Front Wheel E-drive Wins the Day

You will hear ardent advocates of electric assist e-bikes with rear wheel, front wheel or mid-drive systems. Rear wheel advocates claim the riders weight is more pressed on the drive wheel. Front wheel drive advocates note the corrective steering benefits of being pulled around corners and less spinout/ more control. Mid-drive advocates talk of centered weight.
It’s all a bit confusing, so let’s take a different tack to get some clarity. Let’s look at companies that use one type or another of the e-drive systems to shed some light on the ultimate utility of each system. Here’s what many pros and fleet managers have settled on as their chosen configuration. Fleet managers do a lot of research on the merits of the drive-train of bikes and then they spend tens of thousands on the choices they make. There is a lot of responsibility in this and the decision needs to be a careful one. So what are the choices they make? Reliability is a chief concern for them.
• NZ Post is trialing a couple of hundred e-bikes now and has gone through a three year study of e-bike components. They have settled on front wheel drive hub motors with planetary gearing.
• Palmerston North Council settled on front wheel hub-drive with planetary gears.
• New Plymouth Council switched from rear wheel drive to front wheel hub-drive with planetary gears.
• Hamilton Council uses a mix of front wheel and rear wheel hub-drive e-bikes.
• Nelson Council settled on front wheel hub-hub-drive with planetary gearing.
• A meter reading company settled on front wheel hub-drive with planetary gearing.
• Dunedin Council settled on front wheel hub-drive with planetary gearing.
• New Caledonia Ministry settled on front hub-wheel drive with planetary gearing.
I see a clear pattern here. These fleet managers and companies can use whatever system they need, but have chosen to go with front wheel drive with planetary gearing. This flies contrary to the generic Chinese manufacture of rear wheel drive systems for e-bike conversions. The reason that less expensive e-bikes have rear wheel drive is perhaps because it is cheaper to make the rear-wheel drive component.
Front wheel hub drive e-bikes allow internal rear gear shifting (like the old Sturmey Archer units, but better) . Many cargo bike companies use front wheel drive to allow the distinct advantages of internal gearing on the rear pedal driven wheel. Extracycle, Juiced Cycles, Yuba and eZee are examples of major companies that use front wheel drive systems on their cargo bikes. The ayes have it.