Will there ever be a manual transmission offered?

Will there ever be a manual transmission offered?

I realize gears are not as critical in electectric motors due to their increased torque, but seems there would still be a major benefit to having a manual option especially on curvy roads. It really comes down to driveability than anything else. As a sportscar enthusiast I am suprised one has not been offered, for many people this is a deal killer, regardless of whether it mechanical sense or not. To me it takes the spirit, experience and fun of driving out of the car.

grega | 7 avril 2014

An aussie company is trying to market that at the moment, though I haven't heard much since their original announcement. Looks like they would replace the brakes on one set of wheels, for acceleration and regen braking, which leaves the other wheels to have regular brakes.

If they could work a way to get the regen like Tesla does and avoid using brakes that would be quite good. Thus the brake pedal would control the actual brakes, but foot off the accelerator would decelerate and regen.

They were talking about adding these wheels to existing cars, rather than new ones, as a way of adding battery power and capturing regen.

Remnant | 8 avril 2014

Let's divide this issue into two parts:

On the freeway, there is little if any gear shifting. So your shifting skills are just not needed. You can nonchalantly leave it to the machine to do the job.

Conversely, in busy city traffic, your skill will be needed continually: steer (left hand), declutch (left foot), shift (right hand), clutch (left foot), accelerate (right foot), brake (right foot switch), accelerate again (right foot switch), watch the traffic, read the signs, repeat the 1-2 second sequence over and over and take pride in substituting for an automatic transmission.

So, the manual transmission aficionados would have you believe that this dance of fumbling extremities is faster or better than the barely noticeable gear shifting that takes place in a fraction of a second and matches gears with ... well, machine precision.

Common sense should tell you that the manual procedure is necessarily slower and less safe that the automatic, even if it gives you the satisfaction of control, not to speak about the possibility of error in assessing the context, executing the sequence, ignoring distractions, reassuring your passengers, etc.

Timo | 8 avril 2014

Manual is faster than normal automatic and shift happens at moment you want it to happen. Sequence is more like 0.2-0.3 seconds if you know what you are doing. Nowhere close to second or more.

Not necessarily safer or easier though.

grega | 8 avril 2014

So there are no gears in the Tesla at all... but there will be certain rpms that are more and less efficient to some degree (perhaps very small). If there WAS a manual transmission option, where would the gear changes be effective? Can you hear or feel when it's needed or would it have to simulate something?

iirc, they were considering using a different gearing in Germany to allow for the high speed autobahns - but they were still not offering gear changes (I don't think that's even possible in the Tesla design is it?)

Timo | 8 avril 2014

Transmission would require "fly by wire" system for transmission and completely new motor/PEM/reduction gear module. Different gearing for higher top speed requires just reduction gear change. You get slower low speed acceleration as a result.

Skotty | 8 avril 2014

A transmission is added complexity that is not needed with the high RPM capabilities of electric motors. However, for some, it is wanted. I could see room for a 2 to 4 speed transmission in the future when EVs are more common. It would improve higher speed acceleration and increase top speed. I'd buy it (I'll even take mine in manual).

Skotty | 8 avril 2014

Also, with a manual transmission, it would require some additional work to deal with the regen-on-gas issue. You don't want regen to kick in while trying to up shift.

Brian H | 8 avril 2014

In-wheel motors vs. NYC potholes. A worthy contest!

Car t man | 8 avril 2014

Inwheel motors are not for cars which are supposed to handle at least
not dismally, let alone better. Inwheel is OK for cargo, small city cars, etc.

As for transmission, Tesla handles beautifully without gear shifts, but it could still gain from one. As for no gearboxes being powerful enough...
You do realize there are 1000 and 1300+ cars available on the marker,
with torque higher right? It is true that there aren't plenty of
options, and certainly not compact ones.

It could be an option but the majority of S owners wouldn't need one (especially in US) or want one. This will be overcome with different
tech in time.

DTsea | 8 avril 2014

Car t man, I don't believe it's the torque alone- it is having synchros that can handle 10000 rpm, I would think.

grega | 8 avril 2014

High revs, engineering how it fit...
and while I haven't driven a manual for years I know I change gears based on the sound of the engine and the change in acceleration... you can feel when to change... would that be true in a Model S?

I certainly can't see manual gears, perhaps an automatic shift for autobahns one day though I think they'd need more countries to have high speeds. I think they once said that AWD would use different gears for the 2 motors though which would probably solve the higher speeds too...?

Brian H | 9 avril 2014

The gear ratio change would have to be kept modest. Maybe like the diff between 3rd and 4th.

Red Sage ca us | 9 avril 2014

"Will there ever be a manual transmission offered?"


"Why not?"

Short answer: It wouldn't work well.

Long answer: A whole bunch of the posts before mine cover it. But here are some of the primary reasons...

  • Slower operation skillset
  • Slower driving action
  • Inefficient ergonomics
  • Needless complication
  • More parts to break
  • The parts WILL break
  • You are always in the 'passing gear' already
  • If we gave it to you, you'd still feel cheated
  • You aren't smarter than Tesla's engineers
  • You don't drive as well as you think you do
  • The car already accelerates through all street legal speeds fast enough to make your Grandmother's eyeballs bleed
  • It would waste time, money, and engineering expertise just to chase a red herring, waistcoat rabbit, wild goose -- take your pick
  • It would be a bad idea, and stuff

I hope this helps!

Car t man | 9 avril 2014

Ferraris, Koenigseggs,.. spin over 10.000 rpm.. It is all possible, just not convenient and the future will bring better options.

DTsea | 9 avril 2014

It's not that it's not convenient. It's that its a BAD IDEA to add the ICE Kluge to the EV.

Dramsey | 9 avril 2014

I don't believe any ICE street car has a redline north of 10,000 RPM. The highest I know of off the top of my head was the first generation Honda S2000, which redlined at 9,000RPM.

Timo | 9 avril 2014

Transmission in EV is just waste of time. In more than one meaning.

Red Sage ca us | 9 avril 2014

Doubleshot noted, "It needs to take into accout the entire driving experience and being one with your vehicle."

I rather prefer being one with the road instead. You are basically arguing that you want to operate a machine. I just want to drive. The machine should just melt away around me. It is merely a conveyance. It is a speed and acceleration delivery device. Just as pasta on my fork delivers marinara sauce to my mouth.

grega told us, "One of the hybrids has a simulated shifter on the wheel to change down gears. All it does is boost the regen breaking (same as a lower gear slows down a car faster). That seems to be something that some ice drivers might understand easily AND perform a better regen control."

Absolutely quoted for truth! Of course, by introducing this behavior, even though it was asked for... People who got it would wonder why their cars were slower than regular EVs, despite their best efforts.

grega continued, "I guess you could use the same shift to simulate gears by boosting or dropping acceleration based on gear and speed, but apart from feeling like a gear it wouldn't add any value."

The problem is that the gear heads simply won't listen to engineers at all. They are all certain that they know better than the people who designed the car how it should work. You see this all the time when BMW enthusiasts are perplexed that the automatic version of their cars is quicker and faster. They presume that BMW engineers somehow 'gimped' the manual...

DTsea wrote, "Personally the smooth acceleration is a lot better than the herky-jerk of gear shifts."


DTsea | 9 avril 2014

Red Sage +100

Car t man | 10 avril 2014

Just to explain, you don't need a shifter revving over 10k rpm for this motor, because the point of the shifter would be to spin the motor to below 10k, where
it still has highest torque..

Red Sage ca us | 10 avril 2014

As mentioned by grega, it may be possible to add a shifter on the floor, or a sort of sequential shift automatic lever, or paddles behind the wheel, and a third pedal in the driver's footwell - to simulate the experience of driving a manual. The problem is that it would be fake. 100% drive by wire, no stick going into the top aperture of a gearbox. Fake.

Different fake gears would just change the level of rolling resistance, and regenerative braking, to simulate the herky-jerky actions of a transmission that isn't there. The fake 'first gear' would still be good to perhaps 65 MPH, but would be speed limited there. The fake 'second gear' would have a slightly different regen profile, and would be good from about 20 MPH to 80 MPH. A fake 'third gear' would maybe be from 35 MPH to 100. A fake 'fourth gear' could roll from 50 MPH to 115. And a nonexistent zero cog fake 'fifth gear' could take you in a fake 'overdrive' to reach the car's top speed. There might even be a 'Sport Mode' that brought the shift points tighter together for go-fast acceleration.

If you really want the option, that is how it would be done. Confidentially? It would suck. You'd just be going through the motions, nothing more. And anytime you didn't go through the motions, it would continue the simulation and bog you down. Just like 'the real thing'. You wouldn't like it.

Yeah, I know... You think it could be done another way. OK, let's explore that.

Say, Tesla Motors spends a few gozillion dollars engineering a variable three-speed transmission. It would have three primary, software selectable modes: Economy, Normal, and Sport. Economy would be set up for maximum range. Normal would be set to deliver an experience similar to what we have today. Sport would allow you to reach a higher top speed.

By selecting a mode, a different array of reduction gears would align with the direct drive system to engage the rear wheels. Once in place, you would be able to operate the stick and clutch within that profile. So you could stay in 'first gear' in Sport Mode, but be limited to only 30 MPH maximum speed. Meanwhile, 'first gear' in Economy mode would get you to 45 MPH, and the same gear in Normal Mode would achieve 65 MPH.

The problem is that after all the work that went into doing all this, you still wouldn't like it. You would claim you don't have enough control. You would complain that the regular, ordinary, everyday versions of the car with a single gear were faster than yours. You will never, ever be satisfied. And on top of that, it will keep breaking. So the car will be in the shop every other week.

Here the thing is... If you really want to have a pit crew follow you around everywhere you go? Get a Ferrari.

Rocky_H | 10 avril 2014

The link doesn't seem to resolve now:

But it is a torque curve of the motor in the Roadster they had made quite a while ago. The torque curve is really really flat for a long way up from zero, but then it does a gradual dropping off at really high rpms. This may just be related to the simple physics of vibrations in something that is trying to be spun really really fast. Whatever the cause, it's showing that one gear does incredibly well for almost every bit of people's normal driving, certainly to 100 miles per hour and a bit above. However, at that really high end, there is a purpose to potentially have one higher gear. It would be a taller gear ratio, so you lose a little acceleration from a stop, but it moves that huge flat torque curve up to the place where you can handle the 200+ mph range.

So what's the point? Technically an electric motor does not have a completely flat torque curve up to infinite RPMs, so it could use another gear only for the purposes of super high speeds, but for a regular car that actual semi-normal people are going to drive, it is a waste because of complication, cost, and unreliability for a tiny gain you could almost never experience.

Brian H | 10 avril 2014

The first cars were buggies with engines ...

Car t man | 10 avril 2014

Brian, AC tech hasn't changed in past two decades much. Then again, there was little room for improvement or need. But The roadster had a great drive train, as does the S. Then again, so did the EV 1. But there is room for improvement, now that applications actually using them are growing also.

Red Sage ca us | 10 avril 2014

...And here is another discussion on the forums that is partly related to this one: MAX MOTOR RPM.

Timo | 10 avril 2014

@Rocky_H, that torque curve has a physics law reason why it does that gradual decrease in high RPM:s. It's inevitable, they all do that. Can't now remember why it is though.

procarl | 15 août 2014

Instead of the focus on gearing which promotes extra power or speed, etc., why doesn't the Model S come with a simple(?)gearing system that sacrifices some of the high end power of the motor to vastly increase range? Seems like a automatic single gear change (or even a continuously variable set up) for constant higher touring speeds---trip driving, for example---could increase range by a considerable margin.

Is there some electro-mechanical reason this couldn't be incorporated into the design? If not, other than some added weight, why wasn't this done?

Nanana26 | 15 août 2014

the simplest way to start explaining an EV is comparing it to an RC toy car, those cars have no gears either, and they have instant torque too, and a lithium battery

CRASCH | 15 août 2014

I'm just going to leave this here...!-(I-maxed-out-a-dyno-in-my-car)

It is a different type of beast. I have a 2000 Dodge Viper, I still drive it occasionally. I understand wanting to shift coming from that. But this isn't the lame automatic transmission we had in the past. Just full sweet spot torque at all speeds. BTW the regen works great as a substitute for down shifting. But if you are really into tracking a car you should be on the breaks anyway entering a corner. The Model S is not a great track car as the battery cooling gets overwhelmed and power output is reduced, kind of like heat soak on a supercharger (but worse).

If you want to drive an old school manual transmission, you are going to have to get the rest of the old school drive train.

As others have said it doesn't make any sense no matter how you look at it. Sorry it just isn't going to happen...

Anemometer | 15 août 2014

Instead of the focus on gearing which promotes extra power or speed, etc., why doesn't the Model S come with a simple(?)gearing system that sacrifices some of the high end power of the motor to vastly increase range? Seems like a automatic single gear change (or even a continuously variable set up) for constant higher touring speeds---trip driving, for example---could increase range by a considerable margin.

Is there some electro-mechanical reason this couldn't be incorporated into the design? If not, other than some added weight, why wasn't this done?
You answered your own question. Adding more gears cvt or even just 2 vears introduces complexity. Now instead of a motor connected via fixed gearing you have actuators or a clutch.

Changing the gearing wont extend range. Your still thinking in ice terms where the thermal efficiency is driven by revs and load.

An electric motor turns electrons into revolutions at fairly consistent efficiency.

I tell ya, once all the petrol heads get it, ICE engines will be like mobile phones with 2x12 character lcd displays.

A few people have mentioned liking gears so they have control. By this I assume they mean being able to feel what the back end is doing and have the car push on getting close to oversteer and not get bogged down in the rev range and become gutless running wide and understeering.

Just imagine if what ever speed you are driving and whatever the motor is revving at, you gave the same push available as you do at 4000 rpm in an ICE car. If you want engine braking you can lift off the throttle and get engine braking stronger than any ICE. You are in control without having gears get in the way. You never have to shift mid corner.

Hopefully you can now see why gears are unneccesaary. But don't read about it. Do a test drive. Any EV will do. Just to feel what we're all in about. I thought I knew what to expect but was still impressed.

Red Sage ca us | 15 août 2014

procarl asked, "Instead of the focus on gearing which promotes extra power or speed, etc., why doesn't the Model S come with a simple(?)gearing system that sacrifices some of the high end power of the motor to vastly increase range?"

The gearing system is already simple. It is a single ratio reduction gear. With an electric motor, the higher the battery capacity, the more power can be delivered at maximum, by default. The economy of increased range comes from your right foot, just as it does in any other vehicle. Drive hard and fast, at higher speeds, and wind resistance will literally drag down your range. Drive slower, steadily at constant speed, and you'll get optimum range.

procarl said, Seems like a automatic single gear change (or even a continuously variable set up) for constant higher touring speeds---trip driving, for example---could increase range by a considerable margin.

Those technologies were designed to make up for the limitations of ICE vehicles. Electric motors do not have the same issues to deal with... In an ICE, a specific range of Revolutions Per Minute are associated with a particular amount of horsepower generated and a particular torque rating. A change of gearing allows that range to be used more appropriately within each band of power.

procarl wondered, "Is there some electro-mechanical reason this couldn't be incorporated into the design? If not, other than some added weight, why wasn't this done?"

It can be done easily enough, there's no mechanical reason why it cannot be done. It wasn't done because it would introduce inefficiency and complexity, without any benefit to reliability, longevity, range, or performance. Different gearsets would mean that there would have to be a mechanism in place to change between them. There is inefficiency in the process of changing gears, as well as in disengaging one set of gears, and in reengaging another. The inefficiency involves wear, heat, friction losses of energy. It simply does not make any sense to do so, when the full range of torque is always available in an electric motor. Using different gears just slows everything down, while losing energy in the expenditure, thereby reducing range and introducing higher instances of potential failure in the mechanism.

DTsea | 15 août 2014

Can't wait for the threads where we explore:

Will there ever be acetylene headlamps offered?
Buggy whip?
Iron - shod wheels?
Drum brakes?
Wood side panelling?
'Real' radio with vacuum tubes?

Remnant | 15 août 2014

@ DTsea (August 15, 2014)

<< Will there ever be ... acetylene headlamps ... buggy whip ... reins ... vacuum tube radios? >>

Good points, DTsea!

These fantasies are but legacy nostalgia conflated in the case of manual gear shifting with the vain self-image of being faster or more precise than electronics and machines.

It's more like poetry than serious issues to explore.

Brian H | 15 août 2014

"why wasn't this done?" It was done, on the first Roadsters. But no one could supply a transmission that didn't break when attempting to change gears.

procarl | 15 août 2014

Well, thx for the explanations. But I don't see the specific answer to my question. I'll admit that my last physics class was over 50 years ago, but (to reduce this to a most rudimentary example) whenever we experimented with two intersecting spinning gears of different size, we could easily change the speed of the output gear by simply changing its size, while holding the input gear size and speed constant. Couldn't this same principle apply here to increase output range, albeit reduce power?

DTsea | 16 août 2014

No won't reduce power consumption because the optimum operating RPM band of an electric motor is much wider than an ICE. Yes your detail question has been answered.

IMO the only valid reason for variable gear ratio would be to allow a higher top speed, perhaps for autobahn use. I doubt Tesla would do this because

1 there is no space for it
2 compromises power- extra friction
3 roadster issues cited above
4 cost and complexity and reliability

Guy2095 | 16 août 2014

I would think a 2-motor solution would be far more likely as the second motor could add additional capabilities beyond just expanding speed/power range.

gfb107 | 16 août 2014

The Model X will have 2 motors, providing AWD. The Model S will have 2-motor AWD as an option once the Model X is in production.

Guy2095 | 16 août 2014

Exaclty. As cagey as Tesla engineers are I wouldn't be at all surprised if they realize more advantage from them than common AWD.

bob | 16 août 2014

Two comments
The original Roadster design was a two speed ( look it up )
It might be useful on EU high speed highway to either add a taller gear to lower the rpm's of the electric motor thereby staying on the torque curve. Or possibly raise the single gear ratio slightly to have slightly more efficiency in the 110~150 KM speed range.

Red Sage ca us | 16 août 2014

Yes, the original Tesla Roadster had two gears. They kept breaking. Stopped functioning. Didn't work so well. So they were abandoned in favor of simplicity, durability, reliability, and efficiency. This is why the Tesla Model S has a single reduction gear, and no alternative ratios.

With a second motor driving the front wheels, it may be possible to have a different final gear ratio for that assembly. By automatically switching power distribution to the front wheels at speed, it may be possible to improve efficiency, thereby increasing range. There is also the slight possibility this would also allow for a higher top speed, albeit at the cost of range due to the effect of an increase in drag.

This is why I expect that higher battery pack capacities, in excess of 120 kWh, will initially be offered for Tesla Motors AWD vehicles in the Performance Plus trim level.

But there is NO need for a MANUAL teansmission in any case.

Anemometer | 18 août 2014

To summize then... the possible answers are
1) no theres no need.
2) yes there will be one some day.
3) there might be one if its deemed viable and an improvement by the Telsa engineers,
4) 3 is invalid as it would probably be an auto anyway if they did add gears

I go with 4 but not till they sort out 400 miles range, deICEing, battery swap stations, getting the price down to less than $20,000, finding where to fit an extra cup holder for popcorn sized tubs and...

Most importantly, instads of reversing the motor... getting a proper reverse gear that whines horribly if you go faster than 10mph. You dont know how fast you are going if looking over your shoulder as you cant see the speed readout. We might end up with a Tesla driver getting the first ticket in 30 zone whilst reversing. Ooops. Or did they already add a limiter IIRC.

just an allusion | 20 août 2014

There is no need, be it real or imagined, for a multi-gear transmission as the inherent nature of the torque variance ability of an electric drive motor is applicable across all terrains and all environmental conditions and all load applications...ALL!

Grinnin'.VA | 21 août 2014

@just an allusion | AUGUST 20, 2014

"There is no need, be it real or imagined, for a multi-gear transmission ..."

Obviously, Tesla has demonstrated that they can make a pretty good car without using a transmission. AFAIK, a transmission would cause more problems than it would solve for Tesla.

Ron :)

just an allusion | 22 août 2014


True, all very true.

tom | 25 août 2014

This is confusing. I understand that experience of a manual transmission very well. It's the only thing I have ever driven as my own car.
However, you really need to drive the Model S to understand that this is not a car like you are used to. it's Car 2.0. You might end up rethinking a lot of your ideas about how to drive a car, even a manual.

Robert Fahey | 26 août 2014

I agree with the original poster here. Manual shift will be sorely missed as technology simply moves on to more efficient solutions. I'll also miss ICE engine sounds. If I had to choose between a used Lotus Elise and a used Tesla Roadster for the same money, it would be a tough decision. Oh well. My investment money is still on Tesla.

Tiebreaker | 26 août 2014

You can play engine sounds on your stereo, like BMW does. Or just yell "Vrooooommmm!" and play with the imaginary stick shift.

Anemometer | 26 août 2014

Finally went for a test drive in a model s yesterday. I can probably wrap up the thread now... you don't need gears. Floor it at 0 and you get one long woosh of speed pushing you back in the seat till you chicken out. Get on a motorway at 65 put your foot down and you better have plenty of space in front as the pickup is instant. This is not a car to drive if you are impatient ;)

FAB. Cant wait to get an order in but likely to be another 6 months.

DTsea | 26 août 2014

Robert fahey, people probably said they would miss clip clop of jooves. Nobody missed horse manure though.... and no one will miss noise and pollution.