The majority of electric cars are automatic, with manual gearboxes usually being associated with combustion engines only. From one electric vehicle (EV) type to another, however, the method differs. Understanding the differences and functions will help you decide whether to make the switch.
Do electric cars have gears?
Yes and no, depending on the type of EV. While pure electrics are driven by a single train of power that doesn’t require a clutch or gears, hybrids generally have gears as they’re made up of battery power and a combustion engine.
Traditional combustion engines require gears to build up to different speeds, but they’re often mated with automatic transmissions and offer a more refined experience than a manual vehicle, in which the gear changes are operated by the driver.
Do electric cars have a clutch?
Similar to the above, this also depends on the type of electric car in question. As all-electric models provide power across a single band, there’s no need for a clutch or clutch pedal – this is only required when a driver has to manually disengage one gear and engage another as they build or lower speed.
Hybrids also have no clutch pedal but do have a clutch that’s operated internally by the vehicle itself and not by the driver. As hybrids generally pair battery power with a combustion engine with gears, they still require an internal clutch to manage the gear changes, but the driver isn’t involved in this process and simply drives with two pedals only – the accelerator and brake.
Citroën electric vehicles
All Citroën electric vehicles are automatic, but they operate in very different ways. Depending on the model and EV type you’re looking at, the need for an automatic gearbox differs.
In the case of all-electric Citroën cars, such as the new e-C4, power is delivered over a single ‘gear’. This is because EVs have instant torque (technical speak for a car’s pulling power) and don’t require gears to build up to different engine speeds.
As such, power delivery is smooth and continuous in an all-electric vehicle, with the added benefit of reduced noise inside the car.
Hybrids like the Citroën C5 Aircross SUV Hybrid, on the other hand, work alongside geared petrol or diesel combustion engines and as such have gears. But these are also generally automatic to avoid repeated and slow gear changes clashing with the electric systems – regenerative breaking and battery power kicking in at certain speeds, to name a few.
When managed by an on-board computer and automatic transmission, the intervals are shortened and much more seamless than when operated by a human, therefore providing greater efficiency.
The benefits of automatic
Ease of use and efficiency are arguably the most notable benefit of automatic powertrains over manual. The lack of manual gear changes makes for a much smoother and less intensive driving experience, with drivers able to focus on the road solely.
When paired with battery power, an automatic also offers an eco-friendly mode of motoring. Reduced emissions in the case of a hybrid, or none at all with a purely electric model, have the obvious benefit of reduced environmental impact, but also incentives such as free public parking and exemptions from clean-air zones.