The Best Electric Motor for Bicycles

by Electric bike guru on July 14, 2010

Electric bikes are everywhere these days – from department stores to big retail chains to tiny closet-sized bike shops. With their popularity comes an ever shifting technology based around their efficiency. What lets one electric bicycle outperform another? All mechanical parts aside, let’s take an in-depth look at the electric system.

The electric motor for a bicycle is one of the most important aspects of an electric bicycle. Though a simple concept, the type of electric motor for bikes can make a huge difference in the performance, efficiency, and lifespan of the bicycle. Some will run forever without any problems, while others need to be serviced pretty often to keep the parts from wearing out. The electric motors for modern electric bikes are getting better and better with each new model that comes out. Let’s take a look at some different types of electric motors for bicycles.

Chain-Driven Electric Motor for Bicycles

Brushed Electric Motor for Bicycles

An external, chain-driven brush-les electric motor for bicycles (Currie)

In the mid-1990′s, when electric bikes were starting to become popular, they were designed with electric motor for a bike that drove the rear wheel using a chain. This was by far the most efficient electric motor for bicycles developed in years, but it still had a lot of drawbacks. For one, the chain tended to wear out faster than a standard bicycle chain. This meant that after about six months of regular riding, the motor needed to be serviced. It also hung from the side of the bike like a heavy lopsided boulder. In addition to throwing off the balance, this subjected the motor to curbs, doorways, and other elements that could damage the internal moving parts. Needless to say, while it was not the most ideal solution, it was a step in the right direction.

Electric Motor for Bike: Brushed or Brushless?

This is a specification that is often stated when an electric bike is for sale. It either has a brushed motor, or a brushless motor. What does that mean? Well, the good, old chain-driven motor mentioned above used brushes. A rotating disc on the inside of the motor uses magnets to rotate the internal brushes. This was cheaper to produce, but constant rotation eventually causes the brushes to wear down and need to be replaced. A more efficient design, developed in the late 90′s, is the brushless motor.

Brushless Hub Motor for Bicycles

Bionx electric motor for bicycles

The BionX electric motor for bikes, as well as many other leading manufacturers of electric bikes, use a brushless electric motor. With digital chips controlling a rotating magnet, instead of mechanical brushes, the brushless electric motor for bicycles is much more maintenance free. In fact, most brushless motors will never require service because there are seldom any parts that wear out.

Another step for electric motors for bikes came with the development of the hub motor. Built into the wheel, this not only balanced the bike, but prevented anything from hitting the motor during the ride. It was now a sealed entity within the spinning wheel. The utilization of a brushless hub motor is one of the reasons BionX is considered to be the best electric bicycle motor on the market.

Bottom Bracket Electric Motor for Bikes

IF Reach DC, bottom bracket motor

IF Reach DC, bottom bracket motor

Many brand new electric bikes utilize this new technology for pedal-powered electric motors for bikes. Built into the bottom bracket, where the pedals turn, this motor will actually serve to assist the rider with pedaling, instead of turning a wheel. One of the most efficient ways to power an electric bike, the bottom bracket motor is becoming very popular with newer electric bikes.

Although it is hard to predict what the future holds for an electric motor for a bicycle, it is evident that as new technology becomes more affordable, it will be utilized in more production models of electric bikes. These new motors are far more efficient than they were, even five years ago! Maybe this means that more people will begin to ride electric bikes as they become more maintenance free. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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