There is no other hotly debated topic on electric bikes than the engine. But the questions that people fail to address are which areas should be looked at. Does defining the best electric bike motor come down to raw power? Or perhaps some smaller aspects should be looked at? This article has listed ten of the best motors and looked into the details of the individual engine to get the ultimate answer to that question.
To choose the best motor for you there are a few things you have to look at:
- Design and weight of the motor
- Support levels
- Displays and remote technology
- Noise level
- Battery usage
- The natural ride behavior
Essential aspects of the motor
In most cases, electric bike motors are always ranked according to the specifications on performance. When things get real, however, these figures fail to matter or reveal the right side of the bike. That is why you need to look at some aspects listed below, other than just the performance aspect.
All the motors that have been discussed in this article meet the recommended standards of power for eMTB engines. The law states that the average power of an electric bike motor should not exceed 250W over thirty minutes.
Another aspect to consider is the torque, which is measured in newton meters and determines the strength of the motor. TQ is dominant in the list of motors discussed with a torque of 120 Nm. The powering factor of the engine is either an external or internal battery attached to the downtube. The lifespan of the battery is determined by the consumption rate of the motor and its capacity. The capacity of the battery is measured in watt-hours, otherwise represented as Wh. This sentiment means that if an engine consumes 250 Nm, it will take a fully charged 500 Wh battery two hours to drain completely.
With every electric bike motor comes a support level that the manufacturer indicates on the product. For instance, the old Bosch (2015) suggests that the support level provided is 300%. That means that the motor can triple the power that the rider is exerting on the pedals when riding. The support level of electric bike motor comes in the range of between 50% and 400%. Some can go up to 500%.
The best electric bike motor should offer more support levels to make it more adaptable to harsh riding conditions. This way, it helps riders to conquer some of the steepest terrains with a lot of ease. In most cases, some motor integrates a progressive mode (to the support level) that is more adaptable to the power input. These motors use the technology of inbuilt sensors to detect the effort applied to the pedals by the rider and thereby adjust its support level according to the required output that would equal the task. In that situation, the harder the input on pedals, the more support the motor offers.
The progressive assistance ensures that there is a natural and intuitive riding experience. Such smart supports are integrated into the motor system to establish a seamless shift between the different riding modes depending on the environment.
When looking to buy an electric bike, it is advisable to consider the specifications by the manufacturer and the percentage of support that the motor offers. However, it may be difficult to compare the different motors because there are no standard procedures for testing the engines.
Design and weight of the motor
It would be wise to keep in mind that the best engine only goes as far as the bike that it is attached to. Furthermore, the motor is likely to have a significant influence on the performance of the bike. Electric bike motors that come with more compact units provide more room for the design of the bike’s rear end and suspension. On the same point, the weight of the bike determines the handling of the electric bike.
Displays and remote technology
Display systems and remotes are used to change different modes of the bike, such as the support levels. There are vast options to choose from, ranging from the not so complicated designs to fully colored displays that come with multiple app features. All these systems also come with other complications and compatibility problems. For instance, Bosch and Shimano motors only require their products as additional features, while some brands like TQ and Brose are compatible with other accessories.
Despite a wide range of options available in the market, most electric bikers are often faced with three main challenges:
- Bulkiness: The bulkiness of the remote makes it hard to reach, and therefore activating the remote dropper becomes challenging.
- Damage: Remotes and displays are prone to damages as they are often easily exposed to impacts.
- Readability: The readability of the displays is easily affected by intense and direct sunlight.
When considering the above challenges, Brose and Shimano become the best options for electric bike motors because they offer the choice of minimal designs to make the cockpit tidy or give full whistles as alternatives.
Availability of feature-Apps
Smartphones have revolutionized almost every sector of the economy and other machines. It is nowadays easier to check progress and keep tabs on different elements through mobile phone apps. The same goes for electric bike motors. Almost every manufacturer in the market develops dedicated apps that allow riders to access and control the characteristics of the bike. It is easier to track your activities and the location of the bike if the electric bike manufacturer offers smart devices that do all these works.
But that is not all. Not everyone is technology savvy or would like to tune on bikes by remotes and handy gadgets. Some people enjoy the fun of natural cycling. That is why you need a motor that is capable of handling both situations.
Downsizing is the trend in the motor industry. Not everyone likes more power, and to some people, less power brings more authenticity and fun to the riding experience. Some manufactures offer lower torque motors that give the best cycling experience with less speed. For instance, Fazua motor and Shimano STEPS E7000 have up to 60 Nm torque but still natural with less power. With that information in mind, it is essential to know what your riding style is.
The tempo of pedaling that you give an electric bike impacts the performance of its motor. Each electric bike motor comes with a specified pedaling cadence that would make the engine reach its peak performance with a lot of efficiencies. Most motors perform better when the tempo is either lower or higher depending on the design of the bike, its internal gear ratio, among other factors.
The best electric bike motor is one that operates better by coping with fluctuations in cadence. At the same time, the engine should provide even support, maintain a consistent output of power, and adapt well to the change in cadence. An excellent example of such a motor is the Brose Drive S Mag, which offers maximum torque at a different range of cadence, and at the same time, maintains efficient power output. Another excellent machine is the Bosch Performance Line CX.
Decibel killer or resonance mayhem
As many people ignore this fact, it remains true that the amount of noise coming from the motor of an electric bike can influence the experience of riding. A silent motor makes the journey more natural and enjoyable as opposed to a noisy engine. The noise is, however, not entirely brought by the motor alone. Sometimes, the frame can act as a resonator that amplifies the sound of the engine and the gearbox.
The best way to avoid such problems is by checking a frame that is well-designed to keep the noise at a level you can deal with. That is to say that a motor can be quiet on some bikes and still ruble on others.
The gearbox ratio
Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where your battery is dead and the motor down. That is mostly when you are riding past the limit, which is 25 km/h. at that time, you will likely experience some motor resistance. Mindful of that, you need a motor that can keep the resistance as minimum as possible. But remember all that depends on the bike gear ratio and how it adapts to high motor revs to the chainring.
Fazua Evation motor, Brose belt drive, and TQ Pin Ring are some models that can drive the engine while at the same time keeping the resistance on the pedals as low as possible. All three mentioned motor models have freewheel-system that can isolate the gearbox from the cranks when you are in a situation where your motor is wholly disengaged as a result of a dead battery.
Yamaha and Shimano are some of the motor models that create immediate pedaling resistance (to some extent) once the motor is disengaged. Bosch (old version), on the other hand, experience strong opposition on the pedals once the battery is dead. The latest Bosch models have resolved the issue of resistance.
The two in one motor ride feeling
The ride feels that a motor gives an electric bike can be impacted by the hardware of the engine as well as the firmware tuning. Bosch is notoriously known to restrict any modifications to the characteristics of their motor. That means that all Bosch motors behave in the same way regardless of the bike they are attached to.
On the other hand, Brose, Yamaha, and TQ are a bit relaxed on their motors. All three models allow manufacturers to tune the engine as they deem fit. Such freedom enables the motor to have a different ride feeling and behavior.
The battery and the range
Cells with larger capacities would definitely provide more power and therefore increase the range of the motor. But again, the range also depends on the energy that the engine consumes and not just the size of the battery.
The powerful TQ of 120 Nm torque consumes more energy than the smaller Fazua Drive Model with almost half its power. Additionally, the style of riding also affects the life span of the battery.
Other factors like the pressure of the tire, temperature, the support level, the weight exerted on the bike, and the terrain also affect the range of the battery. The vast aspects make it difficult to come up with a standard to rule to measure range and vertical reach.
The natural ride behavior
A natural and authentic ride behavior includes the best handling and control of the bike. In this respect, the power of the electric bike motor is nothing if the control is not good enough. The most powerful electric bike motors are often with challenging handling and controls. The best electric bike motor should be one that engages faster to deliver more power but, at the same time, be in a position to do so seamlessly without being jerky.
Three factors that affect the natural ride behavior in electric bike motor are the hardware of the engine, the activities of the rider like pedaling cadence, and firmware. The firmware operates as the interface between the motor of the electric bike and the rider. That means that the firmware should be able to interpret commands such as the pressure exerted on the pedals and the motor system. The harmonization of the effect of the rider on the motor brings a good ride feeling, and it is what is referred to as the natural ride behavior.
Sampling the best electric bike motors
The leading electric bike motors in the market are currently Brose, Bosch, Yamaha, and Shimano. All these models have pedal-assisted systems, and they all have different power, torque, and display options. As much as they all have varying aspects, some areas are most effective in distinguishing the efficiency of the motors. One such area is the speed. All the engines are restricted to 25 km/h, but due to the difference in gravity and the strength of the legs, the figures are quickly passed in some models.
Let us look at the four distinct motor models separately and analyze their characteristics. Hopefully, you will find an area that can help you choose the best electric bike motor for you.
Brose models, like the Specialized Turbo Levo, offer three options in terms of power output that are easily accessed on the sides of the battery pack. The system gives the simplest cockpit by doing away with mounted displays. The drawback of this system is, however, that it cannot switch the power on the hoof while at the same time it requires spinning of gears when on uphill riding instead of the mid-way mode where there is enough lag time for the motor to measure the cadence and torque.
When it comes down to software, the Specialized Turbo Levo has the specialized mission control app that can be used to adjust various modes on the bike, including the lifespan of the battery.
Bosch’s 250W crank drive has the most powerful motor of the Bosch models and is very easy to use. The engine also comes with a Purion display that is simple and readily customized. This model also comes with a push-button that engages the motor when you are pushing your electric bike. It is, however, not recommended to push an e-bike. The best feature of the Bosch motor is that it allows for updates to be added to the system through a USB diagnostic socket. The updates are also easy to find.
The versatility of the Bosch motor is also unmatched as it comes with four power models, namely, eco, tour, sport, and turbo. For quick reference on the battery life and performance, you can see the display on the bars.
In the turbo mode, some Bosch bikes are often slightly ineffective as they require better weight positioning to keep the bike more stable. In the same mode, however, uphill cycling can be ludicrously rapid. Other modes are excellent and do not experience the same challenges.
3. YAMAHA PW
Yamaha is a household name when it comes to motors and moving engines. Electric bike motors are no exception. Yamaha electric bike motor comes with a 250 W crank drive motor a 36 volts ion 400 watt-hour battery pack. The only difference between the engine of Yamaha and Bosch is that Yamaha has a battery pack that is bolted from the sides while Bosch drips in the front top. That means that Yamaha can be attached to a smaller frame as opposed to Bosch.
The battery of Yamaha motor features a shock absorber that is meant to keep the motor quieter. The engine is slightly heavier, weighing 2.9kg, but its operating temperature is high to give it enhances the lifespan of the battery. The effect provides the model with a somewhat higher range as it also designed to use two chainrings and a square taper crank mount.
4. YAMAHA PW-X
The Yamaha PW-X is the latest model from Yamaha, and it is lighter, more compact, and has the best handling that does not require tuning of the Yamaha models. The motor has a digital display with increased pawls on motor engagement, making it a more responsive ride.
One of the best features of this motor is that it can give quick drive off the crank even when you are at a standstill during uphill cycling. The engine also supports up to 120 pedal strokes of cadence as compared to some models that weaken at 80 strokes. Additionally, it has an extra power setting for the lovers of uphill riding.
In the Shimano Steps, bar-mounted power change is used as well as neat displays that are compact and easy to read. The motor comes with three aspects in terms of assist, which are eco, trail, and boost. Boost mode is very powerful and is only suitable for use in uphill riding or any other steep cycling.
The power delivery in Shimano is very smooth and seamless. With an E-Tube app, the motor offers customized tuning options to riders in a bid to enhance the performance according to the needs of individual users.
The Shimano E8000 system is one of the most compact types in the market, and it also comes with a back-siting bottom bracket that allows the design of the bike to come with a shorter chainring to make the handling efficient. The cranks of the bike are also attached to the chainring, therefore, bringing a 1:1 pedal to the chainring ratio.
The range of gears on Shimano models depends on the type of bike. However, all models make the shifting of gears seamless and straightforward.
The display of Shimano is a bit colorful as it changes colors in between shifting. For instance, the eco mode displays a blue color, trail mode, a green color, while the boost mode has a yellow color display.
Power to Weight
The power to weight aspect is the most overlooked when considering the best electric bike motor to choose from. As much as electric mountain bikes are excellent at leveling, some elements of climb time can be enhanced. Look at it this way, a truck that is heavily loaded and one that is not. Which one would cruise a hill with ease and still consume less fuel and power? The answer is the one that is not heavily loaded. In other words, the weight of the bike makes it ascend either with ease or difficulty.
How far can your e-bike go?
A lot of factors can affect the distance that an electric mountain bike can go. From the weight of the biker to the terrain and the power mode, getting the right combination will determine if you can reach your destination or not. For instance, a motor can cover a longer distance with more weight without the battery going off while some models cannot. All that also depend on the pedal assistance and the mode you are riding on.
When it comes down to the figures for sales and popularity, then the Bosch motor models would carry the day. But with all the factors outlined in this article, there are more ways of determining what is right for you. The underdog electric bike motors can sometimes surplice you in terms of their performance on the ground.
On the same note, both Shimano motor models are convincingly operational beasts due to the compact design and excellent trail performance. The biggest surprise is that despite the weakness in providing more power, Shimano STEPS E 7000 offers more riding fun as it is more natural and authentic. With that in mind, low cadence riders would like motors with less power but netter handling and support systems, among other features.
More powerful electric bike motor models and designs are only suitable for riders that love low cadence effort on pedals), steep uphill climbs, and heavy or very long-distance rides. In that case, then some models like the Shimano STEPS E8000 are the best motors. Another monster on the list would be the TQ HPR 120S.
The problem with these all-out power motor is that they fail to deliver that natural riding experience that most riders crave. Additionally, these powerful motors struggle to conquer trails. Therefore, it would be best to consider a robust engine that can integrate seamlessly into the natural riding experience.
The Fazua and Panasonic are some of the underdogs in the list of electric bike motors. However, the compactness of Fazua Evation allows the engine to be removed from the frame and used as a regular mountain bike. Such ingenious ideas and features make some not-so-known brands very versatile and likable. But it all depends on what the rider wants because some of these motors lack the power that would otherwise classify them as electric mountain bikes. The Panasonic GX 0 comes with an automated mode that highlights the natural ride feeling that comes with lighter motors. Anyway, when it comes to the sheer power that makes the bikes have that eMTB feeling and experience, the powerful motor models are the best.
The last aspect that needs to be featured when deciding on the best electric bike motor, (though no so crucial), is the price of the model. This is perhaps the last factor because the best engines are pricy. However, the budget you are running on can Impact the type of motor you buy. That is not to mean that you will settle on inferior qualities. The best way is to write down the features you would like in your electric bike motor and compare all the models that have those features.
The motor in an electric mountain bike is often referred to as the driving powerhouse of the bike and is the one feature that defines the performance and characteristics of the entire bike. Secondly, there are other factors such as the geometry, suspensions, and overall specifications of the bike that are equally vital in determining the efficiency of the bike. That’s the sole reason why an Ebike motor will always be as good as the overall idea of the bike that it is attached to. The best in test badge would definitely go to one of the Shimano or Bosch models due to their power and compactness, among many additional features. However, it would be unfair to overlook the other models.