Electric vehicles (EV) are famously known for functioning without a gearbox because an electric motor doesn’t require one. Therefore, driving purists stay clear of EVs because they claim it doesn’t provide the connected experience or control that a gearbox provides, especially a manual transmission. So, will these purists buy an EV if it was offered with a manual transmission?
Japanese automotive manufacturer, Toyota, thinks so as they have filed 8 patents outlining a manual transmission mechanism for an EV with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. According to thedrive.com, Toyota describes it as “being comforting to drivers accustomed to manual boxes, or diverting for those who simply want to dabble in operating one for fun.”
Based on these outlines, it seems that Toyota is not actually making a mechanical manual transmission, but rather creating a mechanism that would simulate the sensations of a manual transmission. An EV equipped with this manual transmission mechanism would come with an old school stick shift in the center console along with a third pedal for the “clutch”. However, they are not connected mechanically to the drivetrain, but rather just to provide the feedback of driving a manual transmission by using haptic motors and springs for tension.
So, depressing the clutch pedal will simulate the sensation of the clutch being disengaged and it will even vibrate to simulate the sensation of the clutch dragging on the flywheel while partially disengaged. The stick shifter will provide resistance when the clutch is engaged and feel light when the clutch is disengaged. Toyota is even going to include a tachometer because the power output will vary based on revolutions per minute (RPM) and the gear you have selected, just like in a manual transmission vehicle. Toyota is even adding the engine stalling sensation when the RPM is too low!
I’m assuming all these will be controlled by a software so you can tweak all these simulated feedback, like for example, increasing the tension of the clutch pedal to make it feel heavier or vice versa. This also means that you can just turn off the manual driving mode and switch to an automatic driving mode when you don’t feel like playing boy racer. Now if this sounds like a PC racing rig, that’s because it is functionally similar to it.
Now, this is very cool and interesting from a technological standpoint. But with the manual transmission slowly fading away and younger drivers preferring an automatic transmission for its easier learning curve, will this simulated manual EV concept catch on? Let’s look at some facts.
For driving purists, myself included, the engine is what gives a car its soul, while the gearbox connects you to that soul. Removing the engine and then placing a “fake” simulated gearbox is not going to change their minds or mine.
On the other end, the type of people who will be buying EVs in the future are from a generation that grew up driving an automatic transmission and would want to get the same hassle free experience from their EV.
So that leaves everyone in between who are not particular about the vehicle’s transmission, as potential customers. The deciding factor here will probably come down to cost and reliability. If it’s going to be significantly more expensive to buy, then it’s going to be a tough sell as it does not impact the functionality of the car. Moreover, given there are many motors, actuators and other mechanisms, there is a higher chance of something breaking and needing repair or replacing. Since the key selling point of an EV is easy maintenance due to fewer moving parts, I believe that most buyers will opt not to equip this simulated manual transmission.
But enough about what I think. I want to hear your opinions on this matter and if you would buy an EV with a simulated manual transition in the comments.