In gas-powered cars, transmissions are fairly simple: a transmission converts energy produced in an internal combustion engine into power that can be used to propel the vehicle forward. Internal combustion engine cars were historically outfitted with manual transmissions, where a driver is responsible for controlling gear changes. Now automatic transmissions are popular; these employ a system that uses computer controls to shift gears to fit the situation. CVT transmissions use a belt and pulley system to find the correct amount of power to send to the wheels.
With EVs on the rise, we are seeing more and more vehicles on the road that seemingly drive without a traditional transmission. Here is everything you need to know about electric car transmissions.
How do EV transmissions work?
According to Cars.com, EV transmissions don’t work in the same fashion as traditional internal combustion engine transmissions. The big difference between gas-powered cars and EVs when it comes to transmission application is the fact that with an EV, almost all the power produced by the motor is available to the wheels instantly. EV motors also have a wide range of power: unlike a gas-powered engine, which has a power band where most of the torque can be found, an EV can find immediate power at nearly all speeds.
While EVs still have “gears” of sorts that help the power produced by the motor get to the wheels, these are not like traditional gears and are typically just referred to as “single-speed” transmissions. These EV transmissions also usually have a locking mechanism that acts as a “park” gear, as well as a “reverse” gear, which really just turns the car’s electric motors in reverse.
Not every EV has a single-speed transmission
There have been a few exceptions to the trend of EVs only having a single-speed transmission. The most recent example of this multi-speed EV transmission setup can be found on the $185,000 Porsche Taycan, which offers a single-speed transmission for the front wheels, and a two-speed on the rear, a setup that Porsche claims is responsible for the impressive 0-60 MPH time found with the Taycan, while also giving the car some efficiency once the car is up to a steady speed.
While it is far less notable, the original Tesla Roadster from 2008 started its life with a two-speed automatic transmission, but by the end of its lifespan, a single-speed transmission was standard.
Fewer parts to worry about
EVs are considered to typically have fewer breakable parts and fewer maintenance costs compared to their internal combustion engine cousins, and this peace of mind found in EV ownership continues into the transmission, which is a component that is catastrophic if it fails in an internal combustion engine car. With less complexity, there is a smaller chance of failure, giving EVs a big upper hand in reliability over time with these single-speed transmissions.