In the Esk8 world, we really only have two options for our motor setup, hub motors and belt drive. Hub motors have their pros, but a lot of the time you’re just getting Chinese parts that could break down at any moment you are riding. I don’t know about you, but I want my esk8 to be as reliable as possible. I’ve already been to the emergency room once, and I don’t think I can afford another trip. Belt systems should be your choice unless you like spending your day face down in asphalt.
While high-end hub motors may be reliable, they come at a price. Everyone knows @Hummie makes the best hub motors on the market (@Onloop you’ve got some nice ones too, but since they’re not available to the DIY community, you are not a valid comparison). Hummie’s new motors are custom built high-end hub motors that use the highest quality parts available. These hub motors are currently still in the prototype phase, but the info that we have right now is very promising. The tentative price for these motors is $450.
The thing that sets belt systems apart, is the customization. The main customization is the ability to change the motor ratio at will. This ratio allows your motor to spin multiple times before your wheel can make a full rotation. This can get you better torque at low speeds, and the acceleration is smoother than that of a hub system. The most common gear ratios range from 14t-16t on motor side (full range can get as low as 10t), and 36t-40t on wheel side (full range is usually 32t-50t). Any lower than 14t and you will start to notice belt slippage, so many will recommend staying within those limits. The fact that you can have a 10t:50t or 1:5 ratio is amazing, this allows for extreme hill climbing ability and high resistance riding, whether it be dirt, gravel, or grass.
Belt systems have a few tricks up their sleeves. Since the motor is not inside of the wheel, it takes less damage from bumps and other impacts on the wheel. With hub systems, you don’t get the full urethane, so your motor will take heavy impacts and your ride feels much harsher. If one of your motor parts do break on a belt system (mounts, gears, pulleys, etc.), you will only be out $10-$40, up to $120 if you’re having a really bad day. Also, belt systems can run very well with just one motor, granted this motor is usually much larger, but it’s still one motor. That means you only need one ESC (Electronic Speed Controller), which can lower the total price anywhere from $80-$500.
Some will say: “The simplicity of hubs makes it a no-brainer”. To those people I say, not everything is supposed to be easy. The more work you put in to your build, the better result you will get. If you buy a kit with some cheap hubs, slap them on your deck and try to ride, it will probably seem like you made a good decision, but that’s because you haven’t seen the full power an electric skateboard can give you. Go out to one of the community’s group rides, you will soon realize that your hubs are no match for even a single motor belt drive.