Do Electric Cars Have Transmissions?


As you may have noticed, there are quite a few differences between electric cars and internal combustion cars. Not only from their looks but also the cars’ performance. The differences can be attributed to new electric car technology.

One thing you may have wondered is whether or not electric cars have transmissions. Generally, electric cars do not have transmissions. Electric cars have different internal workings than a regular internal combustion car. Electric cars output a consistent torque regardless of the electric motor RPM. You do not need to shift between gears to deliver the optimal torque or speed.

If you are someone who is thinking of buying an electric car, someone who already has one, or someone who is just plain curious, this article is for you. Electric car technology is still relatively new, and the way things are done could easily change from what is currently used, into something new in a few years. While transmissions, currently, are not needed for electric cars, (they actually hurt performance) there could be some sort of new technology or new tool that could serve as some sort of transmission.

Why An Electric Car Does Not Have A Transmission

So, why exactly do electric cars not have transmissions? To understand this, we first need to understand what a transmission does for us. On an internal combustion engine, all of the power is generated from your engine. This power is transferred through the transmission and the rest of the drivetrain to the wheels. The transmission is also responsible for disconnecting the engine from the wheels so that the engine is not driving the car at all times (for example when you are just idling at a light).

Your internal combustion engine will output different amounts of torque based on the engine speed in rpm. As such, you need various gear ratios to help keep your car in a “happy range”. The transmission is a way to determine the appropriate trade-off between torque and speed. In low gears, high levels of torque are available, but you cannot go very fast. In the higher gears, you have less torque, but you are capable of driving at much faster speeds. This is critical to driving with an internal combustion engine.

In an electric car, that is not the case. Electric motors output torque very differently from internal combustion engines. In fact, with an electric motor, you have your maximum torque when the motor is not spinning. You have very consistent torque across a huge RPM range. As such, you can get high levels of torque even at high speed.

Because of this, electric car manufacturers usually just find an appropriate gear ratio that compromises acceleration and the vehicle’s actual top speed. Once they have determined what gear ratio they want for the car, power is applied across just that single gear. There is no need to switch the gear ratio thanks to the high level of torque output at virtually any speed. On an electric car, there is also no need for the motor to become disconnected from the rest of the drivetrain. That means while idling, your motors are still connected to the rest of the drivetrain.

How Does An Electric Car Increase In Speed Without Shifting?

So how exactly does an electric car increase in speed without shifting? First off, you need to remember that the way in which electric cars work is fundamentally different than in a standard internal combustion engine. Normally, you have to rely on a transmission to choose for you between torque and speed. In an electric car, you have excellent torque output across the useable rpm range.

This means that as the speed of the electric motor increases, the torque output does not change much. The motors can continue to just spin faster and faster without needing to be shifted to a new gear ratio. That is one of the great features of electric cars. You no longer have to worry about an expensive transmission going out and needing to be replaced. Everything can be taken care of by a single gear, which does not wear nearly as much as in a standard transmission, as you are not shifting between gears and potentially grinding them.

So, how exactly do the motors go faster? Ultimately, their speed is controlled by the amount of current that is supplied to them. At zero current, the motors are idle. When there is a need to go faster, the car’s control systems supply current, proportional to how fast you need to go and how hard you are needing to accelerate. More current makes the motors go faster and faster. That is exactly how electric cars can go faster without needing to shift gears.

Are There Any Electric Vehicles That Have A Transmission (Hybrids And Hypercars)

Are there any electric cars that do have transmissions? The best example of an exception would be hybrids. While not totally “electric cars”, all of them have transmissions. This is due to the fact that they have internal combustion engines that are running most of the time. As such, the gear ratio adjustment is necessary while driving around.

Hybrid hypercars are becoming more and more and more popular. These offer the benefits of electric cars (instant peak torque, huge torque band, etc.) with the benefits of internal combustion engines (high top speeds, large horsepower output at high speeds, etc.). As such, many hypercars fall under this same scenario. Many cars will have a transmission, as this is very critical for the internal combustion side of the car.

Other Differences Between Electric Car Vs. Regular Besides Transmission

As we have explained, the fact that electric cars don’t have a transmission is one huge difference between them and standard internal combustion cars. There are also many other differences. The biggest is how the two vehicles generate power. On an internal combustion engine, power is generated by combining fuel and air in a chamber, compressing it, and then igniting it. The explosion gives life to the car. In an electric car, a large battery is charged when the car isn’t being driven. From there, the battery supplies current to one or multiple electric motors that turn the wheels.

The motor is the heart of a vehicle, and these two types of vehicles operate in entirely different ways. A lot of the power generated in an internal combustion engine is actually lost, due to inefficiencies. In fact, the most efficient internal combustion engines available are only about 40% efficient. More than half of the power generated is just wasted. Electric cars, while they still have some inefficiencies and losses, are significantly higher. The power you put into charging your battery, is essentially what you get out of it.

Another huge difference between them is maintenance. For anyone who has ever owned a car, maintenance is a constant demand. Every couple of months, things need to be done to your car. Every couple of years, there is even more maintenance to be done. It can seem like there is a never-ending sea of maintenance to be done. Electric cars require much less upkeep. While that does not mean that you can entirely ignore them and just drive your car, the amount of repair and the frequency of maintenance is significantly lower. This will save you time and money.

Many of the frequent maintenance items are also entirely unnecessary with an electric car. For example, the king of all routine maintenance is the oil change. Electric cars do not have motor oil in them, so you will no longer have to do oil changes. Since electric cars don’t rely on internal combustion, you also won’t have to worry about replacing your spark plugs every couple of years. There are also quite a few other components that you will never have to worry about replacing or repairing. Some of these include fuel filters, exhaust components, head gaskets, water pumps, and radiators. Due to the design of electric cars, none of these components are used in electric cars.

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