Yes, an EV Can Have a Manual Transmission

There is a myth out there that says an electric vehicle will never have a manual transmission. It is a myth. It is true that few EVs have a manual transmission. But, that does not mean that a manual transmission will never be a part of the offerings from an EV manufacturer. In fact, some manufacturers already offer the EV that possibility. 

Six-speed Ford Mustang EV was at SEMA

A white Ford Mustang Lithium is parked in a space next to a public charger.
Ford and Webasto revealed the Mustang Lithium, an ultra-high-performance battery-electric Mustang fastback prototype. With more than 1,000 ft.-lbs. of torque and more than 900 horsepower instantaneously available. | Ford Motor Company

At the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer Association show, or SEMA show, last year there was a display set up for the Ford Mustang Lithium. That car is a 1,000 horsepower EV version of the popular sportscar. It was also a six-speed manual transmission car. Yup, it had a third foot pedal. There is a video of the Mustang below.

EV motorcycles are being developed with a manual shifting transmission

EVs are not just for street cars. They are also around in powersports. Tesla is going to be making a four-wheeler, and Nikola is going to make an electric jetski. None of those have indicated being a manual shifting set up. But, the interesting thing is, in February of this year, Kawasaki teased the all-electric Endeavor model. It is a 4-speed, manual transmission motorcycle. The motorcycle seems to be still undergoing development. A short video clip of the motorcycle is below.

EV West has been creating manual transmission vehicles for years

EV West is a California company that makes electric conversions for its customers. It also ships conversion kits to customers that might feel handy enough to take on a project. The company has a manual shifting Volkswagen Bus that it converted three years ago. 

I reached out to Michael Bream, the Owner and Operator of EV West, and asked him for his thoughts about manual shifting EVs. He was kind enough to give us a few words to share with our readers. His insight might surprise some.

“This issue is mostly due to voltage range. The higher the voltage, the wider the RPM band the motor can produce torque. So for high voltage systems, like Tesla’s 400-volt system, a transmission isn’t necessarily needed as the motor produces large torque figures over about 12,000 rpm range. Our more popular motors that are 120-volt systems only make torque over about a 4500 RPM range, making the case for at least a 2-speed transmission to get the torque over rpm range.

So in the end it typically boils down to the type of EV conversion you are building. Looking for something with performance, you will be best with a high voltage (400v) motor, so you’ll end up with something like the Tesla drive, and no transmission. If you are looking for a lower power solution, you’ll need a transmission to give the motor a little help in producing torque over a wider RPM range.”

EVs can have a manual transmission

A driver manipulates the manual transmission.
Driving stick shift | Motortion/Getty Images

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So, in essence, EVs are not excluded from the realm of the manual transmission. Instead, the likelihood of an EV having a manual transmission is really dependent on the voltage system. However, the American consumer is enamoured with EVs that have instant power and torque. So, the more voltage power the better.

Even if manual transmission EVs were to suddenly become available from every manufacturer it might be too late. A generation of new drivers has come along that is so familiar with automatic transmissions that the term “standard transmission” causes confusion. Often, in their minds, the standard, or manual transmission, is something relegated to the forgotten past. Now, an electric with no transmission is the natural progression from an automatic.

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Manual transmission vehicles are for a small niche

Manual transmission vehicles garner less than two percent of sales in the United States. So, why would any potential, or active, mass-market EV manufacturer seek to develop a product for such a niche market? However, having said that, there will always be companies that seek to provide an exclusive product. Companies offering exclusivity will always be there with a high-end, pricey, low-volume product regardless of what is going on in the mass-market climate.

In summation, can EVs come with manual transmissions? Yes, they can. But it is not necessary in many (or some would argue, most) situations. In fact, for the few of us that still desire the visceral feel of power control provided by the ability to throw the car through the gears there will always be someone out there providing a manual transmission experience. But, the increasing rarity of stick shifts will lead to a higher dollar entry price for that experience. In the meantime, no shifting is the norm.