Our new car is an electric vehicle (EV) … and it has NO gears. Its a computer on wheels but also a ridiculously simple one speed ride. Does this mean fahrvergnugen is over?
EVs make no powerful engine roar and thankfully no environment killing exhaust either. However, they do not have or need a gear shift and accelerate powerfully and instantly.
Conventional cars need a gearbox with multiple gears because piston driven internal combustion engines are only capable of generating useable torque and power within a narrow band of engine speed. Varying gear ratios help conventional engines keep within that ‘power band’ at different road speeds. That’s why a petrol car will easily accelerate to 20mph in first gear, but won’t go much faster without reaching the engine’s rev limit, or ‘redline’. By the same logic, you’ll struggle to pull away from a set of lights in sixth gear, as this ratio is designed for cruising at faster speeds.
However EVs have no need for multispeed transmission. They can deliver maximum torque almost instantly from zero revs. Electric cars can reach top speed in a single gear, with little compromise in low-speed driving or usability.
Read all about the advantages and disadvantages of driving automatic vs stick shift cars here. While some EV makers like Porsche Taycan are putting in gear boxes and even continuously variable transmissions (CVT), the shifting is automatic. There is no manual gear shift.
This is a punch in the face of the stick shift happy, speed freak, terror on whee … er … fahrvergnugenites!
Most of us revel in weaving traffic, the adrenalin of being instantly reactive to opportunities and indications on the road, of being in complete control while jetting in and out of slots in the flow. One finds pleasure in a highly reactive machine, its agility, the instant roar and thrust of power. The vergnügen in the fahren is the down shifted gear into elevated revs so potential maximum power is held in readiness to explode out of turns and slow downs in the road!
And along comes Tesla and other upstart EVs: no noise, no gears, 0–60 mph in 2.5 seconds. All you can do is press down or ease up with your foot. Did the fahrvergnugen just get electrocuted?
Is this the death of driving pleasure? Has Volkswagen abandoned fahrvergnugen in an effort to chase down batteries and Tesla? Can one spur the Mustang Mach E or hear it gallop? Will the premeditation and feeling of sitting on steep deceleration and the screaming engine as we violently brake and downshift be lost forever? Will the rush of shifting up fast to throaty engine roar and full acceleration as we explode out in max revs be forgotten? Will a next generation of drivers ever feel this? Will coming generations even be fahrvergnugenites?
Yes and no.
No they will not because just like the GPS has stolen from us the primal pleasure of letting our sense of direction and instincts find our way, EVs will obviate the self actuation of gear control and possibly even the sound of power and ability.
However, also yes … in that EVs are hyper reactive and while you don’t need to downshift there is energy reclamation via regenerative braking which feels uncannily similar. Some EVs use this technique with the vehicle’s own motor as a generator to convert the kinetic energy discharged during deceleration, back into stored energy in the battery. As the vehicle then accelerates, it uses the energy previously gathered from regenerative braking rather than the precious energy reserves in its battery. I now drive with very limited use of the brake. Also, with power, torque and speed characteristics like below, only truly high performance race track driving could ask for more fahrvergnugen. You can floor the pedal from the get go without worrying about the engine burning out! You are only limited by traction. And yes … you can drift!
Lastly, all the other stuff — stiffer suspension, power steering etc are all still available … on demand … in a computerized car.
So while the pleasure of powerful noise and gear actuation dies, the fahrvergnugen does live on … albeit with a slightly different and perhaps menacingly silent … accent.