mahle SmartBike Systems enjoys a great reputation as a manufacturer of innovative e-bike drives. Unfortunately, the MySmart Bike app is not one of the manufacturer’s successful innovations.
This starts with the fact that the range of functions is surprisingly limited compared to the previous app. Although you can evaluate a range of data on routes ridden on the desktop, you have to switch to another service for navigation. The insufficient performance in practice weighs more heavily. However, there is a hope that Mahle will be able to improve this in the near future and fix serious shortcomings such as connection problems.
For customers looking for an alternative, the PowUnity app and the BikeTrax GPS tracker offer a solution for efficient theft protection and seamless live route tracking that works across different e-bike systems. From 2023, you will even be able to use this solution as a replacement for a bike computer and record a wide range of parameters on your smartphone.