Lexus is developing a "manual transmission" to make EVs more engaging to drive

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,566   +174
Staff member
Recap: Manual transmissions were once a staple of entry-level vehicles and high-end sports cars, but those days are long gone. Today's most affordable cars ship with automatic transmissions for maximum driver compatibility and even the fastest performance rides now pack many-speed, dual clutch gearboxes for lightning fast shifts. With electric vehicles gaining in popularity, it seems as though manual transmissions will truly be left in the rearview.

Lexus has other ideas.

The luxury division of Japanese automaker Toyota is reportedly developing a "manual transmission" that could one day be used in electric cars. As Evo Magazine recently highlighted, the system would use a virtual clutch pedal and gear shifter that aren't actually connected to any sort of transmission. Instead, local haptics combined with software and artificial sound pumped inside the cabin would mimic the experience, right down to the electric motors' torque delivery. If you shift it like a rookie, it'll buck like a bronco.

My initial reaction to this was, "wow, that's incredibly unnecessary." At face value, it's about as unnecessary as adding an exhaust system to an EV. What's more, it adds more complexity to the manufacturing process, resulting in higher costs and more stuff that could eventually break. Here's what had me second-guessing myself.

According to Evo, Toyota said it could theoretically recreate any engine and transmission combination through torque delivery and sound from the electric powertrain (so long as the electric motors have a higher peak output than the target combustion engine).

It all comes down to software. In theory, you could load up a tune for a boost-heavy Supra and experience what it'd be like to drive one (at least, in a straight line). What about a Lexus LFA? Sure, why not. Fancy an excursion in a front-wheel-drive vehicle or want to kick the back end out in a RWD ride? Have at it. Licensing would of course be a nightmare if you wanted to mimic models from other manufacturers, but it's certainly an interesting idea.

In reality, Lexus and Toyota are probably just going to keep it tame and simply use the feature to make driving a run-of-the-mill EV "feel" more engaging to drive.

Image credit: Pixabay

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maxxcool7421

Posts: 206   +394
''' the system would use a virtual clutch pedal and gear shifter that aren't actually connected to any sort of transmission. Instead, local haptics combined with software and artificial sound pumped inside the cabin would mimic the experience'''

wtelf
 

MakeMSGreatAgain

Posts: 65   +57
Pretty sure Koenigsegg already did that
Not exactly, that was a simulated manual on an automatic transmission which was still connected to a gas engine. But, the "software" aspect of it is the same idea.

I think it is really cool Lexus is toying with this idea, I really admire their desire to keep the driver happy - but it seems out of place. Lexus hasn't made a real drivers car, even their latest V8 monster coupe doesn't have a manual transmission, and they haven't had a manual for a couple decades I believe. Their LFA sounds incredibly amazing and would be slow with a manual, but it still wasn't offered.

Anyway I believe it is possible to somehow get a mechanical manual transmission driving experience from electric drive. I think some sort of magnetic coupling varying voltage could probably achieve similar results to a traditional clutch and manual transmission. Part of me says why NOT put a transmission with gears in an EV? Surely it could increase responsiveness and possibly a little efficiency at 120 km/h and higher speeds. EV's with a single forward speed (yes yes I know they call it a reduction gear) feel great at low speeds, but once you get up there they feel slower than a low power four cylinder.

Is it necessary? Heck no, but it does add fun for the passionate driver. But at the same time it does indeed add cost, complexity, and choice to an otherwise very simple usage scenario of an EV. Let's say this tech already existed, and Tesla had been offering it for years in their EV's, a simulated manual transmission with clutch pedal and gears. How many would actually buy AND use it? 10% 5%? Probably less? I bet I'm in the ballpark....

It is sad for those of us enthusiasts to see manual transmissions going away, but unfortunately it is a dying art and skill that most of the young, over-tech exposed generation have no interest in. I think in the year 2100 if we still have "road vehicles", no form of manual transmission with clutch pedal will exist - those will be relics of "how it used to be". Vehicles will be 100% EV, whether hydrogen (my pick), battery, hybrid of the two, or something else we haven't come up with yet. They will all have autonomous mode, with very few offering even manual driving as an option - and they will be so restrained and restricted for "fun" that no one would have any interest in racing them anyways.
 

Andy Jones

Posts: 13   +19
"Manual transmissions were once a staple of entry-level vehicles and high-end sports cars, but those days are long gone.“

Hi, everywhere outside of North America here. Manual transmissions are still the default for the majority of cars in the rest of the world. They're more efficient and more reliable anywhere you have to change gears frequently while driving. Virtually nowhere outside of the US has 4 lane wide grid array road networks 👍
 

m4a4

Posts: 3,166   +4,242
TechSpot Elite
Hi, everywhere outside of North America here. Manual transmissions are still the default for the majority of cars in the rest of the world. They're more efficient and more reliable anywhere you have to change gears frequently while driving. Virtually nowhere outside of the US has 4 lane wide grid array road networks 👍
Ha! Those things only apply if you're an exceptional manual driver, and a lot of people aren't. Automatic is far enough along to be more efficient than the average manual driver, and you certainly don't have an easier opportunity to do damage to the engine (grinding the gears) while driving an automatic, unless you reeeally mess up on an older one.

Sure, automatic is not as fun, but don't pretend that the technology has stayed stagnant over the years. Especially considering how efficient car manufacturers want to appear to be...
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 9,363   +8,581
That might be the single dumbest thing I have heard of in 2022 and we've had some real hum-dinggers so far this year .....
 

maxxcool7421

Posts: 206   +394
"Manual transmissions were once a staple of entry-level vehicles and high-end sports cars, but those days are long gone.“

Hi, everywhere outside of North America here. Manual transmissions are still the default for the majority of cars in the rest of the world. They're more efficient and more reliable anywhere you have to change gears frequently while driving. Virtually nowhere outside of the US has 4 lane wide grid array road networks 👍

only 30% of cars in the UK are manuals. Most plan vendors plan on automatics only to streamline costs.

https://www.carwow.co.uk/news/6414/automatic-gearboxes-become-the-norm#gref
 

Hodor

Posts: 404   +286
Is there an "Inverse Y-axis" option where turning your steering wheel left turns the car right?

If not, I'm sure hackers will provide it free of charge.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,388   +1,030
Cheap sneakers with fake stitching,

Cars doors that close with correct sounding "thunk"
Correct new car smell

etc selling as an experience , a feel good factor- you are not buying a Toyota - you are buying a Lexus - Toyota keeps it name out of the adverts etc . Honda will normally be better spec'ed and their are top model Toyota's - but I remember when Lexus came out as a non-car person . it was the billed as the European high class car with more features and a Japanese price - why pay 2X for a Mercedes with less features/upgrades , less reliability with close to performance

Don't blame Toyota - blame buyers

why do inferior products do better than great ones - Marketing , image, propaganda

Like that question would you rather have a partner you found super hot and everyone else though was fugly - or a fugly one everyone thought was stunner.

was strolling past a Bose showroom 30 years ago ( now Bose advertised themselves as something special ) - had a room set up like a family lounge. The guy was raving listen to this amazing sound coming from 4 tiny high up dinky boxes was a sub woofer cut off higher up than normal.

Thank him for his time- realized it was emperor's clothes straight away - though for right customers - great - they can rave they have the bestest sound with near hidden speakers.

Same as folks on sites explaining why they paid $1000 plus on an iPhone ( many of them are drivel - there are good reasons to buy an iPhone and it's person dependent - but just tell the truth for average street person - it makes me feel less worried as that plucky little company will look after me - and it suits the image I want )

 

toooooot

Posts: 1,825   +980
Interesting. I recently had just this thought: what if you could drive electric shifting speed?
Must be interesting to see what people who try it say about it
 

Kam7r

Posts: 163   +336
"Manual transmissions were once a staple of entry-level vehicles and high-end sports cars, but those days are long gone.“

Hi, everywhere outside of North America here. Manual transmissions are still the default for the majority of cars in the rest of the world. They're more efficient and more reliable anywhere you have to change gears frequently while driving. Virtually nowhere outside of the US has 4 lane wide grid array road networks 👍
yep that's what I was about to say, I can't talk for the whole of Europe, but in France, Most of the cars ( and I'd say ~80%+ ) are manuals
 

Squuiid

Posts: 68   +49
Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
I love manual transmissions, and it’s all I ever buy, but this is a stupid idea. I would never choose a fake manual. Fake emitted sounds are bad enough, this is utterly ridiculous.
 

bexwhitt

Posts: 622   +361
Tesla tried to add a 2 speed gear box to the tesla roadster but could not get the electric motor to stop destroying it. Sure Toyota have more money than Tesla had for rNd but this does seem unnecessary.
 

mcclurken

Posts: 30   +61
I currently own a VW TDI with a DCT (dual clutch auto) and a Tacoma with a 6spd manual. I admit the DCT is superior in a technical sense, to the point that it would be difficult to pick between the DCT and manual if I were, say, purchasing a new VW GTI. But I just simply enjoy shifting my own gears. I always have. I learned to drive in an old Beetle with a 4 spd manual so maybe that's part of it. I've owned nice automatic cars in the past and automatic was always the thing that I didn't like about it. The dual clutch transmissions fix all the problems I've had with slushboxes but, call me old fashioned, it isn't as fun as a real shifter even if you've got shifter paddles. If you hate manuals you are in luck because they are going the way of the Dodo. But I'm glad Toyota/Lexus is at least entertaining us weirdos.
 

psycros

Posts: 4,546   +6,842
"Manual transmissions were once a staple of entry-level vehicles and high-end sports cars, but those days are long gone.“

Hi, everywhere outside of North America here. Manual transmissions are still the default for the majority of cars in the rest of the world. They're more efficient and more reliable anywhere you have to change gears frequently while driving. Virtually nowhere outside of the US has 4 lane wide grid array road networks 👍

And by "virtually nowhere" you mean Britain and all the major western EU nations, all major Asian countries, a few Middle Eastern nations...

LOL
 
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Julnor

Posts: 62   +71
And by "virtually nowhere" you mean Britain and all the major western EU nations, all major Asian countries, a few Middle Eastern nations...

LOL

I like how he speaks for the entire world. I don't know who voted him as the world ambassador, but they probably want their vote back.