Electric Longboards: Hub Drive vs Belt Drive
Throughout the evolution of the electric longboard, we have seen a fork in the road that many riders encounter when choosing the right board for them. While searching for the perfect board a rider will eventually come across a decision that will alter their electric longboard riding style and type!
I’m talking about the decision between hub drive vs belt drive motors.
I’m going to break down the difference between the two and how to choose which one is the right option for you. I want to first stress that I don’t think one of these types is better than the other.
I personally think both have pros and both have cons. So if you’re set on one being overwhelmingly better than the other I’d like for you to come into this with an open mind and with practical considerations.
Belt-drive motors seemed to be the most common type when electric longboards first came into the market. They were mostly endorsed and used by Boosted Boards which at the time was probably the most mainstream electric longboard available.
As such many new riders were almost automatically synchronized to have a belt-driven electric longboard. I for one did and still do have a belt-driven board. There are certainly pros and cons to having one.
Easy Belt Change Benefit
On the bright side every time I swap an old belt for a new one, my electric longboard suddenly feels like a brand new board. It rides with more responsivity and less slip as well as having less stress when attempting to ride uphill.
The other aspect I appreciate for belt-drive electric skateboards is that you can usually adjust the tension to your liking – learn how to do that here. For example, if you prefer to have a more responsive board (but add more stress to the lifespan of your belts) you may want to tighten your belts as much as possible.
Whereas if you’d prefer to have a slightly less responsive board but increase the lifespan of your belt, you can leave them more on the looser side. That being said you never want to overtighten or under-tighten your belts unless you have an endless supply and don’t mind adding extra stress to your motors as well.
Belt Drive motors tend to Last Longer
Another positive aspect of belt-drive motors, as opposed to the hubs, would be that the motors themselves are likely to last longer than a hub motor. I’ll outline this further in the article, but replacing a belt every so often can be more cost-effective than replacing hub motors.
That being said if you are constantly riding your electric longboard you may start going through belts so frequently that the overall cost exceeds the amount you’d spend replacing a single hub motor over time. Shaboardz has a wide selection of electric skateboard belts available and ship them out quickly, so you can repair your broken belt within a couple of days.
This is one reason I recommend belts for those electric longboard riders that are hobbyists and are not necessarily riding their electric longboards every day. This especially makes sense if you live in an environment where electric longboard riding is seasonal such as Vancouver, Canada.
I also appreciate the acceleration and braking for most belt-drive electric longboards over hub motor electric longboards. The belt-drive electric longboards seem smoother to me upon acceleration and braking than that of a hub motor which for some reason feels far too instant and jerky.
With a belt drive, it just seems like the board takes a slight moment to start rolling, and as such the electric longboard is less likely to feel jerky when you push the toggle on your remote.
I was lucky enough to ride a Summit XT model from Shaboardz all last summer and was impressed with everything the board has to offer during our group rides and on my commutes. The 66T pulleys are bigger than what most brands use and this provided the board with extra torque for climbing hills in my neighborhood.
That’s another thing I like about belt-drive set-ups – I can change the pulley size to get more torque or increase the top speed of the board. Hub drive boards don’t have this option, as there are no pulleys.
The fact you can customize belt-drive electric skateboards with all kinds of different wheels and pulley gives the rider the option to personalize the look and ride of their board exactly how they want to!
For instance, if I want to get a higher top speed out of my board, then I’ll install a smaller pulley on the drive wheels. If I want to increase the torque for climbing hills, then I know I’ll need to install a larger pulley, as that results in more power / acceleration.
For smaller street wheels, there are two main pulley styles – ABEC & Kegel. Most brands use ABEC but some use Kegel. These pulleys are offered in a number of different sizes and are measured by the number of teeth they have – Example: 36T means the pulley has 36 teeth. 36T is a small pulley and will result in a higher top speed, but less torque when compared to a pulley with 40 teeth (40T).
All-terrain wheels generally only have one style pulley for that specific AT wheel, but most brands will offer a number of sizes, like Shaboardz does: 60T pulley along with the 66T pulley I mentioned earlier in the article. These larger pulleys on all-terrain wheels are better for hill climbing and riding off-road, as bigger wheels and more torque from the larger pulley will conquer rougher terrain, in comparison to smaller wheels and pulleys.
The Rise of Hub Drive Motors
Over time as electric longboards became more popular and new companies formed we saw new methods of motor implementation and electric longboard designs come into play with hub-based motors. A new wave of electric longboard riders hit the scene and fell in love.
Benefits of a Hub Drive Motor
I must say the hub motors in some ways feel more responsive, and that responsivity of the hub motors doesn’t seem to decline over time (unless the motor is compromised or faulty).
This is definitely a pro, as you never have to factor in any adjustments to braking or acceleration, as you may have to with a worn out belt on a belt-drive board. As a rider, you can rely on the fact that your board should respond the same way regardless of the age of your electric longboard and hub motors.
Hub motor boards are generally cheaper than belt-drive boards too, so if you’re just getting started, you can benefit from the low cost of a hub motor board.
Longer Lasting Motor
With hub motors on your electric longboard, you will never have to worry about a belt snapping while you are riding. This can especially give you peace of mind when you are bombing down a hill at 40 kilometres an hour or more.
The last thing you want to have happened is a belt to snap off in this situation as your braking will essentially be non-existent. Even with two belts, it can take the board a long time to respond when one breaks off.
To put this into perspective for you I actually ran into this exact situation myself. I was fortunate to have been able to ride out the hill until I came across a flat part of the road where my board finally started to slow down to a stop.
Hub drive boards tend to be a cheaper alternative to belt-drive boards, as most budget electric longboards have hub motors. For beginners, hub boards are usually the go-to option, as they can get in at a low price point
But, if your hub motor breaks you’d literally be replacing a wheel and motor at the same time. This would be more costly than replacing just a snapped belt on a belt-drive board. If you’re riding your hub motor board off-road, then there’s a higher probability of the motor braking, as the motor is inside the wheel that is taking a beating from the rough terrain. Compare this to a belt-drive board where the motors sit up off of the ground.
This could be costly over time depending on the reliability and quality of your hub motor. Remember that motors usually cost a couple of hundred dollars when it comes to parts and that belts can vary between 10.00-60.00 depending on their size, type, and quality.
This is why I usually recommend belt-drive electric longboards for those riders that are more likely to be hobbyists and won’t be riding their electric longboards all day, every day. That being said the other factor is the riding style and feel – I for one prefer the acceleration and braking of a belt-driven motor and am not a fan of the jerky feeling I get when I ride a hub drive board.
At the end of the day, I don’t think one is better than the other as opposed to the notion that one is more suitable for individual riders than the other. The question remains, which one is for you?