Young drivers told not to bother learning how to change gears – ‘Simpler’


The push for all new cars to be electric will result in there being no need to learn how to drive a manual gearbox in the near future according to the President of the AA, Edmund King. He said younger motorists were already choosing “simpler” lessons on automatic cars due to the switch to electric, with the Government looking to scrap all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

2022 sees the AA-owned British School of Motoring (BSM) rolling out driving lessons on electric cars for the first time, where pupils will be taught to drive using a single pedal.

Electric vehicles (EVs) use that one pedal to accelerate and to brake, which then regenerates power to the battery.

Mr King, who also drives an electric car, said: “The world of cars is changing. A revolution is coming. I think younger people are beginning to realise that 2030 is really not very far away.

“There is increasingly an acknowledgement that you do not necessarily need to learn how to change gears.”

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The number of new drivers choosing to learn on automatic cars rather than manuals has already tripled since 2008 according to data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

Fourteen years ago, only 3.8 percent of driving tests taken were in an automatic vehicle.

But by last year that number had jumped to 13.8 percent.

That increase was down to drivers anticipating the advent of electric cars, said Mr King, stating: “The increase in automatic tests probably isn’t due to a massive increase in EVs yet but the presumption that in the future everyone will drive EVs so why not take an easier test now to prepare for the future.”


After trials last year and consultations with the government, the BSM will give instructors the ability to lease electric cars as part of their franchise.

“Obviously, it is much harder to learn on a stick shift, because the most difficult thing to gather is clutch control. That takes up the first five lessons,” said Mr King.

“In the very near future, you will only need to drive an automatic, because all EVs are automatic.”

However Mr King believes there will have to be a transitional period, saying: “There is still a reluctance among young people to actually buy an EV because they are quite pricey and the insurance costs a lot too.”

Although changing gears is usually considered trickier than operating an automatic, the pass rate is actually higher for tests taken on manual vehicles at 45.9 percent compared to 39.5 percent in 2019.

And in the future tests could change from pupils being asked the appropriate gear to be in, to how to successfully get the most range from a battery.

The Government has pledged to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles by the end of the decade, meaning that the manual gearbox could die out.

Even hybrid vehicles which are often able to run on battery power alone will be banned from 2035.

But drivers who take their tests on automatics could be allowed to use it on manual systems to ensure they can still drive older cars.

Around 1.6million people take the practical driving test each year in the UK.

DVSA’s Deputy Chief Driving Examiner Gordon Witherspoon, said: “We constantly review tests for all vehicle types to take account of changes in technology, driving habits, regulations and highway infrastructure – as well as to respond to accident trends.

“We have already started work to look at the impact of electric vehicles on driver and rider education and assessment and to plan for any changes that this shift in vehicle type and use will need.”


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