Today we are going to find out if electric cars have a clutch, if you have driven a manual transmission car you had probably used a clutch before to change gears, the feeling of pressing down the clutch and switching gears creates a sudden adrenaline rush that makes you think you are a Formula One driver behind the wheel.
That is because using a car with a clutch puts you in control, every movement your body jerks has a certain reaction to the car. You feel when the engine sound is rising to a high pitch, and that signals the driver to switch to a higher gear.
Nonetheless, having a clutch on an EV might seem very weird, we have seen why electric cars do not have gears but do they need a clutch? Oh wait, I think the right question is do electric cars have a clutch? There have been odd sightings of a few car makers putting a clutch in an electric car like the Genovation GXE, Porsche Taycan, the new six-speed Ford Mustang, and there has been some research around the whole topic, a team of scientists in Japan has come up with a 2-speed inverse automated manual transmission to mimic the gear shifting in an internal combustion engine car
Do electric cars actually need a clutch? Electric cars do not need a clutch!!! Although some automakers have tried using clutch in some electric cars, the result has been counter-effective because electric cars are capable of generating high torque at rest and have a wide band of RPM, so no clutch is needed.
But yes they could have a clutch, but they do not need it, let us find out why:
A clutch in an internal combustion engine
Most people confuse the clutch pedal with the actual clutch in a car, NO, in fact, some of us who only love driving our cars without carrying out any actual DIY (do it yourself) operation may have never seen a clutch, and even if you carry out DIY on your car, there are still high chances you have not seen your car clutch because it’s hidden away under the engine; and it is attached to the flywheel, together with the crankshaft.
A clutch is a round mechanical device that is used to engage or disengage two rotating shafts of a machine, (driven and driving shaft). In an internal combustion engine, one shaft is connected to the engine while the other end is attached to the driving wheel.
A Clutch Has Various Specs Based on The Engine
The clutch used in the internal combustion engine comes in various forms depending on the type and amount of friction required. Most fossil fuel cars use a form of friction clutch that is operated with the use of hydraulics or cable, the friction otherwise known as single-clutch consists of a pressure plate, friction plate, clutch springs, and a flywheel. All these components work hand in hand to engage and disengage the transmission.
Most internal combustion engines use a single-clutch system but some high-powered complex systems use a multiple clutch transmission system.
In an internal combustion engine, you need a clutch to keep the engine running when the wheels are not spinning. That is the only way you can remain stationary without having to turn off the engine. You simply disengage the activation of the wheels from the engine with the help of the clutch.
The internal combustion engine has a limited torque band as we have seen before. In first gear, you have high torque but low speed. Higher gears give the driver high speeds, but to achieve this high speed you will need to change gears.
It is illogical to stop the car just to change gears
The most important reason why we need a clutch in an internal combustion engine is to disengage the drive wheel, so that the driver can easily change gears. but in an automatic transmission, this operation is done by the car automatically.
What about our electric cars?
Do electric cars need a transmission with clutch and gears?
In this present day and age, automakers have noticed a change in the pattern of their consumers. Cars with a stick shift are sold less and less now.
Since 2006 only 2% of cars sold in the United States were stick-shift. Even vehicles with internal combustion engines are giving up on stick shift.
Although some electric car makers have experimented with a dual-clutch transmission in the past, this does not mean the stick shift is coming back and it is not enough to save it. This is only 1% of all-electric cars sold, a mechanical engineer at Porsche Heiko Mayer said they are offering a stick shift in their 2020 911 Carrera S, because their customers love them.
But according to him, it’s not the most efficient way to drive a car, and it’s not the fastest way to drive a car. For some people, they want a stick shift. This is because of the satisfaction derived from the sound of the roaring engine, which electric cars can not provide. They move smooth and quiet.
In the US, electric cars automakers are required to include artificial sounds in their electric cars to prevent harming pedestrians because electric cars move smooth and quiet compared to the internal combustion engine.
Furthermore, keeping the stick shift clutch is a form of sport to most car enthusiasts who still want to switch to electric vehicles. Micheal Beam the CEO of EV West, a company that specializes in converting traditional internal combustion engines to fully electric vehicles, said some customers still prefer to keep the stick shift clutch because of the joy in shifting gears.
Micheal makes the transition easy for his customers. They make it possible by simply removing some gears in the old internal combustion engine and reducing it to two gears, to save weight and to reduce the complexity of the car.
Since most people love a stickshift because of the satisfaction derived in changing gears, let us see how efficient it is to use a stick shift in an electric car or why you should not even use it?
Is it efficient to use a clutch in an electric car?
For car enthusiasts who love downshifting and hearing the roar of their engine, going all-electric might not work well for them since you can not roar the engine in an electric car. Electric cars work differently from an internal combustion engine.
We know the major reason why fossil powered cars need a clutch is that their engines can only generate high torque at a very high RPM. Thus this progress will need gears to connect the engine power to the drive wheels and a clutch to switch gears easily.
While electric motors, on the other hand, are far more efficient. They generate very high torque at standstill, eliminating the need of a stick shift/clutch.
From an efficiency standpoint, this makes the system simpler and lighter since the internal combustion engine found in fossil powered cars are heavier than the electric motor in an electric car.
Furthermore, a clutch driven transmission system or a stick shift introduces extra friction, cost, and weight. When you look at the complexity of the two engines, you will see that the internal combustion engines are high RPM dependent. This is because things like fuel/air mixture, rate of combustion inside the cylinder all need to happen at the right time to get the maximum to and fro movement on the pistons.
Pistons Must Spin Fast in an ICE
The movement of the pistons exerts a linear force on the connecting rods and crankshaft which translates to rotational motion of the driving wheels of an internal combustion engine. This is quite complex and happens very fast in order to keep an internal combustion engine at high RPM.
The bottom line is that the internal combustion engine does not do well at low RPM. If you have driven a shift stick internal combustion engine, you will understand that it is almost impossible to start it from rest at a higher gear.
An Electric Car Has Very High Torque at Zero RPM
While in an electric car, you do not need gears due to the fact that you have high torque at zero RPM. This is because rather than having a contained combustion engine causing the piston to move to and fro, an electric motor is constantly creating a magnetic field that causes rotation of the motor, which drives the driving wheel of an electric car. This process goes on with little loss of energy.
Since an electric motor can generate the same power and torque at any particular speed, the only thing a clutch will do is to make the system more complex and overall expensive to produce. This does not benefit the automaker in any way.