Are All Electric Cars Automatic?

Jack Dreyer | Monday 5th December 2022 8:00am

Hand on a manual gearstick while changing gears.

The popularity of electric cars increases day by day. In fact, the EU recently voted to ban sales of new combustion engine vehicles by 2035 – so the driving world is going electric quickly. But, with a 120-year history (since the Model T), the mechanics of combustion engine vehicles have become so familiar that an alternative seems alien. Even drivers of automatic vehicles, for example, are used to the feeling of gears changing – so what’s in store for the great change to electric cars?

The short answer to this is: Yes, pretty much all electric cars are automatic – but not in the way you’d expect: the reason why is quite interesting.

What are car gearboxes for?

An auto technician with a disassembled car gearbox.

Combustion engines need to be paired with gearboxes in order to convert the rotational energy of the engine into useful power (torque). This is because gears work in fancy ways to reduce or increase the power that comes out of the engine in a way that is suitable for the current momentum of the vehicle.

First gear, for example, uses a large rotation, which means that the rotational speed is much lower, which in turn means that more of the power of the engine is transferred to the car’s axles. Think about this like trying to turn a huge steering wheel yourself – it’s harder work but puts more of your physical strength into the turning.

A really small steering wheel can be turned more quickly, but you’d struggle to turn it while stationary – it’s why cars without power steering all had gigantic steering wheels!

This difference in power supply is necessary for an engine to be able to efficiently get a car going from a stationary position (like at a junction) – and the higher gears serve to keep the car going in a fuel efficient way at higher speeds. What’s more, by virtue of being a mechanical component with many moving parts, an engine’s power output varies naturally at different speeds due to the physical limitations of metal rubbing against metal.

The gearbox, then, serves to make the most of an engine’s power. Whether you manually change the gears while driving or the automatic transmission does it for you doesn’t really matter – the gearbox is necessary for the combustion engine vehicle to work properly.

Do electric vehicles need a gearbox?

So why the long preamble? Well, the difference between a combustion engine and an electric motor are almost complete opposites. In an electric motor (especially the modern brushless ones), almost nothing touches in order to create the rotational force. This means that the entire torque potential of the electric motor is available at any point.

We go into how an electric motor works in our blog on regenerative braking, but the short of it is that you’re not relying on the rotational speed of the crankshaft to get a car going. Instead, the electric motor will spin as fast as it is supplied with available energy from the car’s battery bank.

Now, an electric car clearly doesn’t go to supercar speeds in a blink of an eye because it’s also bogged down with weight, slowed by aerodynamic drag, and must fight against tyre friction with the road. But it doesn’t necessarily need gears to accelerate at a smooth rate.

Some cars still mimic gears

A close up of an electric vehicle motor, with large cables connected to it from the battery bank.

Surprisingly, and probably to put drivers at ease while giving them more tactile feedback during driving, some electric vehicles are being designed to mimic the feel of changing gears. This isn’t at all necessary from a technical perspective but definitely shows the unexpected level of subconscious interaction we have with our cars while driving.

All this is to say that, yes, almost all electric cars (other than some odd outliers) are automatic in the sense that you don’t have to think about changing gears, other than the usual Drive, Reverse, Park settings. But they’re technically not ‘automatic’ because there isn’t a computer that has to think about changing gears!

Need your car looked at?

If you need an expert to look at your car, you can trust the technicians at your local Kwik Fit centre to keep everything in shape.

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

registration plate

Please enter your postcode to see availability information from your local Kwik Fit centre.

Exclusive Online Pricing

We are committed to offering customers our most competitive prices on tyres and more. Read about our exclusive online pricing.

Locate A Centre

Kwik Fit has over 600 centres across the UK including Northern Ireland, many of which are open 7 days a week for your convenience.


We offer a series of FAQs to help you learn more about our services or your vehicle.

Customer Care

0800 75 76 77
You can reach our customer care team 6 days a week from 9:00am to 6:00pm on Monday and Thursday, 8:30am to 6:00pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm Saturday, and 10:00am to 4:00pm on Bank Holidays.