Toyota patents simulated manual transmission for electric cars

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The technology was designed to imitate the feel of a manual gearbox, but it won’t bring any performance benefit to the vehicle

With plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles becoming more commonplace, the future of the manual gearbox seems to be on very thin ice. That ice is also melting the closer we get to 2030, which is when the government ban on pure-combustion vehicles will be brought into force – after which, almost every new car on sale will come with an automatic.

However, Toyota might have a solution for driving enthusiasts. The company’s engineers recently filed a patent for a simulated manual gearbox, which uses a fake gear stick, a faux clutch pedal and some clever software to control the amount of torque from an electric motor and make the powertrain act and drive like a traditional petrol car.

Mechanically, the EV will still have a single-speed transmission, but Toyota is adamant that this system will make the driving experience of an electric car identical to that of a petrol car by limiting the amount of power the electric motor can produce (and the speed at which the car will travel) depending on the “gear.”

So, in “first gear,” the system will provide plenty of torque, but a low top speed. “Six gear” will allow the EV to reach a higher top speed, but the level of acceleration will be slower – just like a petrol car. And the driver will need to row through the “gearbox” to get the best from the electric motor.

For a bit of added realism, Toyota says the clutch will include a shaker plate to transmit vibrations through the driver’s leg. The patent also mentions plans to make the clutch feedback variable, meaning the driver can adjust the weight of the pedal to their preference.

It’s worth noting that this technology won’t actually make Toyota’s electric vehicles perform any better. In fact, it’ll probably make them slower as the electric motor’s output is being purposefully limited for the benefit of driver enjoyment.

But that seems to be the system’s entire purpose. Toyota’s patent filing reads: “Particularly for drivers who are accustomed to driving [manual] vehicles, a pseudo-shifting operation that does not involve the driver’s own manual shifting operation may cause discomfort in the driving senses of drivers who seek the pleasure of driving [manual gearboxes].”

Luke Wilkinson

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