Understand the gearbox, pedals and braking to enjoy driving electric to the full

We all know that switching to electric cars will help the environment, but you may be wondering what they’re like to drive. Are all electric cars automatic or can you get manual ones? And how many pedals do they have?

Understanding the key differences between electric and petrol or diesel cars will help you keep the fun in driving and enjoy your time on the road. We look at what you need to know.

Are electric cars automatic or manual?

Most electric cars are automatic as electric vehicles have motors instead of engines. Motors convert power into energy, while engines convert fuel into energy.

Electric motors work instantly and offer all their power at once, which is why you get such rapid acceleration in an electric car. There are other benefits to electric cars being automatic, including:

  • They’re cheaper to repair and maintain, as fewer moving parts mean less can go wrong under the bonnet.
  • Instant torque or instant delivery of power means quicker starts and a more responsive engine.
  • They’re easier to drive – there’s no gear changes or clutch to handle.

Do electric cars have gearboxes?

No, electric cars don’t have gears or a clutch, as there’s no engine to control the speed of. You won’t have to change up a gear when pulling away from traffic lights, or change-down through the gears as you slow down to stop. With just one gear, you simply press or lift off the accelerator and you’re on your way. To reverse or drop into park mode, you press a button or a switch – what could be simpler?

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How many pedals do electric cars have?

Electric cars can come with one or two pedals. Many electric cars are driven using only one pedal, which lets you control the speed in conjunction with regenerative braking. Pressing the pedal accelerates the car, and lifting your foot decelerates it, which recharges the battery with the converted energy as the car slows down.

Using one-pedal driving and regenerative braking helps keep your battery topped up and extends the life of your hydraulic brakes as you use them less often.

Can you drive an electric car with an automatic licence?

You don’t need a separate licence to drive an EV in the UK, you’re covered by either a full manual or an automatic driving licence.

You can learn to drive and take your test in an electric car, but this won’t allow you to drive a manual car, and most people still choose to learn in a manual car to give them more options.

Are there any manual electric cars?

Almost all electric cars are automatic, but you can get manual electric cars where car manufacturers have been trying to combine the effectiveness of electric with the appeal of manual drive for people who are still attached to manual transmission. Tesla experimented initially with a dual-gear model before, and in 2019 Ford released a one-off electric Mustang with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Some of the fastest electric cars, such as the Porsche Taycan, use a two-speed gearbox, with the first gear designed for quick starts, and the second gear for everything else.

But the simple answer to whether electric cars can be manual is that they don’t need to be, so automatic electric cars will prevail.

What does it feel like to drive an electric car?

Driving an electric car feels pretty similar to driving a conventional car, especially if you’re used to driving an automatic. Electric cars can make for a quieter and smoother ride, with easier acceleration, less braking and an altogether enjoyable driving experience.

If you’re thinking of making the switch to electric, you can always test drive different models to see which one suits you best. After all, who wouldn’t want to have fun driving and help save the environment at the same time?