Do electric cars have gearboxes?

Date Posted 3rd August 2021
Read Time 5 min read

Although it may seem like a small market today – and you may not know of many people with electric vehicles (EVs) – the growth of sales in the market is evident. 

Recent studies show the purchasing of electric vehicles will be huge in the coming years. Often, the range and the price are the biggest roadblocks. 

As it stands, EVs contribute to only a small portion of vehicles being sold in the UK, roughly two per cent. This, however, is set to increase in line with the UK’s plans to ban vehicles that run on fossil fuels in the next 20 years. 

What does this tell us? It tells us that the future is in EVs. These cars will go very quickly from rarely seen to normal. But before we get there, you may have a few questions. 

A common one is: ‘Does the EV have a gearbox?’. And it’s a good question, which we’re going to answer below. 

Are all EVs automatic?

Most electric cars are automatic – but they’re not actually automatic. That’s because an EV only has two ‘gears’; forwards and backwards. So, if you’re in drive, when you put your foot down, it’ll just keep going until it reaches its top speed. 

Some companies are trying to produce EVs with five or six-speed gearboxes, with the aim of restoring some form of “normality” for drivers in the UK who are used to – and have always known – driving a manual vehicle. 

If you’ve driven a manual vehicle, you’ll know that you’re able to come to a complete stop by using the clutch pedal along with the brakes to avoid the engine stalling. But this isn’t the same for EVs, as there’s no clutch. 

Instead, when you take your foot off the accelerator, your vehicle will slow down substantially on its own as it tries to harvest energy to give you more miles.  

Owning and driving an EV

Owning and driving an EV does come with a degree of adjustment. The gearbox is one part of driving an electric vehicle that has been adapted and made easier. That’s because most EVs don’t have one.  

As their motors differ from petrol and diesel cars, EVs deliver power straight to the wheels, often through the use of a simple switch that copies the functioning of the conventional automatic car.  

As we’ve already touched on, EVs only come with two ‘gears’. The reason behind this is when you’re sat in the driver’s seat, you have much more immediate power at the end of your toes than you do in an internal combustion engine. 

For example, a fossil-fuel-operated vehicle reaches 4-6,000 revs per minute (RPM), whereas an EV reaches up to 20,000 RPM; meaning there’s no need for any extra gears.  

Can you get a manual electric car?

As previously mentioned, there’s no need or requirement for a manual transmission in EVs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a manual transmission if you would prefer one, though.

Manual electric vehicles have a clutch pedal and a gear knob. The electric motor runs to a clutch instead of the internal combustion engine it would normally run to, which rotates a layshaft that chooses the gear. This power is then sent to drive the wheels. 

This can often work faster for electric vehicles than it does for traditional powertrains, but it does have a few drawbacks. 

Firstly, it’s more expensive to get a manual electric gearbox put in, as you usually have to do it aftermarket – which may invalidate your finance agreement. 

Secondly, you’re also adding weight. So, if you’re concerned about all-electric range, adding a gearbox is only going to reduce how far you can travel on a single charge. 

Voltage range

There are many concerns around moving towards an electric vehicle with a manual transmission, and voltage range is one. 

The higher the voltage, the wider the RPM band. In high voltage systems – like the 400-volt system common in electric vehicles – a transmission isn’t required, as the motor already produces adequate torque. 

Some vehicles include a 120-volt system that only delivers enough torque to reach around 4,500 RPM. This presents a need for at least a two-speed transmission.

So, in conclusion, if you’re looking for the highest levels of performance, the best option would be a high voltage, like a 400-volt vehicle with no transmission.

Is it right for me?

Electric vehicles are surprisingly easy to drive, and that’s mainly down to the fact they’re electric. With no gears to work, you can simply power up and be on your way. 

Unlike a typical automatic, in which you put the car in drive and let it shift up and down for you – often slowly – an EV goes forwards and backwards, and that’s it. 

Because of its simplicity, it’s quick off the mark, and it’s also easy to maintain due to less complexity under the bonnet. 

So, if you’re looking for something fast, fun and easy to drive, then an electric vehicle is a very strong option. 

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Find out more about electric vehicles

If you have any more questions about electric vehicles; from the cost to how an EV’s range works, we can help. 

Either click on one of our helpful guides below, or get in touch with us using our contact page. 

  1. Electric Car FAQs
  2. 9 Benefits Of Electric Car Leasing
  3. How Do Electric Cars Work? The Beginner’s Guide
  4. Electric Car Range Guide

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