Are All Electric Cars Automatic?

Young girl with sunglasses on charging her red electric car whilst looking at her mobile phone

There are several things you first notice when getting into an electric car for the first time. One of them is just how quiet they are when they drive. Another is the lack of a gear stick. In the UK, we’re used to driving manual cars, but as part of the electric car revolution, it seems we need to get used to the idea of automatics.

Most electric vehicles (EVs) are automatic, as electric motors simply don’t need gears to power the vehicle. In petrol and diesel cars, the engine needs gears to build up power, but electric vehicles provide a consistent and instant amount of power, or ‘torque’.

In this blog, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the different types of transmission available in electric vehicles, the benefits of driving an automatic, and what this means for you.


Can you get a manual electric car?


Although most electric cars are automatic, you may be wondering, can electric cars be manual?

Technically, yes – there are some electric cars available in the UK with gears, however, they aren’t necessary. The main reason you can get manual electric cars is that some manufacturers are aware drivers are wary about switching to electric, especially if that means having to adjust from driving a manual to an automatic. By having gears, they hope this will feel more familiar to many UK drivers, which may encourage them to consider an electric vehicle.



Are electric cars manual or automatic?


One of the first questions people ask when considering an EV is, ‘are electric cars manual or are electric cars all automatic?’

While you can buy a manual electric car in the UK, generally, they are automatic simply because of how they are powered. Standard internal combustion engines need gears to help the driver accelerate and build up speed to reach maximum power. However, this is unnecessary in an EV because electric motors can achieve maximum torque almost immediately thanks to a consistent and instant delivery of power.



Do electric cars have gears?


We’ve established that most EVs are automatic, but do electric cars have gearboxes?

Well, technically, they can have gears, but they don’t need them as petrol and diesel cars do.

A fuel engine has much lower revs, so they need to move up several gears to build up speed and power. With an electric car, the motor can easily reach full power with just a single gear without affecting the car’s acceleration or efficiency.



Do electric cars have a clutch?


No, you won’t find a clutch in an electric car, simply because it’s not needed. A clutch is only there to help you switch between gears, but as an electric car doesn’t need gears, there’s no need for a clutch. In electric cars, you’ll typically find just two pedals - the accelerator and the brake.




Are Tesla’s manual or automatic?


We know there are a few electric cars with manual gears, but are Tesla’s automatic? The simple answer is yes. Although the very first Tesla model, the Roadster, had two gear speeds, today, all Tesla’s are automatic, so if you’re tempted by one, you’ll need to get used to a new way of driving.



Are all hybrid cars automatic?


As with full electric cars, most hybrids are automatic, but manual hybrids do exist. They are technically known as ‘mild hybrids’ because unlike other hybrid cars, they can’t run on the electric motor alone. It’s there to support the internal combustion engine, meaning that you can reduce your fuel consumption or gain extra power, but because the main driving force comes from the engine, manual gears are still used.

Full hybrids and plug-in hybrids are generally only available as automatic cars, and their rise in popularity over recent years has seen more and more automatics out on our roads. As we move towards a future where electric cars and hybrids will dominate what we are buying, the UK will need to get used to driving automatics.


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Advantages of Automatic Electric Vehicles

Although some may be hesitant to make the switch, there are plenty of benefits of driving and owning an automatic electric vehicle, such as:

  • No more stalling – As there’s no need to switch between gears and no clutch, it’s impossible to stall an electric car.
  • Smoother drive - Electric cars speed up and slow down more smoothly as there are no gear changes to worry about.
  • More accessible - Those with a disability or reduced mobility may find driving an automatic electric car easier as you don’t need to use gears or a clutch pedal.
  • Less maintenance - The lack of a clutch and gearbox means electric cars are often cheaper and easier to maintain.
  • Better efficiency – When you stop and start a standard vehicle, this kinetic energy is lost, but with an electric car, it’s turned into electricity which can help recharge the battery – also known as regenerative braking.
  • Quieter – Electric vehicles are known for their quietness and smoothness on the road. Plus, removing gears means you no longer need to put up with loud gear change noises.
  • Instant power – most electric cars will accelerate much faster rate than petrol or diesel cars.



Do I need an Automatic Licence to drive an electric car?

You can drive an electric car with both an automatic and manual license. But bear in mind that by UK law, if you pass your driving test in an automatic, then you are only allowed to drive automatic vehicles.




Are there any manual electric cars?

Yes, you can get a manual electric car on the UK market, such as an Audi e-tron GT or Porsche Taycan, but the majority are automatic. Most manufacturers tend to only make manual electric cars to help drivers adjust more easily to an electric vehicle.


Does an electric car have to be automatic?

So, we’ve answered the question, are electric cars all automatic, but do they have to be? Technically you can get manual electric cars, but the gears and clutch in an EV simply aren’t needed like they are for petrol and diesel vehicles. Electric motors can deliver instant and constant maximum power with a single gear, unlike fuel engines that require a gearbox to help them achieve full power.


Do electric cars have gears?

As most electric cars have an automatic transmission, they just have one gear. Unlike manual transmissions that need gears to achieve maximum speed and power, electric motors can achieve this as soon as they set off with just a single gear. 


Are Tesla’s manual or automatic?

Although the first Tesla model, the Roadster, had two gears, all other Tesla models made since then, are automatic.


How do you reverse in an electric car?

Electric cars have a ‘reverse switch’, similar to a manual car’s reverse gear. All you need to do is hit the reverse switch, which is usually found on the central console, and the motor that controls the wheels will start spinning backwards instead of forwards to allow you to reverse.  


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