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AUTOMATIC for the People Evolution may seem cruel, but it’s progress Just as the combustion engine’s days are numbered, so are those of the manual gearbox. Both are very old technology and we’re long overdue a fully developed modern upgrade. Traditionally the automatic has played a minor role in the UK, but its recent rise in the popularity stakes has been quite dramatic and we are now in a situation where over 40% of new cars sold in the UK are automatics, while over 50% of leased cars are too. With the inevitable trickle-down effect into the secondhand car market, it means that more and more new drivers are happy to see the automatic licence as all they need or want.

SUPPLY & DEMAND While there are many drivers 40 Intelligent Instructor

out there who are coping in a manual car, they could instead be thriving in a modern automatic; the entire point of our technology evolving is to make our tools more user friendly and more accessible. Petrol hybrids, electric vehicles and hydrogen technology by their very nature make the manual gearbox redundant, combined with the fact that the modern auto box is smoother, easier in traffic and now just as efficient and economical. As much as I love teaching in an EV, very few of my pupils are going to buy one as their first car. Most will buy a petrol or diesel automatic and that’s fine. An EV can function just like any automatic, allowing for transferable skills. The only true difference is sensation, because the smooth, silent

ROB COOLING ADI, Nottingham EV Owners Club

grace of an EV contrasts against the roughness, vibrations and the noise of an internal combustion engine. Driving is about dealing with what happens outside the windows - judgement, anticipation, interaction with complex traffic flow scenarios and the higher levels of the GDE Matrix – and these elements remain the same no matter the vehicle, but removing the unnecessary physical drain of a manual car reduces the chance of cognitive overload, allowing the driver to focus on the most important skills of motoring. Study based evidence and constant feedback from the EV community has shown that the electric experience is a far more calming one. Of course, if a pupil enjoys and aspires for ‘manual’ training, then they should definitely learn in a manual to keep their options open. However, if they experience sustained strife and signs of being overwhelmed, an automatic should be an option.


The modern generation are attracted to new technology. As we experience a generational and technological shift, the popularity of the automatic is gaining greater traction. When I changed to automatic and actively began advertising, I was surprised by the level of demand. Another point of note is that Nottingham has gone from zero electric driving instructors to eight within two

Profile for James Evans

Intelligent Instructor March 2020 issue