Electric bikes (e-bikes) are a fantastic way to rediscover a love for cycling, or extend your enjoyment into your later years.
They don't come cheap though, and we've found that some will take you much further than others. Some e-bikes won’t even get you up a shallow hill, and will only take you 30 miles on the flat.
The best we've tested will have you climbing hills with ease and power you along a flat road for nearly twice as many miles.
Read on to discover the best motor/display combinations, and some of the top brand bikes that have them.
The most important part of an electric bike is it's motor and display. If this performs poorly, then there isn't much point in spending the extra money that an e-bike costs over a traditional bike.
While there are many electric bike brands, there are only a few manufacturer's that produce motors such as Bosch, Shimano and Yamaha. This means there are many electric bikes out there that use the same motor and display combinations.
Our independent lab tests focus on this bit of the e-bike, allowing us to let you know which e-bike motors are the best. This will let you then narrow down your search to just those bikes that have the motor/display combo that you want.
To help, we've suggested a small selection of bikes with each motor review, from the most popular brands amongst e-bike owners1. Most bike retailer sites let you filter your search by the type of motor.
Often the same bike is sold with a different motor at different retailers, so double check the specifications if you find one of the bikes mentioned here at a different retailer.
Like with any new bike, you'll want to try out a few options before you buy, as a bike that is comfortable for some may not be right for someone else.
Below is a summary table of all the motors we've tested, so you can compare their score and star ratings.
Each one is found in a range of different e-bikes, so you can use these results to narrow down your search. For more detail on a particular motor click to be taken to it's full review, or read on to read the full reviews of all the e-bike motors.
Motor & Display
Flat terrain support
Range on flat terrain
Last updated September 2021
Display unit how clear, easy to use, and functional is the display unit. Acceleration how powerful is the motors acceleration. Low rating is weak, motor may struggle is starting on a hill. High rating is powerful, motor will accelerate the bike even when starting on a hill. Flat terrain support how much support the motor provides when travelling at 15.5mph on flat terrain. The more it provides the higher the star rating. Hill support how much support the motor provides when travelling at 11.2mph on a 6% slope. The more it provides the higher the star rating.
Bosch claim their Active Line e-bike motor is quiet, with smooth power delivery and perfect for an urban commute. It is also the recipient of the Red Dot Design Award 2017. Coupled with the minimalist Purion display, a bike with this combo looks brilliant on paper.
The Active Line Plus offers a higher torque than the Active Line form Bosch. In theory this means the motor should have greater acceleration and be able to support better on more demanding terrain. Bosch claims the Intuvia display can be read under all lighting conditions, and it comes with a separate control unit so you can keep your hands firmly on the handlebars while riding.
Bosch says the Performance Line motor is their most versatile system, perfect for commuting, a fast countryside ride or traversing hilly terrain. Paired with an Intuvia display, which Bosch says can be read under all lighting conditions, this motor and display combination looks amazing on paper.
Bosch says the Performance Line motor is their most versatile system, perfect for commuting, a fast countryside ride or traversing hilly terrain. Coupled with the minimalist Purion display, a bike with this motor and display should be easy to use, with great hill support.
The Bosch Performance Line CX motor is designed for electric mountain bikes, with high torque to allow for powerful acceleration even while on a steep hill. Bosch claims the Intuvia display can be read under all lighting conditions, and it comes with a separate control unit so you can keep your hands firmly on the handlebars while riding.
A bike with this motor and display should be easy to use, with great hill support.
The Bosch Performance Line CX motor is designed for electric mountain bikes, with high torque to allow for powerful acceleration even while on a steep hill. Coupled with the minimalist Purion display, a bike with this motor and display should be easy to use, with great hill support.
The Elops KM790 rear motor is found on the city bike Elops 120E at Decathlon. It offers three levels of assistance, and the display lets you control the bikes lights.
Being attached to a sub-£1,000 electric bike makes this motor a tempting offer. But will it give you the assistance you’d expect form an electric bike?
Giant’s SyncDrive Core may be a Yamaha e-bike motor, but it is paired with Giant sensors and firmware so in practice operates completely differently.
The motor has a smart assist mode which uses six sensors, including an accelerometer and slope detector, to deliver the power you want – no need to change to a different assistance level. The RideControl Charge has a micro-USB port for charging your phone, and offers five support modes.
The Shimano Steps E-5000 is a centre-motor and received a software update in 2021. It is Shimano’s lightest motor, which it claims is virtually silent when operating.
The SC-E6100 display is large and offers wireless Bluetooth communication so you can use a third-party display or smartphone app.
But can this motor offer the support on flat and steep terrain, and provide the range you need?
The Steps E6100 is a premium e-bike system from Shimano. They claim it is their most versatile system, saving 20% more energy compared to their E6000 motor. The SC-E6100 display is large and offers wireless Bluetooth communication so you can use a 3rd party display or smartphone app.
Designed for mountain biking, this motor claims to tackle steep trails, with a stable and smooth power delivery. The SC-E8000 display is compact with dynamic visuals.
But is the display all style and no substance? Does the motor actually deliver when put to the test?
This rear hub motor from Suntour offers 60Nm of torque. In theory this means it should offer good acceleration. Plus the ATS display offers four levels of assistance and allows you to view data such as speed, mileage and battery level while riding.
All of the e-bike motor systems we test are set up on a rolling road in a lab and put through an array of tough tests designed to simulate real-life use. We use the same setup to test all the different systems, so that you can easily see how they compare.
Manufacturers may give a mileage figure on their electric bikes, but they often won't publish the weight of the rider or the conditions they are riding in. Trying to compare range with another bike is therefore almost impossible.
For our range tests we keep the following constant:
You won't find range figures for e-bikes that are truly comparable anywhere else.
We conduct our range and incline tests on three separate power assistance settings:
Each e-bike system is tested on a flat road, a shallow hill (1.5% gradient), and a steeper hill (6% gradient).
Many of the motor systems we've tested can not provide all of the levels of assistance described above on even a shallow hill, making them unsuitable for hilly areas.
Each e-bike motor system is assessed for the following criteria:
The display unit is rated for how easy it is to use, for example switching between assistance levels, and the visibility of the data it displays in various light conditions.
Prices last checked 07 October 2021
1 March 2021 Which? survey of 697 electric bike owners.