Everything to know about EV Chain Drive, Belt Drive, and Hub Motor Drive


For a very long period of time chains was a primary element in a drive train for a Two-wheeler. In those drive trains, the chain transfers the power generated by pedalling to the back wheel of the bike and the bike is then propelled forward by the rear wheel. Recently however belt drives are replacing chain drives due to a variety of reasons. Many of the companies have already started with the belt drives and the trend is expected to stay here for a very long period.

In this article, we will compare and contrast belt drives, chain drives and Hub drives which are entirely different from the other two in detail. This will assist you in deciding whether you desire a belt or chain drive for your electric bike. 

We all know about chain drives so we can directly go to the Belt drive and compare them with the chain drive.

Belt Drive

The belts used in Electric bikes are made out of a polymer belt that is reinforced with carbon fibres for improved strength and other desirable mechanical properties. Replacing a chain drive with a belt drive can give you immediate benefits like,

  • Lower maintenance
  • Longer lifespan and silent operation.

Now let us analyse certain aspects of chain and belt drives and compare them for a holistic understanding of the topic.

#1. Longevity

Belt drives outlast chains by a long shot because belts can even persist three or four times longer. Chains may wear down after as few as 1000 miles, especially if you’re riding in less-than-ideal circumstances. When we say less-than-ideal conditions we mean the conditions which can work against the chains like mud or rainy condition which has the potential to corrode the chains. 

At the same time, a belt drive has a long life span of over 10,000 miles. They’ve been known to last up to 20,000 kilometres in certain situations. Even in less-than-ideal circumstances, this is possible. 

Belts last longer as a result of these factors,

  • Carbon fibres flow throughout the belts, making them very robust and long-lasting.
  • On the side that comes into touch with the cogs, belts have a nylon wear-resistant fabric.
  • The gears that belts go-between are composed of tough stainless steel that will endure a long time.
  • Unlike chains, belts do not extend with time and a chain is extended, the tension is reduced.

#2. Operating Voice Level

Belt drives are quite silent. Unlike chains, which produce a mechanical sound as they move, the belt makes no sound as it moves. Furthermore, there is no derailleur shifting while changing gears with belt drives, therefore there is no additional sound.

However, if you’re pedalling in a busy city centre or if the engine on your electric bike produces noise, this may not make a significant impact. Many individuals, on the other hand, appreciate the peacefulness of belt drives. However, after lubrication, chains can run quietly. Belt drives, on the other hand, are always silent.

#3. Corrosion & Resting

Corrosion and resting are directly associated with the lifespan of a machine component. Belts do not tarnish in the slightest but Chains, on the other hand, are prone to rust, especially if they aren’t well maintained. Salt and water have little effect on belts, but they may seriously impact chains. Belts can be useful if you live in an area where it rains frequently. It also implies that you may clean a belt with water without worrying about rusting it. This means that you won’t need to buy any special chemicals or sprays to clean your belts.

#4. Maintenance Requirements

Belts are much easier to maintain than chains. This is related to the above-mentioned durability and the fact that belts do not corrode. Chains should be lubricated on a regular basis since they are prone to corrosion. Lubricating your chain will maintain it in good shape and help it perform more efficiently. Belts, by the way, never need to be lubricated.

Belts are also easier to clean than chains. Mud and debris are significantly more likely to become entangled in chains. This can increase corrosion and cause chains to lock up. If you ride in muddy off-road situations frequently, you should clean your chain on a regular basis.

#5. The Issue of Derailing

Belts are significantly less prone than chains to derail from the rest of the system. The inside side of the belts is toothed. To prevent the belt from sliding off, this toothed surface on the belt interlinks with teeth on the gears.

Gates belt drives include a middle track, which helps keep the belt from sliding off the gears. This centre track is an elevated track that goes through the middle of the cog’s diameter. There is also an indentation extending down the middle of the belt’s inner side and this depression in the belt corresponds to the cogs’ central track.

#6. Keeping It Clean

Belts are far cleaner than chains. The reason for this is related to the fact that belt drives require less maintenance than chain drives. Because belts do not require lubrication, they are not oily or greasy. Chains, on the other hand, do require lubrication, as previously stated. So, if you’re riding a bike with a chain, oil and grease may get on your jeans. Some motorcycles with a chain, however, feature a chain guard. This will assist to reduce the chances of getting grease and oil on your jeans. Also, as previously said, if you have to rejoin a derailed chain, you will most likely get oil on your hands.

#7. Considering The Weight

Chains are heavier than belts however, this isn’t the whole picture. Whether a chain or a belt drive is lighter depends on whether your bike is single speed or includes gears. If you’re not sure, a single-speed bike is one that has only one gear ratio.

Belts must always be absolutely straight between the front and back gears in order to function correctly. This implies that belt drives are unable to use the same standard gear schemes as chain drives, such as a derailleur and cassette. Instead, an internally geared hub is required if you want gears on a belt-drive bike.

The gear system is housed inside this device, which is located in the centre of the back wheel. These internally geared hubs, on the other hand, are rather heavy. As a result, if you have a belt drive and an internally geared hub, your entire arrangement is likely to be heavier than if you have a chain drive.

#8. Cost considerations

Chain drives are more expensive than belt drives. As a result, a belt drive adds more expense to an electric bike than a chain drive. Belt drives are a more recent technology than chains, and they provide a number of benefits. As a result, you get what you paid for. If you have an internally geared hub, the price will go up much more.

However, belt drive systems can pay for themselves. Belt drives, as previously stated, may last 3 to 4 times longer than chain drives. So, after you’ve installed a belt-drive, you shouldn’t have to replace it for a long time. It will very definitely need to be replaced far sooner than a chain drive system. As a result, a belt drive might cost as much as a chain drive over time. In some circumstances, at least not a lot more. This is after accounting for replacements and the initial outlay. However, the cost is also determined by the quality of the parts, which varies for both driving systems.

#9. Belt Drive and EVs

A downside of using a belt drive on an electric bike is that you may be limited in the motors you may use. Mid-drive or hub motors are the two types of electric bike motors. Mid-drive motors are located between the pedals in the centre of the bike. Hub motors are located in the centre of the front or back wheel, respectively.

You can’t have a rear hub motor on an electric bike with a belt drive and an internally geared hub (as mentioned above). As a result, you’ll need either a front hub motor or a mid-drive motor. If a rear hub motor is your chosen motor, this will be a disadvantage. 

Both belt and chain drives are used in E-Bikes powered by Mid-Motor power trains and there is another drive train where the motor is integrated into the wheels and they are called Hub Motors.

Hub Motor Drive 

A hub drive motor, which is built into the front or rear wheel, is the most common form of motor seen on less expensive E-bikes. A hub drive provides torque to the wheel directly, irrespective of the gears on your bike.

Hub Motors eliminate the necessity of chains or belts to transmit power from one area to another because in the Hub Motor drive system power generation and utilization takes place in almost the same place.

Now let us look at aspects of E-Bikes powered by Hub Motors

#1. The Quality of The Ride

Mid-drive motors are frequently seen as the more ‘premium’ alternative because they function at the pedals. The torque from the motor is transferred to the chain or belt, which makes the ride more natural.

Because mid-drives are located in the middle of the bike and directly beneath you, the bike feels more balanced and natural to ride than a hub-drive E-Bikes, which have weight unbalanced toward the back or front of the bike. Hub-drives are sometimes described as feeling like they are pushing (rear hub motors) or dragging (front hub motors) you along.

#2. Gears

One of the main advantages of a mid-drive versus a hub drive is that it can use your bike’s gears. Mid-drive motors are often calibrated to run efficiently at a natural pedalling cadence, whereas electric motors function more efficiently at higher RPMs. As a result, when you’re pedalling in the proper gear, the motor will be at ease.

All of this means that, given comparable power and torque, a mid-drive motor would normally outperform a front-drive motor while climbing steep slopes, provided you shift to the proper gear. The ability to operate together with your gears has numerous advantages, such as increased range, and it adds to most mid-drive vehicles’ more ‘natural’ ride feel.

Aside from hill-climbing, rear hub motors are incompatible with most internal gear hubs, which are popular on E-Bikes because of their inexpensive maintenance and ability to change from a stop. That also means you’re out of luck if you want to employ a more robust belt drive while still having gears (unless you buy one of the rare E-Bikes with a Pinion gearbox).

#3. Maintenance and convenience

But it’s good not to have to peddle every now and again. You’ll almost probably choose a hub-drive type if you want a throttle on your E-Bikes. There aren’t many mid-drive models with throttles, but having one can help compensate for the lack of a torque sensor on some hub drives.

Mid-drives, on the other hand, can be more convenient in terms of general maintenance and repairs. If you have a flat tyre, replacing the rear wheel on a mid-drive is just as straightforward as it is on a regular bike, however, removing the rear hub may require specific equipment.

#4. Range

Mid-drive motors nearly usually offer a longer range than equally powered hub drives because they work at more efficient RPMs when used in combination with your bike’s gears. When comparing a mid-drive motor with a torque sensor to a hub-drive E-Bikes without one, this is especially true.

#5. Value

There are very few mid-drive E-Bikes under $2,000, especially from well-known brands, but there are lots of economical hub-drive E-Bikes.

Hub motors are less expensive not because they are of poorer quality, but because they are less complicated and hence less expensive to manufacture. Hub motors are just as durable as, if not more so than, mid-drives in terms of durability.