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Electric cars Do electric cars have gears or are they all automatic?
  • Nov 30, 2022

  • 8 min read

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Do electric cars have gears or are they all automatic?

There’s no denying it - electric cars are the future of driving. They're cleaner and more efficient than fuel-powered cars and they release no tailpipe emissions. But, there is still some confusion about how they work. Let’s put an end to the confusion and answer some of the most common questions.

Do electric cars have gears?

The technical answer to this question is a bit complicated. Most traditional cars have a transmission system with several gears that let the engine reach different speeds. Electric cars also have a transmission, but they typically only have one gear. This lets the electric motor run at a single speed, which is much more efficient than a multi-speed transmission. An electric car increases in speed directly in line with how fast the motor is spinning, whereas a gearbox in a petrol car only will allow the engine to reach different speeds depending on the gear it’s in.

Electric car drivers don’t need to worry about shifting gears in an electric car. And there’s no clutch in an EV, only a brake and accelerator pedal - having fewer pedals means there’s less that can go wrong. In lots of electric cars, the driver may be able to choose different modes that optimise performance or efficiency. Eco, comfort and sports modes are the norm across the board, with performance cars often having a Sports Plus option.

Overall, an EV is much more like an automatic car than a manual one. There are some key differences under the hood, but they’re similar to drive. Selecting between forward, reverse and park is typically done with a simple lever, switch or button and the different modes are typically chosen through a control panel or touchscreen. This makes the feel of driving an EV very similar to an automatic car.

If you're looking to make the switch to an electric car, you definitely won't need to relearn how to drive. In fact, it’ll probably be easier to drive an electric car compared to your current fuel powered car as there’s a lot less to think about.

Do electric cars have gearboxes?

While traditional fuel-powered cars have a gearbox that helps to regulate the flow of power from the engine to the wheels, electric cars only have one gear and so don’t need a full gearbox. A petrol or diesel engine has a much smaller operating window to create power, so a gearbox allows drivers to access the power at different wheel speeds. As an electric motor has a much larger operating window, they don't need the same complicated system to transfer the power to the wheels. This provides a number of advantages, including:

  • Improved efficiency: The motor controller can optimise the flow of electricity to the motor for maximum efficiency, which gives the driver better range and performance. On the other hand, manual gearboxes are less efficient, as they typically waste some energy during the shifting process and rely on the driver to select the correct gear for the current driving conditions
  • Simplified design: Electric cars don't need a complex gearbox with multiple gears. This makes them simpler to design, build, and maintain
  • Smooth acceleration: Since there are no gears to shift, electric cars can accelerate smoothly and silently from a stop. This makes driving an electric car a relaxing, enjoyable and stress-free experience
  • Fewer moving parts: Because there's only one gear, electric cars have fewer moving parts, which reduces the risk of mechanical issues and makes them simpler to maintain. And even if they do need some expert care, we cover repairs and servicing with our electric car personal lease

Overall, only having one gear is one of the key advantages of driving an electric car. It helps to improve efficiency, simplify the design, and provide a smoother and quieter ride. It can take a little bit of getting used to at first but driving an electric car becomes second nature within a few minutes. In fact, many drivers are blown away by how easy it is to switch to an electric car when they’ve been used to driving petrol or diesel for a long time.

Are there any manual electric cars?

As things currently stand, there are no electric cars on the market that offer a manual transmission. This is largely due to the fact that electric cars don't need a gearbox. Most electric cars are also designed to be as simple and user-friendly as possible. Adding a manual transmission would impact, efficiency and drivability. Why ruin a good thing by adding unnecessary parts?

Fun fact: the first electric home built electric cars of the 90’s had gearboxes, because EV enthusiasts would put electric motors into their petrol cars. These cars would be left in one gear the entire time and the clutch would never be used as electric cars don’t need multiple gears to reach different speeds!

To transition over to an electric car, you'll need to get comfortable with the idea of driving an automatic style car. This might seem like a big change for those of us who’ve grown up driving manual cars. While the switch may seem daunting at first, most people find electric cars much easier to drive than traditional manual cars. All you need to do is select the desired mode (forward, reverse, or park) and the car will take care of the rest. It’s that simple.

Many of our drivers who’ve made the switch to automatic-style driving tell us that it's a much more relaxing and stress-free experience. So, you'll most likely find that the driving experience is smooth, quiet, and enjoyable — even without a gearbox.

The benefits of electric cars

As we've discovered, there are many benefits to driving a car that doesn't have multiple gears in a gearbox. On top of those, there are also a few extra key advantages of electric cars:

  • Reducing emissions and your carbon footprint: This is the biggie. Electric cars produce zero tailpipe emissions, which is great news for the environment. In fact, driving an electric car is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint
  • Lower running costs: Electric cars are cheaper to run than petrol or diesel cars since you only need to charge them up rather than having to refill with fuel. You can save even more money if you charge your car at home overnight, taking advantage of cheaper off-peak electricity rates
  • Enjoying a smoother, quieter ride: Electric cars are very quiet, and the seamless transmission makes for a smoother ride. This can make long journeys more pleasant and reduce stress levels overall
  • Benefiting from the latest tech: Electric cars are at the cutting edge of automotive technology and you'll be able to enjoy all the latest features, gadgets, technological upgrades and safety
    • To see some of the latest tech in action, check out the eye-catching Genesis GV60 complete with:
      • Outside and inside plugs capable of Vehicle to Load (part of the Outdoor Pack)
      • Boost button (on Sport Plus) which immediately increases performance for 10 seconds
      • Crystal Sphere which rotates 180° to become the drive selector

All in all, electric cars offer a safer, more sustainable, efficient and enjoyable driving experience. So if you're looking for a new car, be sure to browse all our EVs and look into our affordable personal EV lease options — you won't regret making the switch.