How Electric Bike Motors Work

We are all mesmerized by how stuff works, aren’t we?

It, therefore, comes naturally that you would be intrigued by how an ebike works.

And you are spot on in seeking to find out. Because an electric bike motor is the heart of your bike. You will need to learn its working in order to be able to keep your bike in good working condition.

Don’t fret though, if you don’t know how it works. Because we have got your back.

So, how does the ebike motor work?

Motors are propelled by torque. A force that makes things to spin. When power is initiated into the motor, it produces torque that twists into a spin on a drive shaft. The shaft then drives a chainring. The chain drive causes the forward propulsion in supplementation of your pedaling push. 

That above is a quick bite of how electric bike motors work.

Let us now get an in-depth analysis of how the process works. Shall we?


History Of Electric Motors

Old Electric Motor

Contrary to what some ebike users believe the motor propelled ebike is not a recent invention. It dates back to the 1890s.

According to Wikipedia, there have been several patents on electric bike motor development. In 1895, Ogden Bolten Jr is recognized as the first patent holder of a battery-powered bicycle.

It is described to have had, “6 pole brush and communicator direct current hub motor mounted in the rear wheel”. It didn’t have gears. Moreover, it had an amperes guzzling 10v battery.

Then the year is 1897 and enters Hosea W. Libbey from Boston with an electric bicycle whose means of propulsion different. Libbey’s was a “double electric motor”

More Inventions

More inventors have built on his invention. One such was Giant Lafree Electric bicycles.

Others are Mattew J. Stephens who patented a motor-driven bike with a drive button outside the edge of the wheel.

Fast forward to 1969 when G.A Wood Junior filed for a patent an ebike motor powered by gears, from fractional horsepower motors.

Between that time and 1995, there have been numerous other patents on the electric bike motors.

But 1995 is arguably the year when the production of ebike motors increased with the invention of new neodymium magnets, which made mass production of electric motors possible. 

Currently, motor-powered ebikes use has increased and continues to rise. China alone boasts of 120million users. Motor propelled bike sales have surpassed yearly half a million mark in the US and the European markets.

The growth trajectory of the motor-propelled ebikes.

So much for the history, let us now dig into how the ebike motor propels it forward, the various types of motors, their pros, and cons.

Inner Workings Of An Electric Bike Motor

Power comes from a battery goes into the controller. It is the feature that controls how much power goes into the motor.

Now, the ebike motor works depending on whether it is on pedal only mode, pedal-assist mode or throttle mode.

How fast the motor spins in turn spinning the wheel depends on how fast you want your bike to move. Having said that there are three types of e-bike motors.

Introducing The Three Types Of E-Bike Motors

1.E-bike Hub Motors

eBike Hub Motor

They are the most popular of the electric bike motors.

You will find them installed either in the rear or front hubs of your bike. The front and rear hub still comes in other varieties within the two classes: 

  • Direct drive motors. They occupy the whole hub housing. 
  • The geared types. Their internal housing is made up of smaller motors that move the whole hub.
  • The all-encompassing hub type in whose belly is the battery, motor, and controller. 

Front Hub Motor

As the name suggests, it works by pulling your bike forward.


  • You can take advantage of the forward pull while you pedal from the rear wheel.
  • Adaptable to all gears from traditional to recent innovative varieties.
  • Ease of installation, because it is not tied to other components such as chain in the system.
  • Counterbalances the rear weight increased by the battery.


  • Some users report discomfort from the weird front pulling effect.
  • Front hub motors bikes lack the torque sensor pedal assistance.
  • Tend to have been slow because of the low power rating, in 250w-350w range.
  • It creates higher structural demands on the front part of the frame. You will need stronger spokes and forks.

Rear Motor Hubs

The rear electric bike motor works by “pushing” the bike forward


  • It is more popular than the front motor because it is the most commonly available in the market today.
  • With weight concentrated in the rear, the control of the bike is more assured.
  • The regenerative braking in some rear motor models preserves power and restores batteries.
  • The rear electric bike motor is compatible with all the three modes of pedal assist sensors, the cadence, torque, and the throttle.
  • The structural integrity of the rear part of the frame makes possible to install larger wattage motors of up to 750w


  • Installation is more complicated because of the other components such as the chain and derailleur that is attached
  • Because the motor is in the rear, there is poor weight distribution, causing imbalance and poor bike control.

2. Mid Drive Motors

eBike Mid-drive Motor

As the name suggests the mid-drive motor is located in the middle of the bike. It works by engaging the drive train.

The mid-drive power has huge power which can make a bike to conquer steep slopes with ease as well as abilities to gather speed in flat stretches.


  • Enables the bikes to climb through steep slopes with ease.
  • They can make use of the drivetrain higher gears to gain cruiser speeds.
  • Being at the center of the bike the mid-drive mortar provides the perfect balance in the weight distribution of the bike.
  • Ease of installation and dismounting because it is free from entanglement from wiring systems.
  • It has the ability of integration of a variety of sensors such as, cadence, throttle, which would improve your user riding experience.


  • It is more prone to higher wear and tear. Remember power is transmitted through the drive train, exerting more strain on cogs, chains, and derailleurs.
  • You need more skills to ride bikes with these mortars. There is a need to delicately balance when you are alternating between climbing hills and cruising in the stretches.
  • Adapting by using retrofit kits may not be possible in the highly sought after bike models, as they are made to fit only specific ebike frames.

3. Friction Drive Train Motor

eBike Friction Drive Train Motor

This ebike motor has a roller that presses on the bike wheel. It turns the roller which by means of friction pushes the wheel.


  • It has no-breeze quick installation kits that can fit a variety of conventional bikes.
  • Not only is it the simplest of the e-drive systems, but you can also easily install and uninstall.
  • No frictional drag as when the motor is unpowered it detaches from the tire.


  • There is poor contact between the motor-driven roller and the tire in wet weather. Poor grip means their slippage and loss of power.
  • The motor-driven rollers may not be adaptable to all tires.
  • The system is “messy”. It is not so attractive as the other motor system because of the contact of the drive system with the wheel dirt.

We have gone through the types of e-bikes and how they work, the pros and cons of using them.

However, without the interaction with other ebike components below, the motor cannot work.

Other Components That Aid The Ebike Motor


It is the life source of your motor. Without the power from the battery, your motor will be dead until juice power runs into its veins from the attached source.

Most ebikes use Lithium batteries. You should charge your battery as required for optimal performance of your motor.


They command the electric bike motors to rotate pushing the drive train. There are three types of sensors: the cadence, the torque, and throttle. The sensors monitor your peddling.

As you pedal up a hill, for example, they are initiated and relays the command that starts the motor easing your uphill ride. When peddling stops, the motor also stops.

LCD Displays

Ebike Display

It is what the dashboard is to a car. They are located on the bike’s handlebar.

The LCD displays provide a variety of information to the rider. They will show you a variety of data such as the distance traveled and the level of the battery charge.

While they may not display the direct information about the electric bike motor, they inform you about components that make the motors function such as the battery.

Related Questions

How Long Do Ebike Motors Last?

Ebike motors are durable, and they will most probably outlive other components.

However, there is a need to do regular maintenance for this to happen. Also, the life of the motor depends on how often the bike is used, and the terrain.

Is It Possible To Put A Motor On A Conventional Bike?

Any bike can be transformed into an ebike as seen here. This is done by buying an ebike conversion kits.

There are many vendors of these kits on the internet, including on the Amazon at pocket-friendly prices. Plus they are easy to install.

There you have it!

We have covered pretty much everything you may want to know about ebike motors and how they work in this article.

However, this is a vast topic. With innovations not being rare in the motor market, we won’t be surprised if there is new information about them out there.

Give us feedback below. As usual, your opinion is highly regarded.