Can Electric Cars Be Manual? Here’s What You Need To Know


For many car enthusiasts, the manual transmission is one of the most sought-after features available. Even in the world of internal combustion cars, manual transmission is slowly dying away. There are several main reasons for this. First off, there is much less demand for manual transmission. Many people just don’t want to deal with shifting the gears anymore. Secondly, the technology behind automatic transmissions has greatly improved over the years.

Electric cars are created very differently from your standard internal combustion car. In fact, the way that the entire powertrain works is very different from most cars. So, can electric cars be manual? Electric cars are not manual. Due to the high torque output of the electric motors at high and low speeds, electric cars only really need a single gear ratio for use at all speeds. Since electric cars have extremely high levels of torque, it does not need a manual gear and will go much faster without it.

With the introduction of electric cars and the continued demand for them, manual transmission begins to become more and more of a thing of the past. As more and more electric cars emerge on the market, newer technologies are constantly being introduced. As such, the powertrain technology is always offering more and more features. This could be the birth of all sorts of new transmission technologies.

Why Fully Electric Cars Cannot Technically Be Manual

So, why aren’t electric cars built with a manual transmission? It’s not that they can’t be manual but they don’t have much of a need for a manual transmission. To understand this, let’s dive into what a transmission actually does. In your standard internal combustion engine, your engine is constantly generating power while it is running. That power varies with engine speed. The idea behind a transmission is that it is a way to take advantage of that power or torque to the fullest in all conditions.

For example, at very slow speeds or when starting from a complete stop, more torque is required to get the vehicle rolling and less speed is needed. As such, a transmission will utilize gear ratios in order to apply maximum torque to the wheels but this, in turn, will limit the maximum speed that the wheels can reach. This brings up the need of being able to change that gear ratio. As such, transmissions can shift gears which each have different gear ratios. This way, you or your car, can choose the gear that gives the appropriate balance between speed and torque for what you are trying to accomplish.

In an electric car, things are very different. For starters, electric motors can output very high levels of torque at almost any speed. In fact, at a stand-still, electric cars actually have the motors at peak torque. As you begin going faster and faster, that decreases but only slightly until you start going extremely fast. When designing cars, auto manufacturers will take a look at what torque they want and what kind of top speed they want. They will find a gear ratio that is optimal for both of these things and just use that gear ratio for everything. As such, there really isn’t a need for a manual transmission.

Having a manual transmission in an electric car is possible. We have seen at SEMA a 6-speed electric mustang. We have also seen the Taycan that actually has two separate gears. Some of the newer electric cars that are coming out, that are specifically geared towards off-roading, are also implementing ways to better control the balance of torque and speed. This becomes incredibly important when offroading. As electric cars develop further and further, we will likely also see the technology behind its transmission evolve.

Do Any Electric Cars Have A Shifter To Make It Feel Like A Manual?

It turns out that there are some cars that do offer some sort of shifting. A great example of this is the Porsche Taycan. This is one of the first cars that offers any sort of gear control. This car actually offers two gear ratios. One that increases your low-end acceleration and a second gear to improve your performance on the top-end.

As newer cars work to develop manual transmissions, the way that these look could be very different. If electric car manufacturers want to, they could easily re-use existing transmission technologies. That would be the standard clutch/flywheel transmission design. The likelihood that electric car manufacturers use this design is fairly low. It is much more likely that they shift to newer technologies.

The most likely platform that manufacturers will use is a shift by wire. What this means is that the operator can still either turn a knob or move a lever, but this won’t physically shift the transmission. This will let the computer know that the transmission needs to be shifted and the computer will control the shift. While manufacturers can do whatever they want, I think that it is most likely that we see a shift by wire technologies in electric manual transmissions.

Are There Any Future Plans For Manual Electric Cars?

So, are there any future plans for manual electric cars? This is something that is currently in the works and for good reason. Many purist auto-enthusiasts already have negative feelings towards electric cars. To make them more appealing to this audience, we will likely see several manual transmission electric cars. These will be the electric cars of the people. There are already several car manufacturers developing this technology.

The first of which is Polestar. This car manufacturer has been striving to develop the electric car of the people. Their main focus is the driver and the driving experience. They have already done a great job in developing the Polestar 2. As they continue to develop, we will likely see a manual transmission in the future.

A huge name that will also likely be developing this technology is Porsche. Porsche has been known for years to be the heart of driving purity. They have already developed the Taycan which does have two gears. Although these aren’t manually shiftable, they are one of the first manufacturers to use multiple-speed transmissions. If Porsche ever develops an electric 911, I think that we will definitely see a manual transmission.

Another company that will likely have a manual transmission in their electric cars in the future is Ferrari. Porsche has only fairly recently developed its first hybrid car. As the market continues to shift further towards electric cars, I think that the chances that we see an all-electric Ferrari with a manual transmission are pretty high. Combining technology with tradition has been one of Porsches’ strong points for many years.

How Does An Electric Vehicle Powertrain Work?

So, how exactly does an electric cars powertrain work? It is entirely different from an internal combustion powertrain. In fact, the electric car powertrain is actually much simpler than the internal combustion powertrain. As we’ve already talked about, electric cars don’t really have much of a need for transmissions. Instead, a single optimized gear ratio is used at all speeds. Let’s dive into how the rest of this powertrain works.

First off, the heart of an electric car is its battery. These cars house large, high-voltage lithium-ion batteries. These take the place of gasoline in an internal combustion engine. These batteries are charged, and they supply the power that makes the car run. This charged electrical energy is used to power the electric motors that turn the actual wheels.

Depending on the car, there may be only a single electric motor that drives the whole car or there are multiple motors. As we have mentioned, electric motors have great torque output at almost any speed. This virtually eliminates the need for a transmission. Instead, car manufacturers determine an optimal gear ratio for low-end acceleration and also top-end performance. The gear ratio is all that is used when transferring power from the motors to the wheels.

In the simplest terms, that is how an electric cars powertrain works. There are also controllers that control the motor’s speed based on the accelerator pedal position and other demands, but in a nutshell, that is how the powertrain works. As you can tell, this is much simpler than your standard internal combustion powertrain.

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