There might be so many instances when you need to push an electric car. Sometimes it’s an accidental breakdown in the middle of the road, and you need to push or tow your car to the side or a nearby gas station. Other times, you have to let your vehicle roll at an automatic car wash. Though electric cars are different than conventional gas-driven vehicles and most people worry about the pushing action damaging the motor.
So, Can you push an electric car if it breaks down? You can push your electric car when it breaks down, but you have to put it into a neutral or similar setting before pushing. In electric cars that come without neutral, pushing can negatively affect the motor.
Electric cars are different from traditional cars in many things. What might seem normal for a regular car can damage an electric vehicle. Let’s dive deeper into the aspects of pushing so you know what to do when there is a need for pushing.
Do electric cars have a neutral?
We talked about putting an electric car into neutral; however, you must have heard that transmission in an electric car does not have a neutral.
Well, that’s somewhat correct. The transmission system in an electric car does not have a neutral in the traditional manner. In pure EVs, the entire transmission mechanism consists of only one gear.
The vehicles running on traditional combustion engines can efficiently generate required power only at certain RPM ranges. If you drive a manual car, you are well aware that each gear delivers a different speed and torque. Driving on an ascending slope requires more torque and less speed, and cruising on a highway demands more speed and less torque; you cannot use the same gears for both situations (Not efficiently!)
This is not an issue with electric cars. The engine in these vehicles is an electric motor that can deliver power instantly compared to the slower build-up of an internal combustion engine.
Moreover, electric motors in these vehicles can deliver consistent torque for a wide range of RPM. Unlike traditional vehicles that can barely go above 6000rpm, electric vehicles can easily run above 10000 RPM.
Installing a multi-step gearbox in an electric car will make it less efficient, complicated, and expensive.
So what about neutral? In fossil fuel-driven cars, the engine needs to be disconnected from wheels as you need to start the vehicle. We call this position neutral.
In electric cars, the neutral position does not disconnect the motor from the wheels ( The motor is permanently connected); instead, the neutral setting isolates the motor from the control system so the wheels can be rotated freely.
The neural setting also means that there will not be any regenerative breaking either.
How to put electric cars into neutral
I consider myself an experienced driver, but I remember when I brought my first electric car and took it to an automatic car wash. They told me that they would not allow me to proceed without putting my car into neutral. Even though I had been driving an electric car for three weeks, it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to put it into neutral. It was quite embarrassing, especially with ten cars waiting behind me.
My experience made me realize that many EV owners might not be aware of the process of putting their vehicles into neutral. It is really simple, too simple actually! And that’s why it’s hard to figure out. (My attempt to be philosophical!)
Let’s see the process for some popular electric car models.
How to put Tesla Model 3/Model S Into Neutral
- Put your foot on the brake and press it firmly
- If your car is in Drive, push the lever above and hold for one second
- If your car is in Reverse, push it below and hold for one second
- If you are in Park, put your foot on the brake and lightly push the lever down for neutral
The car will automatically shift to park mode if you are not inside the car. If you want to get it towed, you need to activate the tow mode from the touch screen (Control>Settings>Service and Reset>Tow Mode)
How to place Mach-E into neutral
- Turn On the vehicle
- Push and hold the brake panel
- Shift the car into neutral
- Press the low(L) button
- Release the brakes
Please note that if you don’t press the Low(L) button, the car will get into park mode when the driver gets out. If you process to push or tow in that mode, it can damage the car.
How to place Nissan Leaf into neutral
- Turn on the vehicle
- Press and hold the brake panel
- Push the selector lever towards the left and hold it for 3 seconds or until the indicator shows the Neutral
How to Place Chevrolet Bolt into Neutral
- Start the vehicle
- Press and hold the brakes
- Press the side button on the shifting lever
- Go up and hold the lever till it indicates you are in the neutral
- Release the lever
Pushing an electric vehicle might seem like a simple thing to do, but it’s far from it. Moving from a regular car, most people do it the way they always did it and damage the car. The first time people realize it is when they go for their first automatic car wash. In most cars, simply shifting into neutral and getting out will not suffice either. Moder EVs automatically shift to Parking mode once their sensors realize that the car is vacant.
Also, you cannot jump-start an electric car by pushing it. I know it might seem obvious, but a lot of people fall into this trap.