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All e-bike mid-drive motors compared

Published: 25 January 2020
Last updated: 03 July 2024

Which e-bike mid-drive motor is the best?

In this article, mid-drive motors of 250W and maximal 3.5kg are compared from a mechanical viewpoint

Mid-drive motor / gearbox combinations

Recently (2023) a number of promising mid-drive motor - gearbox combinations have been introduced.

These have major advantages:

  • No separate gear needed
  • The gear and the motor are exactly matched
  • Weight savings

See the article here.

All mid-drive motors

Mid drive motor Net weight [kg] Power [W] Torque [Nm] Zero cadence
Gear ratio Gear stages 3rd party
TQ-HPR50 1.85 300 50 Y  17  1 2*) Y
Specialized SL 1.1 1.95 240 35 N N Y N N
Fazua Ride 60 1.96 250 60 N N Y N
Kynamic 2.3 250 70
Bafang M800 2.3 200 55 Y Y
Bafang M820 2.3 250 75 Y 940
Yamaha PW-XM 2.6 250 85 Y N
Shimano EP8 2.6 250 85 $1100
Hyena UniDrive 70 2.7 250 70 Y N
Yamaha PW-X3 2.75 250 85 Y N
MPF3 2.9 250 75 Y
Okawa A70 3 250 90 Y
Bafang M500 3.3 250/500 95 Y 3 Y
Panasonic GX 2.95 250 90  ? Y N
Polini E-P3  2.9 250 70 Y Y N
Bosch Active Line 3 250 40 N 14.2 1 N N 549
Bosch Perf. Line CX 2.9 250 85 Y Y 645
Brose Magnesium 2.9 250 90 Y 27 3 belt N Y N
Shimano E8000 2.88 250 70 3 N Y N N
Delta 2.9 250 90 Y
Motinova MIGIC T1  3 250 75 N
Yamaha PW-X2 1*) 3.1 250 80 Y 47.7 2 w. hack Y N N
Metz 2.8 250 85 N
OLI Sport 85 3.5 250 83 N
Sachs RS 3.5 250 110 N
Tongsheng TSDZ2 3.8 250 80 Y 41 2 Y
Bafang BBS02 3.8 250 80 Y 20 2 Y
Pendix 4.4 250 65 N 1 direct dr. N N Y

1*) The Yamaha PW-X2 is also used by Giant and is called the SyncDrive Pro.
2*) Harmonic Pin Ring Transmission

Why compare mid-drive motors on mechanics?

Ebike mid-drive motors are often compared with each other, but this relates always to behavior and performance and these properties are mainly determined by software. With another software or motor controller, mid-drive motors may behave completely different.
Most motors use pedal assist control and this is in particular very software dependent. The differences in driving experience, and the many tests you find in magazines, are mainly caused by the pedal-assist software and not by the motor itself.

Mid-drive motors compared from a mechanical viewpointMid-drive motors compared from a mechanical viewpoint

All 250W mid-drive motors have about the same characteristics

It is important to know that, from a mechanical viewpoint, all well-built mid-drive motors of 250W are more or less the same. That is because all use the same motor type: a permanent magnetic motor. By nature, all small permanent magnetic motors have equal characteristics. From a mechanical viewpoint, the only substantial difference in performance is determined by the gear ratio. In practice, the maximum motor power will be limited by the motor controller and the software, but in this article, we focus on mechanical properties. 

The best motor power graph

Here is the motor power graph of the Yamaha PW-SE. This mid-drive motor has one of the largest gear ratios, and therefore the highest efficiency. I have measured the motor parameters and made the motor graph, see the article about the Yamaha PW-SE.

The best motor power graph with YamahaThe best motor power graph with Yamaha

It is very important to know that it is almost impossible to develop a motor with a much higher efficiency. This is due to the laws of physics, there is no better conductive material than copper and there are hardly any better permanent magnets than Neodymium.

This graph with motor curves circulates on the internet, but it is not correct, compare the yamaha with my graph above:

Mid-drive motors compared WRONG GRAPHMid-drive motors compared WRONG GRAPH

Maximum motor power

Note that the power of a permanent magnetic motor is a relative term. A 250W motor can easily deliver a much more power, for example 500W, and that occurs in practice, when accelerating and going uphill. The official motor power is the power that can be delivered continuously without overheating or otherwise being overloaded. Of course, this is never exactly 250W.

Why using a mid-drive motor?

For a high efficiency, a permanent magnetic motor must have a high speed, see this article.
When driving uphill, the speed is low but the required power is high. A hub motor has a low speed uphill and thus a very poor efficiency. The speed of a mid-drive motor depends on the cadence and therefore remains approximately constant.

What is the best mid-drive motor?

For my Maxun One solarbike, I’m looking for the best mid-drive motor that is available at the moment. I want to have maximum performance combined with minimum weight. Because I want to use speed control by throttle, instead of the standard pedal assist control, I have to use an external motor controller. Thus, because of the external motor controller, only the mechanical properties of the motor are of interest. That is why I have established a number of essential criteria that the motor must met.

Lightweight solarbike drives entirely by solar energyLightweight solarbike drives entirely by solar energy

Zero cadence support

With many mid-drive motors, such as the Bosch, the bottom bracket always rotates when the motor is on. That is a disadvantage, it is handy to be able to drive away without having to pedal. This requires a motor with two internal freewheels; also called one-way clutches. It is also nice to be able to drive just by turning the pedals around without any force.

Mid-drive motor freewheelMid-drive motor freewheel

Note that the Specialized SL 1.1 motor appears to be the lightest mid drive motor. But it lacks an important feature: it doesn't have zero cadence support.

Specialized SL 1.1 motor Zero cadence supportSpecialized SL 1.1 motor has no zero cadence support

3rd party battery

Note that my Maxun One solar bike needs a special LiFePO4 battery because normal lithium batteries cannot withstand the high charging current of the PV panels.
To my knowledge, Yamaha is the only brand where you can use your own battery. Although the motor is protected against this, it can be hacked easily, see here:
By the way, you can use your own battery on any motor you want, with the use of an external motor controller.

Throttle control / power-on-demand

With throttle control you can direct control the motor power, as opposed to pedal assist, where the motor power depends on the pedal force. Since my solar bike drives entirely by solar energy, I don't necessarily have to pedal. That is why I want to use only throttle control. But, due to the legal rules, the pedals must be turned around to enable motor assist.

Low weight

Why does an ebike have to be lightweight? For riding on a flat road, a few kilos more or less don’t matter much. But a lightweight ebike is useful when you have to walk up a staircase, for example at a train station without a lift. An ebike of 25kg is unmanageable, but a 15kg ebike can easily be lifted with one hand, so every kilo of weight saving is important.

Very lightweight e-bikeVery lightweight e-bike

Motor power

There are 250W motors wherein the same type is also available in more power. For instance, the 250W Bafang M500 is the same as the Bafang M600 with 500W power. The power of the M500 is just limited to 250W due to legal regulations. The advantage of these motors is that they are mechanically over-dimensioned when using just 250W. The table then shows 250/500.

Gear ratio

For a high efficiency, the internal motor must have a high motor speed, see this article:
For a high motor speed, a high gear ratio is required. That is why the gear ratio GR is important. The motor speed is cadence x GR.

Gear stages

Generally, the efficiency of a gearbox decreases with the number of gear stages. A small housing requires gearwheels with small diameters, but this has the disadvantage that more gear stages are needed.
For example: The Bafang M500 has three gear stages with small gear wheels.
The Bosch Active Line has just one gear stage, so the gear efficiency is high. But the gear ratio is low, and a very small motor gear has to be used. This has impact on the maximum allowed output torque.
The motor with the best gearbox is the Yamaha PW-X2, it has a large housing that allows large gear wheels. It needs just 2 gear stages. The gear ratio is the highest of all mid-drive motors, so we can assume that the Yamaha PW-X2 has the highest motor efficiency.

The gears inside a mid-driv motorThe gears inside a mid-driv motor

Shimano EP8 gear ratio

This motor has a low weight of 2.6kg, which makes it interesting. I was curious about the efficiency and that's why I have to know the gear ratio. I tried to calculate the total gear ratio following what I saw on this video. The Shimano EP8 has 3 gear stages. Starting with the motor side, the ratios are 8/41, 13/48, ~32/~54 (I don't know exactly the last one). If anyone has calculated it more accurate, I'd love to hear it.

SHIMANO EP8 mid-drive motor 3 stage gear calculationsSHIMANO EP8 mid-drive motor 3 stage gear calculations

So, the total gear ratio is about 32, that's not very good and smaller than that of the Yamaha PW-X2 (47.7). So the Yamaha PW-X2 will have a higher efficiency. But note that the Yamaha PW-X and PW-X2 have a nylon gearwheel inside that often breaks, see my article about that issue.

Conversion kit

Most motors such as Bosch, Yamaha etc. cannot be purchased separately by private individuals. Bafang is the only brand that sells motors to them.

Bafang is the only motor available as conversion kitBafang is the only motor available as conversion kit

Crank system

Some mid-drive motors have a ISIS crank system. This system is more robust and there is a wide choice of lightweight cranks.

Tongsheng TSDZ2

I have a separate page about the TSDZ2 vs Bafang BBS02, see HERE.

I also want to reduce the weight to 2.5 kg see this article.

The best mid-drive motor

These mid-drive motors are the best in my opinion:
Polini E-P3
Yamaha PW-X2
Shimano EP8

Polini E P3Polini E P3

Yamaha PW X2Yamaha PW X2

The most important requirements are met:

  • Double freewheels
  • High gear ratio
  • Low weight

Unfortunately, all are not available separately by private individuals.

New mid-drive motors

There are some new motors since 2019:

  • Metz
  • OLI Sport 85
  • Sachs RS

Who can help complete the missing data in the list?

You can comment on the forum at Endless SphereEndless Sphere.

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