Toyota engineers are working on a fake manual transmission that will feel like a real one. This could be a benefit for people who find electric cars boring.
To be clear, an electric car would have no reason to have a manual drive. It would be just for fun, an extra for people who like to shift gears in their gas-powered cars.
Toyota has been skeptical of electric cars for a long time, but they have been making plans to get more involved in the market. That means coming up with ways to attract all kinds of customers. A function like this could help convince people who don’t like how smooth and simple electric cars usually are.
Even with gasoline, most cars sold in the US today have automatic transmissions that change gears without the driver having to do anything. Manual transmissions, in which the driver has to press a clutch pedal and move a stick to change gears, are usually choices on high-performance cars or, in some cases, very cheap cars. They are more common in Europe and other parts of the world, though.
Because their quickly spinning electric motors don’t require the added assistance of different gear ratios at various speeds, the majority of electric automobiles just use a one-speed transmission.
Toyota’s car would not actually feature a multi-speed transmission, according to a patent application submitted in the US in late May. Instead, a shifter would be linked to sensors and a main computer that was configured to simulate the operation of a manual transmission in a vehicle. The central computer would be programmed to mimic a particular type of manual transmission car because not all cars with manual transmissions are the same; they have different engines and different transmissions with varied amounts of gears. The driver will have a clutch pedal in addition to the typical brake and accelerator pedals to complete the experience.
The ability to “downshift,” commonly known as engine braking, will be available to drivers. At that point, the driver depresses the clutch pedal without using the gas pedal and shifts into a lower gear. Then, without the need for the driver to apply the brakes, the car is slowed by the friction of the unpowered engine.
Up to a certain point, Toyota’s virtual manual transmission is programmed to let drivers feel what it’s like to use it badly. If the driver doesn’t “give it enough gas” or chooses the wrong gear, the car will shake and buck, just like a gas-powered manual transmission car would. The computer will limit how much the car can shake to protect the battery.
They don’t have to use the fake manual transmission if they don’t want to. The car would have two ways to drive: an EV mode and a mode that looks like a manual.
Some news stories about the technology say that there will also be fake engine sounds to go with the shifting and speeding, but the patent application doesn’t say anything about it. So far, it’s not clear if, when, or where the fake-shifting EV might be sold around the world.