How Do You Put an EV Into Neutral?

Finding N can be a little more complicated in an electric car.

Tim Stevens | 
Aug 2, 2023 | 3 min read

Red Tesla Model S driving down highwayTesla

Whether you learned to drive on a manual transmission, or are more into the PRNDL style of an automatic, you're probably familiar with how to put a car into neutral. Disengaging the transmission of a car so it's able to roll freely is pretty straightforward.

In an electric vehicle (EV), however, things are a little more complicated. EVs don't really have transmissions. Electric motors generate constant torque through their entire rev range, so they don't need a full set of gears like a traditional internal-combustion engine. While some EVs have two speeds, most have basically just one gear ratio in what's called a reduction gearset.

What does it mean to put an EV into park? Some EVs have a traditional parking pawl, which is a lock that engages to keep the gears from turning. For others, such as Teslas, selecting P simply engages the electronic parking brake.

For many EVs, putting a vehicle in neutral just means disengaging the parking brake. The transmission is still engaged, and the electric motor still turns with the wheel. This is why, even in neutral, an EV shouldn't be towed far or fast with its driven wheels on the ground. But for short distances, such as going through a car wash or loading onto a flatbed, it's fine.

One final sticking point: EVs generally have electronic parking brakes, so how do you put them into neutral if both their high-voltage and low-voltage batteries are dead? Generally, you can't. You'll need to find the 12V battery — usually somewhere accessible — and charge that, then electronically disengage the parking brake before the car can be towed.

Here's how to engage neutral for some of the most popular EVs:

Chevrolet Bolt

Press the brake pedal. Hold in the button on the side of the shifter, then move the shifter forward and hold it there.

Ford F-150 Lightning

Press the brake pedal. Move the shifter to the N position. Press the button next to the shifter that looks like an N inside a clock if you want the truck to remain in neutral after you exit the truck.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Press the brake pedal. Spin the shifter to the N position. Press the L button and then OK on the steering wheel if you want the car to remain in neutral after you get out.

Hyundai Ioniq 5/Kia EV6

Press the brake pedal. Move the shifter to the N position. Press the OK button on the steering wheel if you want the car to remain in neutral after you get out.

Lucid Air

Press the brake pedal. On the shifter stalk to the right of the steering column, push up or down with a light touch and hold for about a second. Push too hard, and you'll pass the stalk's resistance point for engaging drive or reverse.

Nissan Leaf

Press the brake pedal. Move the shifter puck to the left and hold it for three seconds.

Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X, Model Y

Press the brake pedal. Press the button on the end of the shifter to engage P. Then lightly press the shifter down and hold it for a moment.

Written by humans.
Edited by humans.

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Tim Stevens

Tim Stevens is a veteran editor, analyst, and expert in the tech and automotive industries. He helmed a major website's automotive coverage for nine years and acted as its content chief. Prior to that, Tim served as the editorial lead at a tech-oriented site and even led a previous life as an enterprise software architect.