Do electric cars have gears?

    EV gear shift

    Electric cars, look and run like normal cars, apart from the obvious fact they use electricity as fuel, not petrol or diesel. They have four wheels, a handbrake, a steering wheel, and a gear stick (similar to an automatic), but do they actually have gears?

    The short answer is no, no they don’t. Instead of gears, they use something called single-speed transmission. This is also known as a fixed-ratio gearbox and lets electric motors deliver instant torque and run efficiently across a wide range of speeds. 

    Essentially, electric cars have one gear that takes them from 0mph to top speed. It makes them an incredibly fast, responsive, smooth and fun drive – and a popular choice amongst drivers!

    Understanding electric vehicle (EV) drivetrains

    a blue MG EV
    Electric vehicles have an entirely different mechanical set-up from ICE cars. Surprisingly, they are less complicated than traditionally-fuelled cars as they have fewer components.

    A drivetrain is a group of components that work together to take power from the engine and transfer it to move the wheels. These parts often include the gears, differential, driveshaft, axles, CV joints, and wheels. In electric cars, the drivetrain is a little more complex than a traditional ICE vehicle. 

    Key components of EV drivetrains

    Part FunctionAdditional information
    Electric MotorThis converts electrical energy into mechanical energy to drive the wheels. Common types include synchronous and asynchronous motors, with synchronous being more common as they are more efficient. 
    Battery Pack This stores electrical energy that powers the motor. Lithium-ion batteries are the most common, as they strike a balance between energy density, weight, and cost.
    Single-speed transmission This transfers power from the motor to the wheels without the need for multiple gears.Single-speed transmission simplifies the drivetrain and maximises efficiency.
    Inverter This converts the battery’s direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) for the electric motor.N/A

    The shift towards single-speed transmissions in EVs

    Electric vehicles use single-speed transmissions. They are simpler, have better reliability and are more easily maintained compared to traditional multi-gear systems found in ICE cars. 

    These single-speed systems deliver instant torque across a wide speed range. As a result, electric vehicles tend to offer smoother acceleration and a more straightforward driving experience (depending on who is behind the wheel!). 

    The exception: Electric cars with multi-speed transmissions

    However, just because most electric cars use single-speed transmissions, that’s not to say there aren’t a few exceptions. Multi-speed gearboxes enhance performance, optimise energy use and can completely change the driving experience. Drivers who like a sportier, racier car can still make the ‘green’ choice while not compromising on driving experience if they opt for an EV with multi-speed transmissions. 

    Why use multi-speed transmissions in EVs?

    Performance Enhancement

    🚘 Improved acceleration & higher top speeds 

    • Multi-speed transmissions offer better acceleration because they optimise the motor’s performance across different speeds.
    • If you want more efficient high-speed driving, a multi-speed transmission will let you increase your car’s top speed beyond what a single-speed gearbox can offer.

    Efficiency Gains

    🚘 Optimised Energy Use

    Driving Experience

    🚘 Sportier Feel 

    • In some cars, the multi-speed transmission makes the driving experience more similar to traditional sports cars.
    • It’s a great option for those wanting to go electric but don’t want to sacrifice any ‘feel’. 

    Manual vs automatic: Are there manual electric cars?

    Manual transmissions are rare in EVs, but they aren’t impossible to find. Most are experimental or converted, like the manual transmission prototype in the Porsche Taycan, and they are certainly not the norm. 

    The design of the EV favours automatic systems, as well as their marketed driving experience. They are known for being smoother, faster and more efficient than ICE cars – USPs that would be significantly altered with the introduction of gears. 

    Ultimately, there is no need for multiple gears in an EV as they have a more simple drive train. It boils down to personal preference and driving style, and whether or not you have the budget to convert a car to EV if necessary! 

    How driving an electric car differs from driving an ICE vehicle

    audi filling up
    Electric cars and ICE vehicles differ in more ways than just their fuel type. Thanks to continual technological advances, electric cars are holding their own in terms of performance now too!

    Electric cars and fossil fuel cars drive very differently. EVs provide instant torque which goes hand in hand with a smooth ride and rapid acceleration. Their single-speed transmissions eliminate the need for gear shifts, and overall they are quieter with minimal vibration. 

    EVs use an energy recovery system called ‘regenerative braking’. It enables one-pedal driving as, as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, the brakes will come on automatically. 

    Although charging an EV takes longer than fuelling up a traditional engine car, EVs require less maintenance due to fewer moving parts. However, the UK’s charging infrastructure isn’t as strong as the likes of Scandinavia and other countries, leaving a lack of facilities being one of the biggest barriers to EV uptake the country faces.  

    The benefits of electric cars being automatic

    While there are a few examples of geared electric cars, most are automatic. This is largely because it gives a simpler, more enjoyable driving experience. If you are considering an EV but aren’t sure whether you want an automatic or a manual, the below list of pros and cons for automatics should help you formulate an argument!

    Pros Cons
    Simplified Driving: No need for manual gear shifting, making driving easier for alSlower acceleration: A multi-speed gearbox enhances performance 
    Instant Torque: Provides immediate acceleration without waiting for gear changesHigher top speeds: Geared vehicles allow you to reach higher top speeds 
    Efficiency: Electric motors operate efficiently across a wide speed rangeEfficiency gains: The ability to move through gears means you can make your driving more efficient and extend your car’s range. 
    Lower Maintenance: Fewer moving parts reduce the likelihood of mechanical issuesSportier feel: EVs with gears feel like ‘proper’ cars and are often more suited to driving enthusiasts. 
    Regenerative Braking: Converts kinetic energy to electricity, enhancing energy efficiency and battery life
    User-Friendly: Ideal for urban driving with stop-and-go traffic, reducing driver fatigue.


    Do electric cars have clutches and a gearbox?

    Electric cars typically don’t have clutches or traditional multi-gear gearboxes. Instead, they often feature single-speed transmissions, simplifying the drivetrain and providing a smoother driving experience.

    Will electric cars ever have gears?

    While most electric cars currently use single-speed transmissions, some prototypes and experimental models have explored the possibility of multi-speed gearboxes. However, single-speed transmissions are more simple and efficient and are therefore the most common on the EV market. 

    Are electric cars only automatic?

    Electric cars predominantly use automatic transmissions, leveraging the seamless power delivery of electric motors. While manual transmission electric cars exist in rare cases, automatic transmissions are more common due to their simplicity, efficiency, and smoother driving experience.

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