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Electric Bicycles – Pedal Assist vs Hub Driven

  • Know your Bicycle
Electric Bicycles – Pedal Assist vs Hub Driven

An electric bicycle or e-bike, is a bicycle with an attached electric motor that can be used to provide the rider with additional momentum. The additional momentum, or thrust, is delivered by the battery on the bicycle, and the means by which it is delivered depends on the kind of electric bicycle. This article is going to highlight some key aspects of hub driven e-bicycles and pedal assist e-bicycles. 

What are Pedal Assist e-bicycles?

Electric-bicycles use lithium ion batteries as their power source. On Pedal Assist e-bicycles, the electric motor is activated when pedalling. Pedal-assist setups supplement the efforts of the cyclist as he/she pedals. These bicycles have sensors mounted on the bottom bracket to detect the pedalling speed and force, and the assist mechanism responds by providing additional momentum. The motorised assistance engages only when the rider is pedalling, hence the name 'Pedal Assist'. Brake activation can be used to disable the motor. The Pedal Assist electric drive system is limited to a speed of 25 kmph on most e-bicycles in the Indian market, and its motor is relatively low-powered. 

Pedal Assist E-Bicycles
Pedal Assist E-Bicycles Regulations

Legal Regulations for Pedal Assist E-Bicycles

Seeing as these bicycles have a low powered motor, which cuts off at a maximum speed of 25 kmph, there are no restrictions when it comes to using them, anywhere in the world. These bicycles operate by pedalling and raise no questions as to the category they belong to (i.e bicycles or electric motor bikes). 

What are Hub Driven E-bicycles?

Hub Driven e-bicycles have a motorized hub at the rear wheel or front-wheel that gives momentum to the bicycles. These hubs are powered by lithium-ion batteries housed on the frame of the bicycle. Momentum of these bicycles is activated through a “throttle” on the right side grip of the handlebar. When the hub is activated, the rider need not pedal. Brake activation, on the right side, can be used to disable the motor in the hub. 

Hub Driven E-Bicycles
Hub Driven E-Bicycles Regulations

Legal Regulations for Hub Driven E-Bicycles

The Indian regulations are such that in order to be classified as a ‘bicycle’, the maximum speed achievable is 25 kmph, and hence the speed range on this bicycle is only upto 25kmph. Should the maximum speed exceed 25 kmph, the categorization of the bicycle would fall under that of a ‘motorized vehicle’. 


Some electric bicycles have an option of both pedal assist, and throttle enabled. These bicycles have a mounted sensor as well as a throttle, yet the maximum speed achievable still remains at 25 kmph. There are electric bicycles in the market with a set of gears, which allow the rider to go between 25 and 40 kmph - this is more commonly seen on Pedal Assist E-Bicycles in the Indian market. 

Pedal Assist bicycles are efficient when one needs to use the bicycle for fitness and commuting, in areas with varied terrain. Hub driven bicycles are useful when one wants to reduce their carbon footprint, and go for an affordable means of transport with additional power. These bicycles are great when it comes to use in hilly terrains where one needs additional momentum without pedalling to climb. 


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