The electric skateboard community has had a continuous debate about the best electric skateboard motor technology for years now. Are the newer in-wheel hub motors superior to the older belt-driven motor system technology, or vice-versa? Should I buy an electric skateboard with in-wheel hub motors or belt driven motors? The truth is, the technology is completely different and therefore each electric skateboard will ride and feel differently. We’re here to lay out some of the basic pros and cons of each, and we’ll let you decide who’s the real winner.
Using In-Wheel Hub Motors on Electric Skateboards
The Pros of Electric Hub Motors:
- They’re Lightweight and Efficient – In-wheel hub motors are compact by design. Although newer to the e-skate market than belt drives, hub motors have already seen incredible advancements. In-wheel hub motors are more powerful and efficient than ever before.
- Durable and Simple Design – Because there are no pulleys, gears, clutches or motor mounts, hub motors are hard to damage. Tucked safely away in the wheel, brushless motors will last you a long time and they shouldn’t require any maintenance. You may have to occasionally replace the urethane wheel sleeves after heavy use.
- The Motors are Discreet – Compared to belt drive motor systems, in-wheel hub motors are quiet. There are no moving external belts, and the wheel enclosures muffle some of the noise.
- Kick Pushing is a Breeze – If your battery suddenly dies and your electric skateboard doesn’t have a swappable battery, you’re out of luck…unless you have in-wheel hub motors of course! There’s very little resistance when kick pushing. This gives you the freedom to ride it like a normal skateboard or longboard.
- The Brakes Engage Quicker – Most in-wheel hub motors are “direct drive” hubs. When the motor does one rotation, the wheel does too. It doesn’t have to fight against the kinetic energy of rotating belts. This gives you a slightly faster response time with your braking system.
The Cons of Electric Hub Motors:
- Not as Much Torque – Without the extra torque from the rotating belts, direct drive in-wheel hubs need more watts from the battery to spin faster.
- Heat Dissipates Slower – The windings inside the in-wheel hub motor generate heat quickly. Without ventilation holes in the wheels, the motors could overheat during extremely long rides.
- Ventilation = Exposure to the Elements – As in-wheel hub motor technology gets more powerful, it’s likely your wheels will have ventilation holes to release the heat. Being closer to the ground than belt drive motors, your motors are exposed to dust and water.
- Limited Wheel Customization – You can use your favorite brand of wheels for your front trucks, but that’s it. Your rear wheels will need to be whatever stock in-wheel hub motors come with your electric skateboard. On the other hand, belt drive motors allow you to attach the motor to the wheel. This way you can customize all 4 wheels if desired.
- It’s New Technology – In-wheel hub motors weren’t used on electric skateboards until 2016. Although it has it’s limitations as listed above, we’re bound to see this technology improve in no time.
Belt Drive Motors – Are They Better for E-skates?
The Pros of Electric Belt Drives:
- They Transfer More Torque – Since they transfer more torque than in-wheel hub motors, belt drives allow you to accelerate faster when starting from a standstill. This is great for experienced riders, but it would be wise to start with a push!
- The Motors Are (Somewhat) Protected – Belt drive motors are lifted off the ground a few inches more than their in-wheel hub motor counterparts. As a result they come in less contact with larger rocks, road debris and small puddles of water.
- Climbing Hills is Easier – Because of the extra torque, belt drives tend to push your electric skateboard uphill a bit easier.
- Heat Dissipates Faster – During extended rides on your electric skateboard, your motors will heat up. Since the motors aren’t directly inside the urethane wheels, they won’t trap as much heat.
- Flexibility with “Satellite” Placement – The e-skate community refers to satellite drives as a belt drive that you place further away from the wheels. Specifically, you place them on a separate axis from the axis of the wheel. This makes the belt drives a little easier to repair and reduces some direct vibrations on the motors from the road.
The Cons of Electric Belt Drives:
- They Weigh More – Exterior belt drive motors usually are bigger, clunkier and weigh a couple pounds more than electric skateboards with in-wheel hub motors. It may not be a big deal for some, but others prefer a lighter electric skateboard to carry around.
- Kick Pushing is Nearly Impossible – If your battery dies on a ride, you’re better off carrying your board to your destination than trying to push it like a traditional skateboard. Some belts and pulley systems have a ton of resistance without power from the batteries. If your skateboard doesn’t have a swappable battery, be prepared to take the rest of your journey on foot.
- You’ll Need to Replace the Belts – It’s inevitable. If you commute or regularly use your board, the belts will wear out over time. Replacing them isn’t a big deal but there’s always the possibility of getting stranded on your way home if your belts break.
- They’re Loud – While neither belt drives or in-wheel hub motors are completely silent, belt drives take the cake for the noisiest option.
- It’s Old Technology – Belt driven motors have been around for decades. Some may view this as a pro since the kinks have been worked out, but you won’t see much more innovation with these motors.
So are in-wheel hub motors better than belt drives or vice versa?
It all comes down to personal riding preferences. In the past, electric skateboards with belt drive motors were unmatched with power and torque. As we begin to see advancements in technology, and as different hub motor designs such as geared hub motors begin to improve, in-wheel hub motors will inevitably come out on top. That doesn’t mean we can’t love both belt drives and in-wheel hub motors though, right?