How does a person drive a Tesla?

An electric vehicle drives like an automatic in terms of its controls, but the actual experience of driving it has four major differences:

  • The typical electric car doesn't have a mechanical transmission like an internal combustion car's, with the speed and direction of the final drive being controlled straight from the engine (they do, sometimes have a transmission per se, but with only one gear). The change in engine RPMs as you upshift or downshift in a traditional car doesn't apply, because the mechanism is different.
  • An electric engine can start up to top speed very quickly with a lot of torque. This, combined with the control of the final drive being straight from the motor, means that an electric car can accelerate very quickly.
  • An electric motor sounds very different than an internal combustion engine. It can still be heard, especially when you're running it hard, but it isn't as loud and emits more of a high-pitched whine than the roar you hear from an internal combustion engine.
  • Your typical electric car nowadays is capable of something called regenerative braking, which means that the motor turns into a generator and charges the battery as you go. Since this is set up to engage when you're not pressing the accelerator, taking your foot off the pedal means that the car will actively slow you down rather than just have you coast along.

I've never driven a Tesla-made electric, personally, but I have experience with the i3 and i8 by BMW. Electrics are very interesting to drive, and it seems that we're likely to see much more of them in the coming years. I, from my experience, will be quite happy with them (as long as I can actively monitor what the drivetrain is doing when I'm driving).

Except for push-button starts. Never was a fan of those, but you can't have everything.


You drive a Tesla, like a combustion car - yes. Only quicker. With an electric vehicle it doesn't have a transmission like a traditional car because their is no RPM's like a traditional engine has to manage. Thus, there is a "gas" pedal, and a brake pedal. There is a forward and a reverse, and a park.

When in forward and you use the accelerator pedal much of the torque provided by the power source is available immediately, different from a combustion engine that builds up (more gas, more explosion, more power). With an electrified system, it's immediately available, all at once. It feels substantially different than a traditional car because the power will push you back in your seat.

Usually though, with that experience of going fast in a combustion car, there is a loud noise coming from the engine and exhaust. This is different too as there is no traditional engine and no exhaust. So, it's eerily quiet experience and quite different that the auditory and other sensory input we are used to.

I hope you get to drive an electric car someday soon. They are quite exhilarating and entertaining and don't come with the guilt of burning fossil fuels in the process.


Like nearly all electric cars, a Tesla drives pretty much the same as any other car.

There are two pedals. One makes you go, the other makes you stop. It's just like an automatic transmission, except that there's no delay - when you put your foot down, the car responds immediately, since it doesn't have to shift gears. The acceleration is also startlingly quick, and since it's silent, it's a bit of an eerie feeling at first. You quickly get used to it, though, and once you do, it's immensely fun.

Some electric cars, including Tesla vehicles, also have a "one-pedal driving" mode. This changes the response of the go pedal (can't call it a gas pedal, can we?) so that it slows down using regenerative braking when you lift your foot. In this way, you can essentially drive with one pedal - put your foot down to speed up, and lift it off to slow down. You still need to use the brake pedal at very low speed, though, since the regenerative effect tapers off as the car slows down.


Two major differences: instant torque, and one pedal driving. Since letting up on the accelerator pedal causes the car to slow (by regenerative braking), you end up mostly using just the go pedal to drive. You use the brake pedal only for the final bit of coming to a complete stop, or when you've misjudged and need to slow sooner than you expected.

A couple of other things to be aware of that make driving nicer: hill hold means that the car won't roll backward on hills when you let up on the brake, which is very nice in hilly cities; auto-pilot means that under some circumstances the car can mostly drive itself. What circumstances exactly you will learn over time, and they should expand in the future to cover pretty much everything.


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