What’s the difference between hub motors and direct drive in electric skateboards?

Belt drives are fairly common with electric skateboards due to the ability to use the gear ratio to tune the board for top speed of torque. However, belts are high maintenance and consumable items and generate noise.

Direct drive and hub motor boards are quieter, lower maintenance options for electric skateboard motors, but what’s the difference between them?

Hub Motor Electric Skateboards

Hub motors are more common and are composed of a motor embedded in the wheel itself, surrounded by a thinner ring of polyurethane. Sometimes manufacturers will also create all terrain hub motors with rubber surrounding the motor in the style of an AT wheel. Hub motors work by applying torque directly to the wheel itself, rather than transferring it through gears, belts, or chains.

Diagram of a KooWheel hub motor

By using a hub motor, manufacturers can create a stealthy and compact electric skateboard. Usually these boards have replaceable outer urethane sleeves which are sold by the manufacturer.

This thin ring of urethane is actually a disadvantage, because it wears out more quickly than a regular skateboard wheel. In addition, these sleeves can be proprietary and expensive from the manufacturer.

Some examples of hub motor boards include:

You can also view a complete list of hub motor electric skateboards in our database.

Direct Drive Electric Skateboards

Direct drive boards are less common but work very similarly to hub motors. They also apply torque directly to the wheel, but instead of the motor being embedded inside of the wheel it’s actually located just on the inside of the wheel and mounted directly onto the trucks.

This provides one big advantage over hub motors: because the motor is not inside the wheel, they can work with any kind of regular skateboard wheel with the right adapter. This means you can buy your favorite Abec11 or Orangatang wheels and use them with your direct drive board. You also have full thickness urethane, which means the wheels will not wear any more quickly than a belt or gear driven electric skateboard.

TorqueBoards Direct Drive Motor Kit

Some examples of direct driven boards include:

You can also view a complete list of boards that use direct drive in our electric skateboard database.

Belt and Gear Driven Electric Skateboards

Want a board capable of ultra high speeds or with massive torque? You’ll likely need a gear or belt driven board. The gear ratio on these boards let’s a smaller motor provide a higher top speed or more torque than a direct or hub drive board, and many high performance boards use belts for this reason.