The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Electric Scooter Motors 2022
- Read Time: 8 min
The electric scooter motor is the muscle of your e scooter. It is one of the most important parts of your scooter and as such, will set the limits of your scooter's performance. Top speed, acceleration, hill-climbing ability, how much power it consumes, are all criteria determined by your motor type. All electric scooters have at least one motor. Higher performance, as well as extreme performance scooters, will have two.
Two Types of Electric Scooter Motors
Electric scooters use two motor types. Both are DC (Direct Current). You will see the terms brushless (BLDC) motor as well as brushed motors a lot when reading about e scooters. We will explain the differences below
Brushless DC Motors
BLDC, short for Brushless DC Motors, is the newer technology, and it has better performance than the DC brushed motors. The brushless motors are quieter, more efficient, don't overheat as easily, run longer and pack a bigger overall punch. The brushless motor will be the most quality e scooters option.
Brushed DC Motors
The brushed DC motor is an old technology from the 1800s. In this type of electric motor, there are mechanical brushes, usually made of graphite, dragging along inside of the motor making sliding electrical contact with successive segments, coil phases, alternatively as the rotor turns. The brushes eventually wear down from friction which can disrupt the voltage making it act irregularly.
In the Brushless DC motor, this is instead done by digital circuitry switching different power coils in the motor.
Hub vs Chain Drive Motors
Modern electric scooters have hub motors. This means that the motor is placed in the hub of the wheel and drives it directly.
In a chain drive motor, the power is being transferred to the wheel via a set of chains and gears. The hub motor has an advantage in that the power output does not lose energy through the transmission system and there are fewer components that can break.
The hub motor is easier to maintain, easier to repair and they brake down less often.
Geared Vs Gearless Hub Motors
With hub motors, there are two types: geared or gearless. Gearless hub motors are also called direct drive, they use electromagnets to power the electric scooter forward by turning the wheel directly.
Geared hub motors create a movement inside that is transferred to the wheel via a gear mechanism.
There are pros & cons with both of them as described below.
Gearless Hub Motors
Direct drive or gearless hub motors can generally generate more motor power which translates to higher top speed. They are usually a bit heavier than a geared motor, have slower acceleration but once in motion, it builds and maintains speed very efficiently. It being heavier is not as big of an issue on an electric scooter than f.e. an electric bike, since the extra weight adds stability. On a bike, you don't need that but are rather looking for as light a bike as possible.
The hill climbing ability won't be as strong as on a geared hub motor.
Regenerative braking is possible because of the use of electromagnets in a gearless hub motor.
They are less complex and not that much can go wrong with them.
Geared Hub Motors
The geared hub motor will typically be less powerful. However, because of the leverage the gears provide, a less powerful motor can make it more energy-efficient and in fact, produce more power.
Longer range, quicker acceleration, as well as good hill climbing ability, are all pros.
More friction will generate more wear and tear and thus be susceptible to more repairs and a shorter life span, a clear con.
Very strong low-end torque, i.e. quick acceleration. Power consumption will be quicker at a higher cruising speed than on a gearless hub motor though.
With regular cars, we talk about horsepower. The equivalent of electric scooters is Watts. The Watt describes the rate of power flow and is measured by joules or energy per second.
Power consumption vs power production are two different things and it is important to keep this in mind when it comes to wattage numbers. The wattage a certain electric scooter has, tells how much power the motor can consume.
A good analogy is to think of Watts, not in terms of strength or capacity but rather speed or rate. Like the rate of flow through a garden hose or how fast a vehicle is moving.
So a high wattage motor can burn through a lot of energy in a short amount of time.
The higher the motor wattage, usually means quicker acceleration, a higher payload acceptance, and a stronger hill climbing ability.
Because motor technology is different and all motors are not built the same way, the wattage numbers are not the be-all and end-all. Two different motors with the same wattage number, f.e. 500W, only indicate that they can consume 500W of electrical power but they might not produce the same mechanical power or be equally efficient.
Motor power doesn't explain the motor's efficiency and manufacturers don't give out those details at the time of writing.
A simple way of explaining the difference between torque and horsepowers/Watts, is if you think of riding a bicycle. If you ride uphill, the torque is the amount of power you can produce when pressing down on the pedal. Horsepower or Watts is how fast you can do it.
Newton-meters (Nm, or pound-foot for the imperial world) is the measurement for the torque the twisting force produced by the motor gives. The wheels rotate because of the torque produced and that creates forward momentum.
Torque output is not given by most manufacturers of electric scooter motors but there is a way to estimate it. Torque is calculated by multiplying the Newtons of force exerted by the meters of distance from the axis. Torque = Force x Radius.
You can also estimate torque by dividing the motor power by max revolutions per second. Stall torque is where DC motors produce max torque, at zero revolutions per second, and zero torque at the max unloaded revolutions per second.
The idea or thought that a motor's power tells the whole story is not accurate. Efficiency is a key component even for DC electric motors in the same way as for regular combustion engines. If the size and motor power are everything, how come then, that a smaller four-cylinder turbo engine could produce 1400 BHP and win the F1 championship in 1983? Or that today's F1 engines can go a whole race without needing to refuel? And it's not exactly economy driving. It is all about efficiency.
So an electric scooter with a more powerful motor should on paper be faster and stronger. But because of manufacturers' different approaches in construction, as well as how the watts are being measured, it is not necessarily so.
The only way of telling is by straight comparison in real-life circumstances.
You will also notice peak power being mentioned a lot, as well as continuous power. Peak power is basically what the motor can produce in short bursts of time. Peak power is also measured differently and not in a universal way, so don't take it as gospel. Usually, it will be twice or five times that of the continuous figure.
Continuous (or sustained) power is what the scooter can consume over time and is the most useful comparison as far as motor specs go between electric scooters.
How Do Electric Scooter Motors Work?
There is a controller that gets a signal when you hit the throttle. The controller tells the motor to start running, the motor draws energy from the battery and away you go.
What is the Most Powerful Electric Scooter Motor?
At the time of writing, the Rion2 RE90 is the most powerful electric scooter on the market. 12000 Watts of peak power makes it go 100 mph (160 kph).
How to Maintain the Motor on My Electric Scooter?
Most electric scooters will have BLDC motors which require little to no maintenance. Use common sense and don't ask your motor to climb hills it was never meant to do, or riding at max speed all the time.
As you have now learned, most electric scooters will have BLDC motors. Comparing the Wattage between scooters is useful but does not tell the whole story, efficiency is also a key factor.
They very rarely break and require no maintenance.
Generally, though the stronger motor should give a higher top speed, better hillclimbing, and acceleration. The lack of standardization within the industry does cloud the numbers slightly, that's why comparisons from real-world experience and tests are the best to compare with.