There is a lot of misinformation and uncertainty when it comes to Tesla. This is a pioneer in the world of EVs, which leads to a lot of questions from the general public. One of the big questions is whether or not Teslas have transmissions.
In this article, I’ll answer this question. We’ll explore the idea of transmissions in cars and tell you whether or not a Tesla has one. But first, let’s explain what a transmission is.
What is a Transmission?
A transmission facilitates the gears under the hood. Cars can have upwards of 5 gears that help your car speed up faster and coast more efficiently.
Smaller gears (think 1st, 2nd, 3rd gears) are great at accelerating quickly, however, they’re not suited for higher speeds.
Large gears (4th, 5th, 6th, etc…) take a lot longer to get going, but they can handle significantly more stress. Larger gears are used at higher speeds.
Through a series of larger and larger gears, a transmission is put together. The transmission will pick the right gear for the given speed and acceleration that you’re going.
As you go faster, your car will utilize larger gears. In the case of a manual transmission, the driver will choose which gear is right for them.
The Role of the Transmission
The role of the transmission is to convert engine power into usable motion. Without a transmission, it doesn’t matter how hard the engine chugs, there will be no result.
You can think of it as the link between the engine and the wheels. Of course, this is a gross oversimplification, but it helps the everyday person understand it. The transmission takes the wonderful engine motion and throws it over to the wheels so your car can start moving.
Wait, Doesn’t Every Car Need a Transmission?
This is where things get a little tricky. I mentioned that the transmission is a requirement if you want to transfer engine power to the wheels. Does that mean that any vehicle with wheels needs a transmission?
Let’s look take the bicycle for example.
If you know anything about bikes, you know that you pedal and the bike goes forward. This is done through a single gear or a bundle of them near your rear tire.
In the case of a single-gear bike, every pedal does the same amount of work and has about the same resistance on a flat road.
If you have a 7-speed, then you have a ton of gears huddled together. The lowest gear will have the lowest resistance and the opposite is true for the largest.
In this case, you’re seeing what’s going on inside of your transmission. You’re also seeing that a single gear can get the job done.
Why Are Electric Motors Different?
This probably isn’t breaking news, but Tesla’s full lineup is electric vehicles. This means that you won’t find an internal combustion engine (ICE) anywhere under the hood.
The lack of a traditional, gas-burning engine means that the transmission is different, too. It all boils down to how the electric motor works.
An electric motor spins in a circle really fast. Comparatively, an ICE fires off pistons and goes through a whole process to burn fuel and produce energy.
When the gas pedal is pushed, the electric motor spins. When it’s pushed hard, it spins really fast.
In fact, a typical Tesla can easily hit upwards of 20,000 rpm. Compare that to the maximum safe rpm of your car’s engine which is around 4,000-6,000 — we’re talking about a difference of 3-5 times faster.
As the electric motor revs through this range, the power is transferred pretty efficiently. This is a more technical topic, but you probably have seen it in action. When you stomp on a gas pedal in a gas-powered car going 30mph, you’ll feel a ramp-up in acceleration. Engines are more power-efficient at higher revs.
Electric motors are basically just as power-efficient at any rev in their range.
At 1,000 RPM, your Tesla is making just as much torque as it is at 20,000rpm.
Now comes the big reveal: a Tesla doesn’t need more than one gear because of the facts just outlined. They are power-efficient across the board, unlike a gas-powered engine.
An electric motor essentially operates just like a bike with a single gear. The acceleration will feel instantaneous due to there being only one gear. I’m sure many who have driven in an electric vehicle including myself can attest to that.
Do Teslas Have Transmissions?
The answer to this question is a little tricky. Technically, your Tesla has a single-gear transmission. However, this part looks and acts nothing like the transmissions in a traditional ICE.
Electric motors can safely accelerate under a certain rpm load, so there’s no fear of stalling one.
If you rephrase the question to, “do Teslas have multi-speed transmissions?”, the answer is a definitive “no”.
What they have is a single-speed gearbox that translates the motor spinning to usable motion for your wheels.
Finding the Right Gear Ratio
Since EVs only have a single gear, it’s really important that the car designer throws in the right gear ratio.
If you look at a typical Honda Civic’s gear ratio from first to sixth gear, you’ll notice that the ratio reduces. It goes from 3.6 to 0.7. For an electric vehicle, the gear ratio can’t change since there’s only a single gear.
A Tesla Model 3, for example, chose a 9:1 fixed gear ratio for their vehicle.
EV Transmissions on the Horizon
There’s nothing stopping an EV from putting in a multi-speed transmission. The only thing is that no one has developed one yet.
There’s no huge benefit to putting a multi-speed transmission into an EV. The only big benefit is that you can finally have a manual transmission electric car.
Multiple gears would certainly make things more interesting as it tears through the range of the motor. Obviously, it’s not a requirement since there are already single-gear electric cars on the market.
If you’re looking for a manual electric car in the future, keep a close eye on Porsche. Porsche is all about making high-performance driving vehicles that deliver the best experience to the driver.
A staple in Porsche’s past has been throwing a shift knob in the center of the console and churning out a manual transmission for most of their vehicles.
If they ever turn a 911 into a fully electric car, I wouldn’t rule out a manual shifter being seen in one.
You just learned that Teslas technically don’t have a typical transmission (in comparison to a regular internal combustion vehicle). This is due to how EVs work and what they need in order to operate. If you want more car information, explore this site. Check out this list of tools and accessories that you simply need to have for your car.