There are two types of electric drive systems for electric-assist bicycles: hub motors or mid-motors. As the name implies, hub motors place the electric motor in the front or rear wheel hub to help you move the bicycle down the road. A mid-motor puts an electric motor and gears right on the pedal shaft and boosts your pedal power directly, transmitting it through a chain or belt to the rear wheel.

Early electric bicycles from 2000 or so mainly used hub motors on the front or rear wheel. Many of these came from Taiwanese or Chinese suppliers. Some were direct-drive hubs; others were geared hubs which often used injected-moulded-and-not-particularly-shock-resistant plastic gears. The quality varied, but, with their hand-wound stators and somewhat lacklustre engineering, most didn’t—to be kind—meet high-reliability standards. If those early eBikes weren’t the hallmark of reliability, most bicycle shops—who were new to electric vehicles as well—were also struggling to deal with the new technical challenges. As you can imagine, this didn’t always make for happy customers.

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