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 choosing hub motors or belt-driven 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-driven 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. 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-driven electric longboards is that you can usually adjust the tension to your liking. 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.
Another positive aspect of belt-driven 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. 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-driven electric longboards over hub-driven electric longboards. The belt-driven 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 with sudden trigger movements. Shaboardz sells a couple of different belt-drive boards. Their MTN model offers all the things I just talked about and a smooth ride over different terrains. Check it out: https://www.shaboardz.ca/product/electric-mountain-board/
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. I must say the hub motors in some ways feel more responsive and the responsivity of the hub motors doesn’t seem to adjust at all over time (unless the motor is compromised or faulty). This is definitely a pro as you never have to factor in any adjustments to your controls or braking and accelerations. 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. Shaboardz offers hub-drive motors on multiple boards. A good example of a budget board, with this drive-train would be their Coast model: https://www.shaboardz.ca/product/best-value-electric-longboard/
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 kilometers 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. I mentioned earlier that belt-drive motors may be overall more cost-effective than hub-drive motors. This is especially true if the hub motor is put through severe terrain or constantly beat up in the process of riding. If your hub motor breaks you’d literally be replacing a wheel and motor at the same time (if you include the motor sleeve). 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-driven 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-driven motor. 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?