Could electric cars use manual transmissions?


There's concern among many enthusiasts that the manual transmission is on its way out. This coincides with the notion that electric cars are the future and internal combustion engines will continue to fall out of favor as electric car charging infrastructure and technology exits infancy.

If there's one thing most know about electric cars, it's that traditional transmissions aren't necessary. Most EVs use a single gear setup to drive the wheels. But, what about a manual transmission in an electric car? Does it have a place? Maybe even a benefit? Engineering Explained tackled the question after speaking with Formula E professionals to discuss questions surrounding electric powertrains.

The idea of a manual transmission in an electric car stems from Renault's use of a 2-speed gearbox in its Formula E racer, which also featured a manual gearshift. This proved it can be done, and although Renault's system doesn't use a traditional clutch, electric motors could still pair with a traditional manual transmission setup, per the video's explanation. However, the other question is the biggest one: is it even logical?

The short answer is a resounding no. The efficiency losses as electric power travels through a traditional drivetrain aren't favorable for power delivery. It's more practical to simply pair an electric motor directly to the driven wheels. Additionally, most cars aren't accelerating past 100 mph in normal driving scenarios, and these speeds can be accomplished with just a single gear.

Even though it's not logical, it doesn't mean an automaker couldn't do it to simply appease enthusiasts. Even today, manual transmissions aren't the optimal transmission solution as quick-shifting automatics and dual-clutch systems outdo 3-pedal setups. The manual gearbox truly lives on for simple driving pleasure, and that's something a future electric sports car could still take advantage of.

 
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