lets talk motor wattage

dingding

New Member
Region
USA
Hello fellow Ebike friends

First time poster.. soon to be Ebike rider...

I am shopping for my first Ebike. From my research I have learned that I want a mid drive. My question is.. what is up with all the bikes with motors rated less that 500 watts? In my research I learned that higher watt motor is good. Yet, I am seeing many mid drive bikes with 250 watt motors.

For an every day commuter bike on relatively flat, big city urban streets.. should I consider a 250 watt motor?

I would love for you to help me choose a bike. I have done several days of internet searching and this forum keeps coming up at the top of all searches. You all are the Goliath in the mire of Ebike info.

Short back story:
I regularly biked in the inner city of Philadelphia for 10 years.
Then I commuted with a 49cc scooter for 10 years in the same inner city.
Then went back to regular bike for past 8 years, same city terrain.
I am fat and old. Go figure.

Range is not a concern since all bikes seem to endure more than my prerequisite of 5 miles in one go.
Power is king/queen. That, and reliability.

Ebikes are only now appearing at brick and mortar shops around my city. Yet most shops only offer dismal selections that suite my style taste. Buying direct from an internet only provider is not so scary… I am confident I can make the right blind choice with your help.

Are 250 watt motor Ebikes even worth real consideration when my budget is around $3,000.00 USD? At that budget why would I even consider a bike that is less than 500watts. From all I read and seen of bikes offerings, it seems crazy to choose an approx $3k bike that is less that 500watts.. mid drive or hub.. Am I wrong?

I am 75% willing to sacrifice my choice of bike style for performance. And by performance, I mean hauling my fat xss to work every day if it is not raining or under 29F degrees. (Side note.. bungee cording or duct taping parcels and bags of groceries that exceed OSHA regulations is to be expected}

In the sea of all the Ebikes, I am looking for a way to filter out the crap I don’t want when I peruse vendor offerings. Will you help me? When I filter for the big 2.. mid drive and over 500 watts I am left with little style choice. It seems crazy to me, but should I even consider a 250 watt motor on a mid drive bike?

PS:
Should I rush to buy now with all the xmas sales or be chill and expect some sweet after xmas bargains?

Yours truly, the Ebike idiot
Ring da bell..
Dingding
 
if your talking Bosch or specialized and such then 250 watts will get you steep hills. you will have to put effort into it but you can climb about anything. I can do this hill with my trek bike.
IMG_1242.jpeg
 
@fooferdoggie
I had to close one eye looking at this nightmare picture you share. I would never.. ever choose to live in such hell. I have a hill phobia.

In my environ the devil is best know as SEPTA. I seek the magic power to be nimble enough not to be crushed by menacing buses, taxi, and rude suv/truck/car drivers singing odes to their depravities that only they enjoy while they wipe their lips clear of spittle with one hand.. while texting with the other.

ring da bell
dingding
 

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@dingding,
To make a long story short:
So called 250 W is the nominal power for Euro legal considerations. So called full-power 250 W mid-drive e-bikes offer far more of max power, which could be around 500 W (mechanical). A mid-drive e-bike takes the advantage of gearing (drivetrain) so they are efficient and good climbers. Hub-drive (internally geared) motors do not take the drivetrain advantage and offer far less torque at the same power, so these need to be far more powerful to match the mid-drives.

US$3,000 is not very much for a decent mid-drive motor e-bike. The easy choice is to look at the offerings of the Big Three: Specialized, Trek, Giant. A demo ride is vital to confirm your choice. And having a good LBS that will handle warranty and repairs around you is the most important.
 
A 250w mid-drive works fine for flatland commuting, and many 36v Class 1 ebikes at that price are relatively lighter weight (several are under 50lb) which helps if you do a multi modal commute and want to lift your ebike onto a bus bike rack like on that Septa bus photo posted above.
 
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Power ratings by manufacturers are meaningless. Manufacturers don't tell us how they measure their motors' power, and each manufacturer probably does it differently. The easiest way to comply with EU law is to say that the motor has a nominal output of 250 watts, even when they can provide 500 watts or more.

@dingding, to answer your question: Yes, a mid-drive 250-watt motor is more than sufficient for 5 miles on flat or hilly terrain. You will probably find that different brands feel stronger despite being rated the same 250 watts. I have found, for example, that Yamaha motors are stronger than Bosch motors despite being rated the same 250 watts.
 
From a fellow beginner/novice:

I shopped the same “big three” mentioned above: Giant, Trek and Specialized. I was also completely new to the E-Bike world, but I knew I didn’t want a cheap Chinese knock-off or gimmick bike - I wanted a versatile “real” e-MTB with sufficient assist for my age/condition (pushing 65 and not exactly in shape).

I chose Specialized (Turbo Tero for my anticipated type of riding) and I’m glad I did for a variety of reasons, but mainly specs for the $. Price was a little higher than Giant, a little lower than Trek, and components and specs were better than both at that price point. I also really like the specialized display and app.

As for your riding conditions, again as stated above, a mid-drive bike rated at 250w will easily do the job, and it can also be ridded for fitness and recreation. I have hills like the one pictured above in every direction (but longer) away from home and also on my return (since I live on a knoll) so my bike, with me in the pilot seat, has been well tested, even when I’m worn out form a good workout.

Also $3,000 will get you in the door on any of the three aforementioned and you can likely buy at 10% below msrp after Christmas. From my experience researching, shopping, and riding (still a novice but its obvious my choice worked out well) I would reccomend you take a very close look at Specialized Vado 3.0. You don’t need the few improved components and increased battery of the higher models (4.0 and 5.0) and it comes with lights, fenders, and rack, and provides assist up to 28mph (good for traffic safety). I didn’t dig deep enough into Giant or Trek to learn the various models, but I’m sure they have similar offerings.

The Specialized formula works well - do a test ride and make sure you check out start or launch assist (don’t recall the exact term) which from the factory is in the “Trail” mode but can be switched to Eco ot Tubo. It provides an extra boost to get you going, then the bike settles in to whatever power level you have it set on. Very helpful, especially starting on a hill, in the wrong gear, or with a heavy load. I weigh over 230, so this I know….
 
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The whole motor-wattage thing is widely used solely because wattage is stated by government regulations to measure output. However, for the rider it is functionally meaningless. Torque output is what actually matters (the technical term is 'oomph'). Regulators missed this boat when they wrote up the first versions of ebike regs in olden times, and like good little bureaucrats, all subsequent regulations that sprang off the originals parroted the wattage limits, despite their irrelevance (I am ignoring the conspiracy talk regarding the bicycle industry influencing the limits to hamstring ebike use).

Find out how many Newton Meters the motor puts out as a peak value. Use that as your relative indicator of one motor's power versus another. Nm unlike watts are largely unregulated (I am also ignoring the 4x-multiplier stuff and you should too... forget I even mentioned it). Many manufacturers have, over the last couple-three years, stopped advertising a 250w limit and instead have converted their brochure materials to exclusively talk about Nm output.

With all of that said, what is the motor wattage rating useful for? At best, its an indicator of how much sustained power a motor can continuously pump out over time before it starts cooking itself (in particular, the motor windings). But even this is not universal. There are manufacturers who do nothing to a higher-wattage-rated motor's internals and then slap a '250w' rating on the casing simply to make it legal in 250w jurisdictions. to make a determination like this, you need to understand the internals of the motor and how those relate to its siblings, or near competitors. So... still useless.
 
A $4500 Gazelle has 85 Newton meters of torque. From my experience over 100Nm causes problems. Class 1 bikes can be had from local shops for about $3,000, that is if you want something decent with a torque sensor mid-drive. Those bikes have about 40Nm. As mentioned, a higher watt number is sort of useless. It can indicate the lack of efficiency, like a clunky car with a lower MPG that burns fuel at a higher rate. You would also need to know Amps. Another consideration is service life cost.
 
Hello Friends

Thank you ALL! This feed back has been very helpful! I knew I came to right forum!

Yours truly, the Ebike idiot
Ring da bell..
Dingding
 
To rock the boat a little-
For your ride, you don't need a lot of power, and I see little justification for going mid drive. A plain vanilla 500w geared hub drive bike that comes with a throttle is far far easier to ride. Plenty of pep (amazing actually) from a stop or when crossing a street, and proper shifting is far less critical to performance. Long story short, they're brain dead to ride and most can provide excellent service life. Swing a leg over, use the throttle to get the bike moving while collecting your balance for a couple of feet, and continue pedaling with the degree of assistance you prefer....

Nice examples of bikes like this go for 1500 - 2000, some decent stuff occasionally available for less than 1500. (Black Friday and Holiday sales). You can buy a bike like this, ride it for 3-4 years, throw it away, and buy another similar bike brand new (with all the latest in software, battery, and power), and still have less invested than a lot of the mid drives might cost originally.

If you have hills to deal with, THEN the mid drives start making sense.

Last, personally, I wouldn't own a bike, mid drive or geared hub, that didn't have a throttle.....especially for city/stop and go driving.
 
To rock the boat a little-
For your ride, you don't need a lot of power, and I see little justification for going mid drive. A plain vanilla 500w geared hub drive bike that comes with a throttle is far far easier to ride. Plenty of pep (amazing actually) from a stop or when crossing a street, and proper shifting is far less critical to performance. Long story short, they're brain dead to ride and most can provide excellent service life. Swing a leg over, use the throttle to get the bike moving while collecting your balance for a couple of feet, and continue pedaling with the degree of assistance you prefer....

Nice examples of bikes like this go for 1500 - 2000, some decent stuff occasionally available for less than 1500. (Black Friday and Holiday sales). You can buy a bike like this, ride it for 3-4 years, throw it away, and buy another similar bike brand new (with all the latest in software, battery, and power), and still have less invested than a lot of the mid drives might cost originally.

If you have hills to deal with, THEN the mid drives start making sense.

Last, personally, I wouldn't own a bike, mid drive or geared hub, that didn't have a throttle.....especially for city/stop and go driving.
3,2,1 cue the throttle nazis...
 
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