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Do EVs Have a Transmission?

Close up photo of a brand new electric vehicle transmission.

The short answer is yes, EVs have transmissions, but not like that in a gas-powered car. Since the motors in electric cars rest on the axles to turn the wheels, you don’t need gears to climb through speeds. The motors do that. In the end, you really only need a “forward,” “backward,” and “park” indicator.  

I’ve never driven an electric car, but my daughter-in-law picked me up in hers one night as I was walking home from the grocery store. There was a not-very-big center console, no gears to shift, and more room for the bags of groceries. I was impressed at how smooth the ride was, how quiet, and how the little car’s get-up-an-go got up and went.

What’s the deal with a car having no transmission? How does it work? Well, get comfortable and grab a coffee because we’re going to talk about cars.

I’ve Never Heard Of A Car That Runs With No Transmission, Gearboxes, Or Gearshift. How Can That Be?

They’ve put motors on everything from your basic bicycle to scooters to those conveyances that are essentially wheelchairs with a motor. It’s because we’re all so accustomed to internal combustion engines or ICE that we can’t visualize a method of transportation lacking the engine parts we know and (sort of) understand. 

So let’s break it down:

    • The motors located on each axle make the wheels turn or spin.

    • This makes the axles the drivetrain.

    • The differential splits the power the motors generate between the back and front axles.

    • Putting an EV in Reverse makes the wheels spin in the opposite direction. Gears aren’t necessary for that.

    • When it’s mentioned that EVs have one “speed,” it means that the car operates at the top speed. It moves (torque) the car from a dead stop to flat out. 

As you can see, electric vehicles don’t need the standard transmission with which we are familiar. The motors on the axles and differential do all the work. When a driver turns a knob, hits a key fob, or presses an icon on a smart screen, the motors do what is asked of them. So what is this “transmission” in an electric car?

What Does The Transmission In An Electric Car Do If It Isn’t Like The Transmission In An ICE?

Zoom in photo of a Ev's tranmission or gearbox.

You are driving a gas-powered car. You stomp on the gas to go around someone driving too slowly. Inside your car’s transmission is a wheel into whose cogs a gear goes each time a certain speed is reached. This means that power goes to the wheels in the proper amounts to achieve that speed.

Now you switch to driving an electric vehicle. Its drivetrain or axle contains a motor and a single-speed gearbox. The electric motor generates the power to move the wheels at top speed from a dead stop. The gearbox or “transmission” on the axle allows the RPMs or rotations per minute to reach that top speed. 

Sometimes you’ll read about a “two-speed transmission” on an electric car such as Porsche’s Taycan. All that means is that the motors will be producing more torque and horsepower in order to generate more speed. This power goes through the gearbox on the drivetrain or axle to the wheels.  

So I Won’t Have Gears To Shift In An EV?

No, you won’t. Since the motor on the axle moves the wheels combined with the power coming through the gearbox or transmission, all you have to do is direct the vehicle to go forward, step on it, and you’re off. This is an “automatic” at its simplest common denominator. There are no manual gears to shift in an EV.

So Can I Ditch The Transmission Fluid? Cool, It Was Cluttering Up The Trunk.

A mechanic pouring a transmission fluid in a car engine.

Ah, you might want to reconsider that move. Transmission fluid is more vital to an EV motor than it is to an ICE transmission. EV motors have moving parts just like their gas-powered car engine brethren. These need lubrication to prevent damage to the motor. Cooling the system is also a function of EV transmission fluid

Additionally, electric motors reach and exceed 10,000 RPMs every time you fire up the car. That alone dictates you check the transmission fluid regularly and take the car in for maintenance regularly.

Combine that with cooling the system, protecting the wiring, keeping the battery pack going,  as well as protecting each system from oxidation and other damage. You’ll see how vital transmission fluid is to an EV.  

Do EVs Have Transmissions FAQ

How Do EV Transmissions Work?

Power or energy moves directly and instantly from the motor through the gearbox and to the wheels. Acceleration is facilitated directly through the motor and requires no changing of gears as in a gas-powered car. Acceleration is quiet and smooth.

Do EV Trucks Have Transmissions?

Sure, they do, although not the 18-speed transmissions of a gas-powered truck. Electric trucks use two speeds (some use three to four,) the same as electric cars.

Do EVs Shift Gears?

The speed of an EV comes directly from the motor sitting on the axles or drivetrain. This produces a top speed. There are no gears to pop into place on a gearwheel as speed increases. It just is. It’s almost too simple, but that’s one of the main attractions of an EV.

Do EVs Have Automatic Transmissions?

Yes. Since there are no wheels, cogs, or time to increase speed, the one or two “gears” that move an EV are automatic in their simplest form. The same “gear” works in reverse, too.

Do Electric Cars Use Transmission Fluid?

Close up photo of a man changin his transmission fluid for his vehicle.

Yes, they do. The fluid performs several jobs at the same time, one of which is protecting the motors on the axles. It lubricates, protects the wiring, and acts as a coolant as well.

If EVs Don’t Have A Transmission, Do They Have A Clutch?

They don’t need a clutch. There are no gears in an EV for the clutch to engage to slip a cog into place on a gearwheel. There is only one “gear” in an EV and it doesn’t need any help to operate.

Related: Do EVs Have a Clutch?

In That Case, How Does An EV Reverse?

Since an EV doesn’t use gears, all you have to do is tap on the reverse icon or mode and the motor begins to spin backward. It’s that simple.