Last Updated on February 10, 2023 by Matt
The electric scooter motor is a key component. When buying a scooter, deciding on the motor type will be one of the biggest decisions you will have to make.
That’s why I made a complete guide to electric scooter motors to help you understand everything you need to know about them.
Electric scooter motors
Electric scooters usually have motors with real power levels between 250W and 2000W (some can be even more powerful). The most important distinctions about the motor of an electric scooter are: power level (real power vs peak power), hub vs chain-drive motors, geared vs gearless hub motors, brushed vs brushless DC motors.
By any means, you don’t need to become a mechanic or an expert. But just being familiar with the basics of electric scooter motors will help you know what you need, and ultimately, pick a better model and save money.
Let’s briefly answer some of the most common questions, and cover each of the main properties.
Do electric scooters have motors?
Every electric scooter will have a motor by definition. If a vehicle doesn’t have a motor, it’s not an electric scooter. The same goes for a battery, every electric scooter will have one.
Which motor is used in an electric scooter?
Today, most electric scooters will have hub motors, which are motors embedded in the wheels. Newer models will tend to have brushless DC motors, as that technology provides some benefits over the older, brushed motors.
Electric scooter motor specifications
|Real power||Watts (W)|
|Peak power||Watts (W)|
|Motor voltage||Volts (V)|
|Revolutions per minute||Number (RPM)|
A great way to know the quality of an electric scooter motor is through the specifications. Usually, manufacturers list the motor’s power (real and/or peak) in Watts, which is the most useful metric to determine the motor’s ability. Other useful specifications are the motor’s voltage expressed in Volts, its rotations-per-minute or revolutions-per-minute, which are expressed as numbers (sometimes followed by “RPM“), and the motor’s torque, expressed in Newton-meters, or Nm.
How do electric scooter motors work?
How motors work depends on their type. In general, the motor listens for your input through a component known as the controller. When you hit the throttle on your handlebar, the controller sends a signal to the motor to start running.
Then the motor draws energy from the battery and starts to produce movement.
The most common motor found in the everyday commuting scooter is a brushless DC, gearless hub motor. This is a very helpful video that explains how it works
As we already mentioned, this motor consists of two cylinders, one inside the other.
The outer cylinder, also known as the rotor, is just a permanent magnet.
The inner cylinder, also known as the stator, is made out of coils of copper wires. When power is applied to it, it will energize and become an electromagnet.
The interaction between the permanent magnet and the electromagnet makes the rotor rotate. When one coil is energized, the opposite poles of the rotor and the stator are attracted to each other. As the rotor turns, the energized coil gets de-energized, but its neighboring coil gets energized. As this process is repeated, the rotor continues to rotate.
A helpful analogy is to think of a dog chasing its own tail.
Electric scooter motor power
The most useful specification of an electric scooter motor is its power level.
Power is measured in Watts.
If you want a more scientific but still simple explanation of power, here’s a great video.
The motor power determines many of the performance features of the scooter. Higher motor power will typically result in:
- higher top speed
- better climbing angle
- higher load capacity
- to some extent, longer range
Higher power levels will usually demand bigger batteries, which means that these models will tend to be heavier in weight.
Also, because of the bigger batteries, they will take more time to charge.
How much power do electric scooter motors have? What is each power level capable of?
Power levels in electric scooter motors
Power levels in electric scooters for adults can range from as little as 80 Watts, to as much as 12000 Watts.
Most budget or typical commuter scooters have power levels between 200 and 500 Watts. In fact, this is the case for about half the models today. The most common power levels are:
- 250 Watts – usually have top speeds of 15 mph / 25 kmh or less
- 350 Watts – usually have top speeds between 15-22 mph / 25-35 kmh
- 500 Watts – usually have top speeds can go over 25 mph / 40 kmh, with some models even going as fast as 38 mph / 60 kmh
Electric scooters with power levels above 1000 Watts will frequently provide top speeds of at least 30 mph / 50 kmh.
However, the way that brands and manufacturers report the power levels of their scooters can sometimes be misleading. That brings us to the concept of real vs peak power in motors.
Real vs peak power
The amount of power a motor generates changes over time, and depends on several other factors. The most important factor is the motor temperature, as motors start to become less performant as they heat up. That makes the difference between what’s known as real (continuous) and peak motor power.
In the perfect scenario, which is a straight, long, flat road with no obstacles on it, and ideal temperatures, the scooter will be able to generate the most power it possibly can. This is known as its peak motor power.
But you will rarely ride in ideal conditions, and most motors usually start to overheat.
The power that the scooter produces most of the time, in actual real-world scenarios, with driving in traffic, stopping frequently, turning and avoiding obstacles, and going up and down hills, will be its real motor power.
Brands always want their scooters to look better. They know that users want as much power as they can get in their scooters. So they sometimes take advantage of this and only report the peak power of their scooter. In most of those cases, they will often not even mention that it’s the peak power. They will simply say “this is the power of our scooter”.
That’s why obtaining real data is kind of difficult for these models.
My approach is to always assume that if there’s only one power level specified, it is the peak power level.
No doubt, it is wrong in some cases. But given the incentive that brands have to report the power that way, and not many downsides to it, I’d say it’s correct more often than not.
If you only know the peak power, a good rule of thumb is to assume that the real power is anywhere between 30% and 90% of the peak power. On average, the real power will be about 57% of the peak power level.
If you want to find out the peak power of a scooter based on its real power, or the other way around, see the real and peak motor power converters.
Power in electric scooters vs other appliances
Just to give you an idea of how efficient electric scooters are, here are the Watts of power of common household appliances.
|Household Appliance||Power (Watts)|
|Blender||300 – 1200 W|
|Microwave||800 – 2000 W|
|Toaster||800 – 1600 W|
|Hair Dryer||1000 – 2000 W|
|Vacuum Cleaner||400 – 1500 W|
|Refrigerator||500 – 1500 W|
|Washing Machine||500 – 1200 W|
|Laptop Computer||20 – 100 W|
|Desktop Computer||200 – 500 W|
|Plasma TV||250 – 300 W|
|Video Game Console||40 – 150 W|
As you can see, most of them, especially the bigger ones, are either on par with the majority of popular budget and commuter scooters, or way less efficient than that.
Electric scooter motor torque
Torque is a very useful metric to determine how much work can the motor of an electric scooter perform. Sadly, for some reason, very few manufacturers list this value.
Simply put, torque measures the tendency of a force that when applied to a body can cause it to rotate. It is measured in Newton-meters (Nm), and it is very important for the top speed and the climbing angle of the scooter, especially the latter.
Hub vs chain-drive motors
Many modern electric scooters today will come with hub motors. That means the motors are built into the hub of the wheel or wheels.
Chain-drive motors, on the other hand, live in a separate area of the scooter, usually in the deck. They generate the movement there, and then translate that movement to the wheels through a system of chains and gears.
The advantages of having one over the other are not clear cut. They will usually depend on the specific setup, and the needs the scooter has to fill.
However, in general, there are use cases where one is preferred over the other.
The main advantage that hub motors have is that they don’t have an additional complicated system of chains and gears. That kind of mechanism is prone to defects. Therefore, hub motors break down less often, are easier to repair, and easier to maintain.
Hub motors can be more energy-efficient. Chain-drive motors lose some energy in the friction that the chains and gears create. Hub motors don’t suffer from that.
However, chain-drive motors can be set up in a way so that they are more efficient than hub motors.
Also, even though they are a more efficient technology, they tend to be cheaper than chain-drive motors.
Hub motors are heavier than chain motors. This can be either an upside or a downside, depending on your needs, as weight usually brings more stability to the scooter and it’s not always a bad thing.
The lack of gears, however, can make it so that hub motors provide less torque. That will result in lower climbing angles and top speeds.
Chain-drive motors are also better for customizations. Changing the sprockets lets you tinker with your scooter’s maximum speed and torque levels.
Also, changing the wheel on a hub motor will be more difficult.
Geared vs gearless motors
Hub motors come in two main types: geared and gearless. Gearless hub motors, also known as direct-drive, are motors that use electromagnets to propel the scooter forward by turning the wheel directly. The component that the motor rotates (the axle) is the same component that turns the wheel. Geared hub motors generate movement inside them, which they then translate to the wheel through a gear mechanism.
Gearless hub motors
In general, gearless hub motors can provide greater power. In effect, this will mean higher top speeds and better climbing angles.
Gearless hub motors are typically larger. They need to make one axle rotate very fast, and are kind of built around it. They will add to the weight of the scooter.
Because of their use of electromagnets to generate movement, gearless hub motors can also provide regenerative braking features.
Geared hub motors
Typically, geared hub motors will be less powerful.
The geared system provides leverage, and so a less powerful motor can actually output more power. That can make geared hub motors more energy-efficient.
But also, that will mean more friction, and more moving parts in general. That results in more wear and tear, and could possibly mean a shorter life span and more defects and repairs.
The main advantage that geared hub motors will usually provide is longer range.
The following video goes into detail about the differences between geared and gearless motors. It’s primarily about the motors in e-bikes, but the same principles apply in scooters as well. Take a look if you want to learn more.
Brushed vs brushless DC motors
This is the last complicated motor parameter, I promise :).
DC, or direct-current motors, can come in two types: brushed and brushless.
There are not that many brushed motors anymore, as they are older technology.
They generate power with two sets of electromagnets. The larger one is in the form of an empty cylinder, and the second, smaller magnet is inside of it. The inside magnet is the one that gets rotated. Its movement generates electromagnetic fields between the two magnets, which is then translated into the movement of the parts that rotate the wheel.
The electric current is being carried through carbon or graphite brushes, hence their name. These need to be replaced since they get worn out.
Brushless motors are a similar but simpler mechanism, that eliminates the need for brushes. They are more efficient, more reliable, and don’t require frequent repairs.
Because of that, they have largely replaced brushed motors, especially in electric scooters.
What is the most powerful electric scooter motor?
The companies that make the most powerful motors for electric scooters today are Minimotors USA and Rion. Their most powerful models (Dualtron X2, Rion2 RE90) use proprietary motors that have power levels in the thousands of Watts.
The most powerful electric scooter today, the Rion2 RE90, likely has a motor with at least 12000 Watts of peak power. Unsurprisingly, it is also the fastest electric scooter in the world, capable of reaching 100 mph / 160 kmh.
If you wanna take a peek at the wildest electric scooters out there, check out the post on the most powerful electric scooters.
How to maintain the motor on my electric scooter?
Just common-sense general maintenance and taking care of your scooter will be enough for most scooters, as the majority will have brushless DC hub motors that basically require no maintenance.
Don’t abuse your scooter by riding it at its maximum speeds the whole time, and try not to force it to climb hills that are obviously too steep for it.
Unless you have a problem with your motor, it will not require any special care. You can take it to a repair shop once a year to make sure everything works smoothly.
As we mentioned, most motors are brushless today, and they don’t need replacements for their brushes.
Also, most motors are hub motors, and frequently gearless ones, which is literally the optimal combination for having to do the least maintenance and still get the longest motor life. In fact, while electronic defects are one of the most common electric scooter problems, hub motors are almost never at fault, and it’s always something with the battery or the wiring or the controller that’s the real issue, and the motors can keep running like well-oiled machines for years.
If your scooter has a chain-drive motor, your only job will be to grease the chains once every few months, to make sure everything runs smoothly. But, out of the 300+ electric scooter models today, only a handful of popular ones still have chain-drive motors (most notable the Razor E300, and some other Razor models).
If you want to learn how the motor works in concert with the rest of the parts in the electric scooter, check out the full guide here.