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Do electric cars have gears?

All electric cars are automatic, but do they actually have gears? Find out more here

Hyundai Ioniq 5 - front cornering

As the world moves over from petrol and diesel cars to electric ones, there are a lot of questions about these new electrically powered models. One of the most common concerning how EVs drive is: do electric cars have gears?

The answer is that for the purposes of normal driving, electric cars do not have different gears. Most electric cars don’t have any gearbox at all so you can’t change gear. There are two pedals, no clutch or gear stick, and you select the desired drive mode from Park, Neutral, Reverse and Drive just like in any automatic car.

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It’s a little more complex if you want to get more technical, as certain electric cars actually do have gears, but they aren’t needed in EVs in the way they are in internal combustion engined cars. The EV models that do have gears use them for rapid acceleration rather than efficiency. Some examples include the Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron GT and Lotus Eletre R but the process of changing gear is completely automated in all cases.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 - gear selector

The vast majority of electric cars use a single gear. This is because electric motors, unlike petrol and diesel engines, don’t need to build revs to produce their maximum torque, or pulling power. While a petrol engine needs to be fed more and more fuel and air to produce larger explosions in its cylinders for more power and torque, electric motors simply produce maximum power from the moment you press the accelerator pedal - more like an on-off switch.

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While petrol cars need low gears to get themselves moving then higher ones to sustain higher speeds, when you accelerate from a standstill in an electric car there’s enough power and torque to get moving and go all the way up to 100mph or so in the same gear. This is part of why electric cars typically have a lower top speed than similar petrol cars. It’s not necessary in most countries to have a high top speed, so the single gear ratio is selected to get the most out of the motor in normal driving conditions.

Some sporty electric cars (such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N) mimic gear changes to replicate the sensation of driving a fast petrol car and add a bit of fun, but it’s not needed - it’s all done using software and speakers as there aren’t actually any gears to change up and down. Driving an electric car is easy - you just step on the pedal and go.

Plug-in hybrids use electric motors, but since they also have a petrol or diesel engine, there’s also a normal gearbox on board. Some full-hybrid cars such as the Honda CR-V have a clever single-speed gearbox, though, as in that car only the electric motor drives the wheels in normal driving - the engine just charges the battery.

Need to plug in? Read our in-depth guide to electric car charging in the UK....

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